Time for a New Home Scavenger Hunt!
Chinese Export Porcelain
Produced primarily between 1780 and 1880, Chinese export porcelain was designed to appeal to Western taste. The finest examples are considered to be from 1830-1860.
More Than Just Ballast!
Canton Porcelain
The blue and white porcelain is referred to as Canton (for the port of origin) and was considered mere non-spoiling ballast in the holds of the tall-masted clipper ships sailing the trade routes between China, Europe and America. The porcelain pieces were wrapped tightly in straw, packed inside camphor wood chests and loaded onto ships for export. Canton ware accounted for 98% of the export porcelain shipped. Some has cobalt blue decoration while others have a washed-out gray-blue color. The higher the contrast and darker the blue, the more desirable the piece. The hand-painted (not transferware) motifs were of Asian tea houses, village scenes, landscapes, and few figures. The more skillful the painting, the more valuable to collectors. But since Canton ware was bulk-ordered, and since rarity is a primary factor in value,.. keep reading!
You Name It, They Made It
Typical of Victorian taste, nearly every specific use was answered in porcelain with shapes generally copied from traditional European silver items. Garden seats, shaving mugs, baby plates, cider jugs, tea sets, coffee sets, toothbrush holders, punch bowls, paintbrush boxes, candlesticks, syllabub cups, ginger jars, eggcups, and platters are just a few forms that were created for export.
Got Punch, Need Punch Bowls!
An example of catering to the European market is the punch bowl. Punch was invented as a beer alternative in the 17th century by the British East India Company sailors. They were already accomplished beer drinkers, but when the ships reached the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean, the beer in the cargo bays grew rancid. As soon as the boats reached shore, the sailors created new drinks out of the indigenous ingredients: rum, citrus and spices.

When the sailors brought punch back to Britain, the drink became a party staple, spreading even as far as the American colonies. Massive punch bowls were ubiquitous at gatherings in the summer months: the founding fathers drank 76 bowls full at the celebration following the signing of the Declaration of Independence. So, where there was a need, an export answer was created!
It’s All In The Famille
The top 2% of the porcelain created for export were more elaborate and colorful than Canton ware. By far, the most popular Chinese Export wares, then as now, are Famille Rose. Famille Rose (French meaning “the pink family”) porcelain takes its name from the rose-colored opaque enamel overglaze imported from Europe for use in China. Unlike the transparent enamels of the previous Kangxi period (1654 to 1722), this new opaque palette could be fired at a lower temperature and had a wider color range. The pieces were multi-colored, frequently large, and had applied gold accents. The decoration ranged from Chinese myths and legends to exotic botanical flowers and insects. Numerous beautiful patterns were created such as Thousand Butterflies, Cabbage, Green Dragon, Sacred Flower, 100 Antiques, and Sacred Birds and Flowers. The three patterns below are among the most collectible.
Rose Canton
Painted flowers, birds, insects, gardens but no figures.
Rose Mandarin
Large figural scenes with decorative borders.
Rose Medallion
Alternating areas of figural and botanical scenes. The overall divided image represents a cut melon (symbolizing fecundity) and the central medallion is painted with a peony. This pattern was most popular in 1860s-1870s. Higher quality Rose Medallion pieces use gold to highlight details and have the most detailed painting inside the medallion.
Custom Made: Armorial Porcelain
As opposed to porcelain that was created for mass appeal, armorial pieces were commissioned by East India Company directors, European royals, or Yankee merchants for private use. Wealthy Europeans often ordered sets of china with their family coats-of-arms or monograms integrated into part of a standard pattern. This gives collectors a window into the history of the tastes and aspirations of 18th-century personages. The plate with the notch out was made for use by a barber!
More Was More
Specific to European as opposed to American tastes, decorative bronze-doré castings were added to Chinese Export porcelain, creating even more elaborate pieces.
The Dating Game
The first thing to look for is any mark on the bottom of the piece. If there is no mark on the underside, the piece dates 1850-1890. After 1891, all items imported into the United States had to show the country of origin so if marked "China" it dates to between 1890-1915. If a piece is marked "Made in China" or "Decorated in Hong Kong” it is a later piece and not considered a collectible antique.
As you now know, a lot goes into evaluating Chinese export porcelain,
but we will be happy to help! Just email photos and descriptions

So look around for Chinese export ware and contact Converse to consign!
Be well, stay at home, go on a scavenger hunt for collectibles of all kinds and stay in virtual touch!

Yours sincerely,
M. Todd Converse and The Converse Team