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Porcelain Marriages

Porcelain marriages occur when a piece from a set is lost or broken, leaving the owner heart broken and frantic to find a suitable replacement.  Or perhaps Grandma left you her treasured Limoges dresser tray and you want to partner several vanity pieces with your cherished family heirloom.  In the case of porcelains, an agreeable companion is totally dependant upon a strict set of guidelines. When seeking to unite porcelains, there are several important issues to be considered and compromise is not one of them.

We all know that "appearances" don't or shouldn't matter but in the world of porcelain, looks top the list of what's fundamentally basic when attempting to join porcelains in marriage.  If the items in question don't visually look like a great match, like they belong together, remember, they never will. 

Patience is the key to acquiring the perfect colors and overall appearance.  While hunting for that needed piece, carry a good quality photo, specifically detailing the colors you are trying to match.  Stay focused on those colors and don't stray too far away from them.  It may take longer to unearth that near exact piece but, in the end, you will be much happier with your selection.

How important is the pattern?  Not as important as the colors.  If the color is perfect but the patterns differ, you might have to study the piece to notice the difference.  A good example of this type of marriage can be seen in this Limoges cream soup and under plate pictured below, notice the gold stenciling. 


  Photo compliments of Collectable Finds from
                                                                                                                                     Mom and Me, an Ebay Store 

This owner was even fortunate enough to find the same company that made the replacement piece.  Can you tell which one came first, the bowl or the saucer?  I can't.  Today, interior decorators are mixing so many different styles in complimentary colors, that mixed patterns in Porcelains have become conversation pieces.

Speaking of china........  is it okay to mix porcelain with bone china when replacing, completing or creating sets? No, it is not.  If you have a delicate Limoges cup that has lost it's saucer, do not replace it with bone china.  The two materials are not the same, nor is the quality always equal.  Fine porcelain is more distinguished and refined.  As lovely as bone china is, it should only be paired with bone china.  The same standard applies to semi-vitreous china, ceramics, stoneware and pottery.

Can you add a metal cover to a porcelain base?  Mixing metal and porcelain is usually not advocated.  There are a few instances when certain types of porcelain pieces may have included a metal element, such as a flower frog, but for the most part, porcelains bottoms usually had porcelain tops.  The problem is finding a really great match for your porcelain bottom particularly when it involves specialty pieces like a humidor, ink well, jam jar, covered urn, chocolate pot and covered pitchers and syrups, to mention a few.  Take a look at this interesting marriage I recently discovered.

Photo compliments of

The owner describes this piece as a Nippon humidor or canister and we know that those pieces would have had porcelain tops.  This marriage, however, is quite innovative.  The brass lid does fit snuggly, maybe more than it should, but it has an Asian blossoming lotus pattern which compliments the flower on the porcelain base.  Unfortunately, this type of marriage can have a serious effect on buyer interest and the overall worth of the piece in comparison to it's original value.

What about marrying pieces from different countries?  This detail should not be a serious consideration. Remember that porcelain painters, for over 150 years, have been buying their white ware blanks from different areas of the world.  They paint their blanks and put sets together at their own discretion and good taste.  It is very common today to find antique porcelain sets, in their original condition, that have pieces from different countries.

Can you marry pieces that are painted by different artists?  Matching hand painted pieces is always a lot of fun but also challenging.  Don't try to match pieces by the artist signatures, it rarely happens.  Instead, work on matching the artistic style along with the colors of course.  Many china painters trained in factories that produced very similar styles of artwork.  Several years ago I purchased four gorgeous highly priced hand painted dresser pieces but they were presented without their dresser tray.  At first, I thought I would never find an appropriate tray that could possibly do justice to these incredibly well painted pieces.  About a year later, I found a tray.  The colors matched so well that I couldn't believe it wasn't the original tray.  When I married the five pieces together, I thought the two different artists must have sat side by side while they were painting.  If it weren't for the different artist's names, I could not tell that the tray is not original to the other pieces. Since then, I have found a charming complimentary open hat pin holder. I am happy to share some photos with you.

Truthfully, I never thought I would ever own a porcelain marriage but these pieces pushed me over the edge and really captured my heart.  Most porcelain dealers, including myself, know that porcelain marriages can be a deterrent for some buyers but there are always those exceptions that cannot be resisted.

So how do you know what your porcelain marriage is worth?  The estimated value can be determined by the value of the original remaining pieces, along with the individual value of each added piece in accordance to how well they look and fit together.  It's not an easy thing to determine and all pieces must be in pristine condition in order to maximize their values. Of course the quality of the  artwork is of the utmost importance. When you find a set that you really love, it won't matter if it's a marriage, as long as it's superior quality and makes your heart throb.

The day I purchased those four dresser pieces, I broke my own rule about buying incomplete sets but they were so incredibly beautiful that I could not resist them.  When just the right tray came my way, I realized something that I had not appreciated before, that the ideal porcelain marriage is truly an acceptable match.

I hope this article is informative and helpful.

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Related Articles: 
Porcelain Conditions: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Addresses commonly used descriptive terms.
Our Love Affair with Limoges - Our unending attraction to some of the finest porcelain worldwide.

Nippon, Noritake, Occupied Japan - History

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