The older a piece of porcelain is, the more likely it is to suffer damage. If extremely rare, defects can be more easily overlooked in antique porcelain although the value is not nearly as high as if the piece were in perfect condition. Most antique and collectible porcelain, such as Rs Prussia, will need to be in very good new condition to offer the best prices when you decide to sell it.
It is wise to always carefully examine any piece of antique porcelain such as china before making a purchase and understand how any damage present can impact the value. Ask sellers many questions when buying online to ensure that they have carefully examined an item they have listed for sale. Specifically ask them if they have checked for problem areas as outlined below. They may also use a black light to test repairs, and this is a wise request if the item is in the upper price range.
Keep the following damage factors in mind when looking at the porcelain pieces you are considering buying.
Cracking is fine cracks in the glaze or surface layer of porcelain ware. It can also occur in pottery, some plastics and composition materials (such as the face of a composition doll that has not been properly stored).
This type of damage is caused by the difference in the rate of contraction of the body material of an object relative to the glaze surface layer. Inappropriate storage at extreme temperatures (such as those found in attics and basements) or a sudden change in temperature where an antique or collectible is stored can contribute to cracking. The presence of cracks generally diminishes the value of objects but this may depend on the severity of the damage and the rarity of the piece.
Rim and base chips
Rim chips on porcelain pieces are usually the easiest to notice. You can detect porcelain chips the same way you run your finger along glass to look for sharp edges. This is an old trick that dealers and collectors use to find damage “hidden in plain sight”.
Don’t overlook chips on the base of china pieces. Everything from cups and saucers to vases and figurines can easily chip off the base over time as they are moved from place to place. Base chips are not as critical as a missing piece in a rim or spout of a teapot, for example, but they should be taken into account when evaluating china. The size of a basic chip will also make a difference. A single small flake is not as much of a concern as a large gap.
Most cracks in porcelain are visible when you look at a piece closely. This is not always the case, however, with colourfully decorated items where the damage may be camouflaged.
One of the best ways to determine if a ceramic piece is cracked is to place it on a flat surface and tap it lightly. If you hear a light ring, the piece should be fine. If it sounds more like a thud when you tap it, chances are the piece has a crack somewhere in the porcelain and should be examined more closely.
Hairline cracks are usually more visible inside objects such as jugs and vases, so it may help to shine a light inside.
If possible, before buying a piece of china, take it into a dark room with a black pocket or key ring light to test the repairs. A good repair job may not be easily detected simply by visually examining a piece, but will become an obvious test under a black light as the glue used in the repairs will fluoresce.
Modern paints also glow under black light, so you can also detect touch-ups, repaints and embellishments under ultraviolet light.
Some repair jobs are better than others. Professionally applied repairs can actually preserve some of the value of a highly desirable piece. Most repairs, however, significantly diminish the value on all but the rarest occasions, so it is wise to find them before paying a good sum when adding a piece of antique porcelain to your collection.