Saturday, January 1, 2011

Research, Research, Research

Greetings from Sunny Bakersfield!  This week we will be discussing the ease (and strangley the difficulty) of internet research.

This past week Stitchy obtained a plethora of vintage items, some very old, some not as old and was suddenly overwhelmed by the research involved.

It's one thing to read the bottom of a china plate to find out about it's origin, but it's another thing to find out what exactly that all really means.

For example, take the dish pictured.  This is a saucer, all lonely and cupless.  From the back of it (pictured below) we learn several things.  One, the brand is Royal Ducal and the pattern is Florentine and it was made in England.   But what else do we know other then that?

Not much really.  The bottom of plates may contain some information, but they do not tell the whole story behind the peice.  That's where the research comes in.  For starters, Stitchy highly recommends that if you have china peices you know nothing about or would like to find a way to obtain peices to match what you have,  your first stop should be Replacements Ltd.  This company has a vast database of china patterns and silverware patterns.  Stitchy has learned much from them.  They also have a very nice free service where you can send them a picture of your fine china peice, and they will send you the information they have on that peice as well as the availability of the item.

Stitchy recently took advantage of this kindness provided by Replacements Ltd with the dish pictured below.

The bottom of this dish simply said: SF U.S.A 117.  Again, not much information to go off of.  No pattern name, nothing.  Even finding out if SF was the actual company name or an abbreviation was difficult.  But what did Stitchy discover from Replacements Ltd?   She learned the most valuable information you can learn about vintage china.  And that most valuable peice of information is the name of the patten itself.  Once you know this, the research becomes much simpler.

How so?  Once you have the actual pattern name all it takes is the ability to simply Google it and you'll find many articles and blogs on that particular pattern.  Why?  Because most of the time, others have already done the research and have willingly shared it with the rest of the world.

So what did SF U.S.A. 117 really mean?  For starters SF, was the abbreviation for Fransiscan china.  Fransiscan china is most famous for their Desert Rose pattern.  This particular pattern, however, is the Twilight Rose pattern.  So what's the story behind the Twilight Rose?  Research led Stitchy to discover that the Twilight Rose pattern was the last variation ever made of the Desert Rose pattern and was introduced in 1983.  Suddenly we know most everything there is to learn about the dish.

What about the previous dish mentioned, the Royal Ducal Florentine pattern?  That had much more information on it.  Yes it did, but now we run into the road block of what happens when too many are made.  In the instance of the Royal Ducal Florentine pattern, Stitchy discovered that the Florentine pattern itself, which was introduced in 1930 and produced through the 1950s was so popular that it was used in conjunction with many designs.  Florentine referrs to the embossing of flowers and fruit around the edges, however, that can make for a very dull and boring plate, so adding designs to the center of that dish made them not only interesting but provided an endless amount of decorations for an already popular pattern.  So while we know it's Florentine, what we do not know is if all the Florentine saucers were plain, or if it came from a plain set.  Because of this, it makes the year it was produced a bit difficult to pin point.

A bigger problem: when to much information in reality is not enough information.  One of the plates Stitchy has been searching for (not pictured) was very well marked on the bottom.  On the bottom it stated "Dresden Germany S&G Gump Co San Francisco".  It was also stamped with a gold flower.  

You would think that this would be plenty of information for a plate to have, right?  Wrong!!  What most people dont realize is that Dresden themselves never made china.  Dresden factories were full of artists who painted the china.  When a dish says Dresden it can calso mean that it was done in the Dresden style. 

Fortunately, after much research Stitchy did discover that the particular logo for Dresden on the bottom of  this plate was genuine.

What else did Stitchy find out?  Stitchy found out that the S&G Gump Co in San Francisco California was (and still is) a high end department store for home goods and housewares.  This particular china pattern was produced by Dresden specifically to be sold at the S&G Gump Co.   The S&G Gump Co was founded in 1861. What this tells us about the dish is that it was definitely made after that year.

On an interesting side note, S&G Gump Co is now known simply as Gumps and in the San Francisco earthquake of the early 20th century and the fire that followed, the store was nearly brought to ruins but pulled through.

So, now we know that this dish was made exclusively for Gumps after 1861 and was painted by Dresden artists...and that's it.  During World War 2 the Dresden factories in Germany were destroyed.  It is a safe assumption to assume that this piece (because it is old) could very well be pre-World War 2.  So we're narrowing down a time frame for producation, but in reality that does not help us get further in finding out what exactly the pattern is.

The last tidbit of information is the gold rose at the bottom of this dish.  What can we learn from this?  From all the research, Stitchy firmly believes that this gold rose is actually the artist's signature.  This bit of information has gotten us no where.  As of yet, Stitchy has found no name behind that rose. 

And without the name of the pattern further research is at a stand still.  You can bet Stitchy will be photographing this one and sending it to Replacements Ltd for more info.

Hope you have enjoyed this interesting read and coming up soon will be a follow up article on how to find out information on fine china when it is not marked anywhere.

Until next week ...


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