Antique Chinese and Japanese Porcelain collector's help and info page


Porcelain Condition reports and descriptions

While there are a pretty good standard on what constitutes 'mint' or 'near mint' regarding coins, there are no such traditions when it comes to the descriptions of antique Chinese porcelain. I have therefore tried to present a list below of how the various conditions could be described.

PERFECT - Very few ceramic items of any age can claim to be 'perfect'. The best you can hope for is them being in the same condition as when they left the kiln. Bear in mind that the great majority of porcelain fresh from the kiln were not perfect even then. There were even an industry of dealers eagerly waiting outside of the kilns ready to buy the seconds and below to be repaired or sold at less demanding markets. Most porcelain was also meant to be used, and the fact that one bowl might later have been shelf stored one inside another, will inevitable have left some scratches in the glaze. So, the term 'perfect' is not to be taken literally but as a suggestion that there are no or hardly any physical damages to be found.

VERY GOOD - Shows less wear than would be expected for age. Minor surface scratches, minor chipping to the rims, minor glaze blisters that rather needs to be felt than seen can occur. Some wear to the decoration can also occur. Nothing that needs to be restored.

GOOD - Shows normal wear expected for age but nothing that from a professional standpoint would benefit from being restored. Original kiln imperfections such as original firing cracks, grit stuck to glaze, can occur, this is normal to antique ceramics but would not be approved on, were it an Imperial piece. When it comes to European market export porcelain this has typically been in use since it arrived, and its 'normal' condition is with quite some wear along the rims as in minor chips, flaking enamels, broken glaze blisters, scratches to the glaze etc. 'Hair line' cracks could occur if they don't detract from the visual value. All flaws should typically be mentioned in the descriptions.

RESTORED - Defined by that something has been added to the porcelain structure. Where a section has been off and glue is added to put it back, this is a restoration. When a chip has been filled with some material that was not there to begin with, this is a restoration. When paint has been added to hide a repair or replace some part of the original decoration that is also considered a restoration.

CERAMIC RESTORATIONS - Today pieces can arrive on the market from China, that has been repaired by ceramic materials which might be picked from a different item (grafting) or newly made and added. This kind of items will not be sold by at all, because the restoration is not reversible.

NOT RATED When the item is interesting but damaged it is typically not classified at all but instead described in detail. If in doubt, email me with a specific question via the contact link available at all item information pages.

FAKES, COPIES and REPLICAS One factor that to no small amount complicates matters are the availability of fakes and copies on the market that naturally are in much 'better' condition that the real and antique items. For collectors buying on-line real antiques might therefore compare unfavorable both in price and in their apparent condition, with the replicas.

Damage definitions

Hairline A crack that is so thin that it almost disappear in certain angles of light. No material losses.

Crack A fracture with material loss and or are visibly in any light and from a distance.

Chip A material loss on typically an edge. Minor or minute chips are used when the material loss is limited to the glaze. Also glaze chip.

Star crack A fracture with more than two ending points. Star cracks typically appears on the bases, inside the foot rim on anything, and on the walls of round wares.

Firing flaw An original flaw cased during the firing process, typically some grit stuck to the glaze, brown stains caused by some impurities in the clay, shrinkage cracks that has opened during the drying or firing process. This is not considered damages but might reduce the value somehow depending on how it looks. One flaw that is considered important with imperial wares is if the vessel is skewed or of perfect shape, as in uneven / oval instead of straight / round. This is a typical feature of provincial wares and considering them just 'expected' and 'charming'.

This list to be improved as time permits