Wedgwood's Jasper ware, in more or less continuous production from the 1770s to the present day, is so characteristic of the factory's output that to many people it is known simply as Wedgwood.
Wedgwood tea cup
Josiah Wedgwood founded his pottery in 1759 and made his name in the 1760s with useful
creamware and ornamental
Black Basaltes but it was not until 1774, after several years of disappointment and about 3,000 recorded experiments, that he felt he had produced his decorative masterpiece, and Jasper ware first appeared on the market.
This dense, white, unglazed stoneware was fired a a higher than usual temperature so that it resembled porcelain. When thinly potted it was translucent. It was made in
various colours - light and dark blue, lilac, green, yellow and black - obtained either by adding
a ground colour to the solid body, or by staining.
Items in more than one colour were made by using one colour as a base then
dipping the piece in another. Afterwards, the edges were polished and bevelled so that the
original colour showed through.
CLASSICAL WEDGWOOD MOTIFS
Jasper ware was an immediate, resounding success. The pale colours, in particular, suited the light, airy, neo-classical style that was popular at the time. The majority of pieces were decorated with low reliefs based on Greek and Roman decorative styles. The reliefs were often designed by famous artists of the day. They were separately moulded in white Jasper then applied to the piece.
Early Jasper ware could be heavily undercut. This means that the relief work was
finished with a special tool before firing. Great depth and fine detail could be obtained in the features and draperies, resembling the shell
cameos used in jewellery.
Although the fashion for the classical has waxed and waned over the last two centuries, jasper ware has gone from strength to strength. With new useful as well as decorative items continually being added to the range, and is still being made at the Wedgwood factory at Barlaston in Staffordshire.
JASPER WARE COLLECTOR'S NOTES
Jasper ware, in full production for more than 200 years, provides a rich field for the collector. Although 18th century pieces tend to be prohibitively priced, and are rarely encountered outside auction rooms, a great many attractive 19th century pieces can be found in antiques shops and at good quality antiques fairs.
You'll find collecting jasper ware easier if you specialize in something - unusual colours, perhaps, or particular items such as medallions, candlesticks or clock cases. It largely depends on what you like, and how you want to display it.
Whatever you decide on, though, make sure that any items you buy bear the impressed Wedgwood mark, that the relief moulding is crisp and clearly defined and that the surface, too, is smooth and free of wave and scouring marks. The generally widespread availability of 19th-century pieces means that damaged ones are best avoided.
Jasper ware was much imitated from 1775 onwards, notably by William Adams of Tunstall. Turner of Lane End produced copies in brighter, darker blues. Much early imitation Jasper, particularly that by Adams, Turner and Neale & Co, was well-produced and the relief work finely executed. Several 19th-century potters, particularly Dudson, continued to sincerely flatter Wedgwood in this way.
Almost all Wedgwood products are marked, but marks can be a trap for the unwary. Imitations of the the impressed Wedgwood mark, slightly varied to keep within the law, were rife. William Smith, for instance, marked his wares as either Wedgwood or
Wedgwood. Any mark including an initial or the words '& Co' or 'Ltd' isn't genuine.
It's not always easy to tell early jasper from later work. Early jasper had a smooth finish, though small firing cracks can sometimes be found on larger items. The popular sky blue colour is much darker in items dating from the 1800s. Some forms also indicate a later date; biscuit barrels and cheese dishes, for instance, were not made before about 1880. As a further check, the word 'England'
was added to the mark in 1891,while 'Made in England' first appeared in 1921.
Read articles and references: Good standards are Warman's
English & Continental Pottery & Porcelain (Susan and Al Bagdade), and Marks
& Monograms on European and Oriental Pottery and Porcelain (William