How Do I Know If My Chinese Porcelain is Valuable?

A step-by-step guide to help you to better understand how to decode the value of your porcelain


To determine the value of Chinese porcelain is certainly not a simple task. Here we have created a step-by-step guide that will help you to better understand how to decode the value of your porcelain.


Shape and Form

The shape of a porcelain piece provides valuable insights. During different dynasties, specific forms gained prominence. With this in mind, there are many things to consider about your porcelain. Familiarise yourself, by studying common shapes like vases, bowls, plates, and figurines. Each shape has its own historical context and appeal. Unusual or rare shapes often command higher prices. Look for distinctive forms that stand out. While pieces made for the imperial court during the Ming or Qing Dynasties hold exceptional value.


dragon bowlsA matched pair of Chinese "Dragon and Phoenix" porcelain woucai bowls

Sold for £30,000


Marks and Inscriptions

Reign marks, artist signatures, and workshop inscriptions are essential, and will impact the value of your porcelain. Reign Marks are inscriptions to be closely scrutinised and taken as a sure sign of antiquity, or imperial ownership. Pieces that bear the correct reign mark for their period are usually referred to as “Mark and Period”, and as one may imagine, genuine reign marks are highly prized and sought after.

Always look for workshop or artist marks or device, that might point to either its origin or period. Renowned kilns like Jingdezhen or Longquan or Dehua produced exquisite porcelain. Always be cautious, as some pieces bear copied marks, and we would always advise that you seek expert advice to verify authenticity.


Quality of Glaze and Decoration

The glaze and decoration will significantly influence the value of your porcelain. High-quality glaze should be smooth, even, and lustrous. Cracks or unevenness diminish value. Hand-painted motifs, intricate patterns, and detailed scenes enhance worth. Whilst pieces with underglaze blue-and-white decoration or overglaze enamel work are very much sought after.


dragon bowls Chinese porcelain

A pair Chinese of porcelain doucai 'dragon' bowls

Sold for £16,500


Age and Condition

Age of an item will certainly matter, but condition is equally crucial. It is important to determine if your piece is genuinely old or a modern reproduction. Always look for tiny rust spots, glaze contractions (fine cracks), and yellowing crackles. As one may imagine, damage will affect the value. Minor chips may be acceptable, but extensive restoration lowers worth.


Rarity and Provenance

Rarity and provenance must be taken into consideration. Uncommon colours such a lemon yellow or coral red ground are very sought after, whilst favourable symbols or rebus such as Dragon & Phoenix or “Wu Fu Lin Men" a blessing expressed in a rebus in the form of a group of five red bats or other desirable motifs add value. Research similar pieces to gauge rarity. In addition, sound provenance (documented history) enhances value, and if possible, try to trace the piece’s origin and ownership.


Chinese porcelain vases

A very close pair of Chinese porcelain vases

Sold for £5,000



Expert Appraisal

While you can assess some aspects yourself, consulting an expert appraiser is crucial. They consider nuances, market trends, and regional variations.


Market Trends and Demand

Stay informed about market trends. Attend auctions, visit galleries, and explore online platforms. Demand for specific styles or periods fluctuates, affecting prices.

In conclusion, assessing the value of Chinese porcelain requires a blend of knowledge, intuition, and above all experience. Museums and galleries are a very good way to see items, but the very best way is to handle pieces as much as possible to get the feel for the objects. To ensure accurate valuation, we would always advise seeking the advice of an expert, and Dawsons’ friendly team of highly skilled valuers remain on hand to assist you.


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Where to Sell Antiques

How to Sell Your Collection


Are you considering selling valuable Chinese porcelain?

With a huge global audience of known buyers, Dawsons can achieve the best prices at auction.

Get in touch with an expert valuer today for sales advice, we would be delighted to help:

0207 431 9445 /