Transferware: the beautiful antique dinnerware

Published November 30, 2015 by AntiqueMystique1

Now this says: eat, drink, and be merry. However, caution prevails, nagging at my better senses to do some exhaustive research on the particular dinnerware.

Before I knew it was called ‘Transferware’ I had no idea how to describe that particular pattern and the knock-offs that look like extremely fancy painted china. Okay, it is china. It’s antique porcelain. It’s antique (______) fill in the blank with whatever comes to mind. It comes in massive quantities of red, blue, green, purple, brown, black. The depictions vary. The age of the dinnerware can be difficult to pin point to a certain era. All I know is it began with a fragment I dug out of my garden bed this summer. Ironically enough, it isn’t as thick as the other Transferware I discovered in the antique stores. It could have been a tea cup since I did find a partial handle painted bright blue over white, the glaze still bright after being buried since who knew when in my backyard.
So with what little I did have to go on I reviewed some of similar dinnerware at the antique stores and looked at the dealer’s label: “Transferware- English”. I made a mental note and went home to clack the keys.
Gorgeous would be an understatement. The different designs and dishes are almost too beautiful to use. But some collectors do use them for special occasions. What about potential lead poisoning? Don’t all antique dinnerware contain ungodly amounts of lead in them? It depends on the dishes.
If you’re a firm believer of what the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) advises about the lead content in such dishes made before the administrations founding forty-years ago, they advise to avoid using crazed antique dishes (although they call it ‘cracking’), cracked, chipped or damaged dinnerware. This could allow the lead (if any) to leech into the food and make a person ill. Especially bad would be to drink or eat anything acidic and this is a HUGE NO-NO even by antique dish collectors. Anything acidic like tomato products, orange juice, acidic fruits can eat away at the glaze.
Will it be red, blue, green? And is it microwave safe? NO. And I will use all caps on the word ‘no’. These antique dishes aren’t meant to go in a microwave, dishwasher or even a conventional oven. Because the transfer pattern is delicate and the glaze of unknown origin (I’ll assume), I wouldn’t ever subject this particular dinnerware to our harsh, speedy ways of serving up meals nowadays and letting a dishwasher do the rest.
I lean more towards the red Transferware. However, if I come across any other that I like better I may opt for it if it’s a.) not cracked, chipped, or worn. b.) if the glaze shows no signs of crazing, and c.) if the design and color catches my eye. It will not only have to be delicate-looking, but very stately and rich. And the silent statement it needs to echo: “I’m a damn fine antique!”
Undoubtedly it’s beautiful. It displays well. It fits all budgets and best of all, it’s saved from being dumped off in a landfill. Can’t say the same for paper plates and Styrofoam cups.
Where was Transferware made? In England, the Staffordshire region. It was produced sometime during the mid- 18th century. The process involves pottery being stamped with a transfer from a copper print, to a exact sized paper and applied to the pottery. Transferware is also found on bone China, Porcelain, and ironstone. Although typically it is seen on earthenware. Some antique dealers will label it as: “Staffordshire”. But beginner beware there’s A LOT of Japan made Transferware out there too. This is easy to tell the difference as the name “Japan” will be stamped on the bottom of cups, saucers and plates and it will be of thick, kinda chunky quality and less appealing in my personal opinion.
What do I love most about it? It’s plentiful even if the patterns don’t match. And here again, I wouldn’t pay too much for them. I love the Bavaria China tea cups and saucers and Butter pats (small dishes for serving butter), but here again, the gold paint worried me as did any possible lead poisoning. I’m speaking in terms of heavy metals toxicity in the gold paint, although I have noticed that it does wash off easily. But I see so much gold-painted China at the antique stores that it turns me away even as a potential buyer of antique China. If you have anything to add in the comments, please do. Again, thanks for liking, commenting, re-blogging, sharing. I truly appreciate it. 🙂


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