Porcelain Age Faking

There are really too many porcelain age faking methods to describe them all. It is recommended that the serious collector obtains a reference book on porcelain faking to get a detailed overview on the major known methods. This will be of some help in cases of doubt.

Below I list a number of points related to age faking that you should pay attention to when obtaining ceramics from unfamiliar sources.

How to avoid buying a fake

List of possibly faked elements to watch for:

Age faking methods employed:

  • artificial (painted) rust spots
  • prickling of glaze with a tool
  • scrubbing of glaze to reduce its shine
  • immersing in acid
  • even immersing ceramics in urine is reported
  • brushing on a petroleum/tar mixture
  • using soil, etc. from ancient graves
  • refiring at low temperature
  • smoking porcelain
  • burying porcelain in soil
  • exposure of ceramics to X-rays is reported 

Look out for the following suspicious signs:

  • glaze too shiny for its age (note: before the late Qing dynasty the glaze was more mellow; it would not be so reflective as to be miroring objects)
  • glaze too dull
  • no scratches or crazing at all even after centuries
  • foot rim too dark or dirty
  • unglazed collar of lidded jars appears too dark
  • too many dark spots (sprinkled) over body, glaze or bottom
  • dirty, unclean look
  • artificially added damage, like chips or breaks
  • fake staple repair (new repair) fake shards
  • old bottom but shiny glaze without any scratches
  • bottom firing color or glaze wrong 

More difficult to identify:

  • Decoration color not right for period
    (the color or underglaze blue is wrong for a specific period. Imported blue pigments were not available at times due to prohibition of overseas trading; local blue pigments had a different blue tone. Some decoration colors did not exist until later in the Qing dynasty.)
  • Wrong decoration
    The decoration content and its elements varied from period to period. The decorative design and the "musts-and-must-nots" of decoration were at times strictly regulated. Easier to identify differences are the eyes of people. They were painted differently during each reign.
  • Old ceramic body with new decoration
    The color seems not right for an item's age. The decoration was added more recently on an old piece with no or little decoration, to increase its value. more
  • Old bottom and new body
    A favorite...the fakers know that the bottom is important for deciding age. They attach an old bottom to a new body. Always also check the body glaze for age signs. The ceramic body itself might be new! more
  • Transplanting the mark
    A genuine old period mark is cut (from a shard, presumably) and embedded in the bottom of another piece.
  • Discoloration or soil covering part or all
    This shall make you believe the item was buried in the soil for a long time, i.e. that it was excavated. If an items was buried in soil for hundreds of years, it may be difficult or impossible to clean all the soil off completely. Low temperature firing is used to make new soil stick to the ceramic body to fake age.
  • Smoking
    An ageing effect is reached by exposing a new ceramic item to smoke.
  • Burying ceramic items
    An ageing effect is reached by burying new ceramics for some time in the soil.
  • Fake sediment and maritime growth on shipwreck porcelain
    Yes, even these are faked. Hard maritime growth is glued to ceramics and pottery to obtain fake shipwreck ceramics. more
  • Bubbles wrong
    Bubbles direction - manufacturing was not done in terms of single items in Chinese ceramics production, but in large batches. The bubbles of an item  that usually would be thrown on the wheel should show a more horizontal direction. If there are vertical strings of bubbles, that 'could' mean modern mass production methods using molds. more

    There were no mass production methods existing at the time, items were manually formed one by one. Round items were thrown (turned), while rectangular and other shapes, were formed in moulds using the hands. Rectangular items may be uneven, figurines may show finger imprints on the inside, where the clay was pressed into the mold. Even preparing (kneading) the clay was done using manual or semi-manual methods. 

    Knowing more about the ancient production methods allows easier detection of porcelain age faking.

A tip:
The most important part when deciding age is always the bottom. Every collector or expert will always look at the bottom to check for age signs. The forgers know this. Their porcelain age faking methods will always put the most effort into either creating a fake old-looking bottom or they attach an old bottom (from excavated shards) to a new body. In doing so, however, they often neglect the importance of the glaze, etc. for judging age. It may look much newer than the bottom. Keep this in mind when checking a piece for signs of porcelain age faking.

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