Opening up Capitol Vintage Charm has taught me so much about inspecting an item. I am still not the best at it but with each hunt, I am getting better. I can’t tell you how many times I found something and my gut said “BUY IT” so I did and then got home and realized that in the midst of totally freaking out about actually finding it…I missed the broke knob or the discoloration or the chip.
One of the things I find to be the hardest is determining if an item (usually ceramic/porcelain) is hand painted. Sometimes it is easy to figure out and sometimes it isn’t. But knowing the difference is a huge factor in setting a price. Think of all the man hours and artistry that went into a hand painted item!
Here are my beginner tips for determining if an object was painted by hand…
1) Run Your Hand over the Object:
This may be obvious to some of you but it wasn’t necessarily to me at first.
Run your hand over the object and see if you can feel the paint. Especially if the edges have some kind of metal adorned decoration, you can usually feel a slight raise in the paint. But there are all sorts of different glazing techniques that can be used over paints so if you can’t necessarily feel it, it still doesn’t mean it isn’t hand painted. But this is usually my first line of defense.
Transfer printing is a process that is used to essentially stamp an image onto a piece of ceramic. What first comes to mind as an example are the Blue Willow Plate/Platter that you see all over the place these days.
2) Look Closely
Time to really look around the item and see if you can find irregularities. Nobody’s hand is that steady and perfect that there wouldn’t be a few slip ups. Take pictures with your phone and zoom in if you can’t see it with your naked eye.
3) Investigate the Marks on the Bottom of the Piece
Sometimes you will find a convenient stamp that says “Hand Painted” on the bottom of the item. Make sure to still inspect it carefully. Just because it is stamped that doesn’t mean that the whole piece is hand painted.
4) Do Your Homework
If all else fails, get out the Google machine and see what you can find out about the object. For example, Spode China is celebrated for its innovative techniques of transfer printing. If you are holding a Spode Plate, chances are that it is not hand painted.
As always, there are a million more things to learn on the topic and many experts out there who have specialties in this area who can help you detective your piece further. But for the rest of us who are just out hunting for goodies for our home, this should help you get a better idea of how to determine what is hand painted!