Collecting Wedgwood Jasperware
Hugely successful at the time of its launch in the late 18th century, Jasperware has remained a firm favourite with collectors around the globe, says Janet Gleeson.
The name of Wedgwood is inseparable from Jasperware, the company’s distinctive porcelain-like stoneware, which is decorated with elegant, white, low-relief patterns. The designs epitomise late 18th-century neoclassicism, and Jasperware has been continuously produced and keenly collected ever since its invention in the 1770s.
After years of experimentation, the entrepreneurial Josiah Wedgwood developed a range of body colours, including pale blue, dark blue, yellow, lilac and green. The pigment was created in two ways, either by using metallic oxides to stain the piece so the colour runs all the way through, or by a surface wash.
The distinctive cameo-style decoration was inspired by classical antiquities and echoed the designs of his contemporaries Matthew Boulton and Robert Adam. Raised white details were moulded and then applied to the main body before firing. On early pieces, decorations were undercut prior to firing to give a crisp, elegant finish.
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Ornaments of every size and shape have been produced in Jasperware: plaques used for jewellery, portraits, furniture and fireplace decoration (Robert Adam often incorporated Jasperware in his designs), tablewares and large and extraordinarily elaborate objects such as the Borghese Vase at Port Sunlight. The most famous piece, the Portland Vase, was Wedgwood’s pièce de résistance and took him four years to create.
Unsurprisingly, the fashion for Jasperware sparked numerous imitators in Britain and abroad. As ever, value depends on date, quality and maker, and marks help with dating and identification.
Information on this complex area can be found online, but for a really comprehensive guide, consult Robin Reilly’s book, Wedgwood Jasper. Eighteenth-century pieces are rare and priced accordingly.
Good quality 19th-century Wedgwood vases or a finely modelled plaque might make £1,000 or more; small wares of a similar date start at £100–£200, while 20th-century jasperware is widely available on eBay from £10. Wedgwood has also recently launched a new range inspired by its historic designs.
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