An impressive collection of pink lustre
Over the holidays I received many lovely e-mails from my dear readers. Many of you sent images of handmade ornaments made as a child and of your parent’s impressive antique collections. A cabinet packed with a beautiful display of pink lustreware popped into my inbox late Monday night from Brad. My reaction, HOLY MOLY, WOW, WOW, WOW! I have but one lonely lustreware teacup!
Other then be able to identify the pink lustrious glaze I’ll admit I didn’t know much about lustreware till last night. I fell a bit down the rabbit hole doing research. A few notes I gathered as well as tips from Brad who’s family collected the impressive display above.
Lusterware or Lustreware is type of pottery with a metallic glaze that gives the effect of iridescence, produced by a thin metal glaze reduced by chemical agents. The final glaze lustre may be composed of one or more metallic ingredients. The origin of the method is old. The early Persians produced lustrious pottery in the early 13th century and has been noted the process could have been copied from earlier ancestors.
(Collecting Old Lustre Ware)
Pink Lustre started to become commercially available in around 1790. The potteries around Staffordshire, England (including Spode and Wedgwood) finally figured out how to apply gold in the glaze that turned pink during a second, lower temperature firing. The gold iridescent pink ware grew rapidly in popularity, and it held that for the next 75+ years.
The pottery at the beginning was a basic white clay ceramic some collectors call “soft paste.” These earliest pieces have completely opaque base clay. These are the more valuable. One key way to determine a piece is early is that I first check to see that light will not pass through the piece. The second is that a characteristic blue in the glaze forms in the deep crevices on the base where the foot of the piece meets the base. This is a really good indication that it is early.
One of my very favorite is called Sunderland. They made a wide variety of objects for years, and had a very unique mottled glaze treatment.
Sunderland Pottery in North East England created particularly exquisite examples of mottled glazed pink lustre bowls and jugs. Many of the pieces depicted transfer prints that have been color-enhanced by hand. (Antiques Roadshow)
Sunderland Pottery pink luster bowl, “The bowl is exceptionally well coloured with a fresh pink lustre and has several underglaze transfer prints inside and on the outside” via antiquepottery.co.uk.
A large Sunderland pottery pitcher with a carrying grip under the spout decorated in typical pink splash luster as associated with several of the North East of England,” quoted from antiquepottery.co.uk.
Circa 1815 Sunderland Lustre Nautical Scene Pitcher discovered via ebay.co.uk. Note the transfer print is not colored.
Pink Lustre Pitcher dated 1814 ENGLISH, “The lusterware pitcher bears the name of Richard Belchin and the date 1814. This jug has the finest decoration I have ever seen in pink luster” quote from antiquepottery.co.uk.
Not pink lustre but I couldn’t help but include as comparison: “Antique pottery silver luster pitcher decorated with the resist technique in vogue at the beginning of the 19th century period. The silver lustre decoartion of birds and foliage is often associated with the work of the Yorkshire Potteries,” quoted from antiquepottery.co.uk.
By 1825, porcelain was introduced, and was more widely used. Porcelain is harder, and is translucent to a degree, you can see the shadow of your finger when the piece is held up to light. The glazes and patterns were still hand painted, but became much more refined. Also, a lithographic process was invented which allowed scenes to be “transferred” onto the pieces, and this greatly reduced the labor required and made the china affordable for many more people.
I’ve always admired lusterware but never thought it had a practical use. Back in 2007 I came across the below photo in Martha Stewart Living. The table set for Christmas Eve, Gael Towney’s dining room glows in pink. The plates are pink lustreware! Sorry I don’t have a better photo. I’ve never come across large lustreware plates but I guess it is possible. Maybe I need Martha’s help?
Pink Lustre was among the most favored styles in America, because it was hugely popular in England. The country was only a few decades old by then, and the population wanted to demonstrate their new affluence and “class” by staying/sticking with traditions still strong in their countries of origin. It really wasn’t until the waning years of the Victorian period in the 1880’s that having a full set of china stopped demonstrating real wealth. Because, frankly, it was mostly hand made before then, and it was terribly expensive to make, ship, or acquire.
This was also a continuation of the fact that during the 1600-1750’s, china was considered currency by the bigger “houses”, or wealthier families in Europe, an “asset” of a family’s wealth, like land.
The tough thing is that they made pink luster well into the 1940’s, so if you don’t have an eye for it, you need to do your homework, to learn what to look for. I start with the overall shape of the piece, because there are forms which are too contemporary, which you can spot right off.
Another important thing is the detail of the surface. Older pieces have crisp, sharp relief patterns, like vines of strawberries, or braids, like rope. Better articulated patterns or designs. Newer, less desirable pieces have similar reliefs, but they are softened, like from a bad mold. (which they were!)
Some good news is that the market has softened on Pink Lustre right now, so a teapot that would cost $3-400 can be found for less than $150. I think the teapots are the best, because they really went to town on their design. The forms can be quite over the top and some very, very beautiful. Spode still makes they shape they were famous for in the early 1800’s.
I had a really hard time finding English pink lustre online searching sites like Ruby Lane and ebay. You might have better luck at Brimfield, antique shops and auction.
Lustreware spotted by Michael Penny in Findlay Antiques in Toronto.