The Vocabulary of Marks

This is a list of words and symbols that are often found in back-stamps. The dates given are guides, based on our observations of marks, or are the dates of events that created the terms or symbols. This is useful only to indicate the earliest date a term may appear; it does not tell how recently it may have been used.

Country Names

The McKinley Tariff Act of 1891 required that the name of the country where the ceramic was originally made must be printed on each piece. Sometimes country names were used as part of the mark before 1891; here are the dates of the earliest marks we have seen using the country name as part of the mark:

Country Date
China ca.1900
Czechoslovakia 1918
Danmark (Danish for Denmark) ca.1850
Denmark ca.1890
England 1880
Finland 1897
France 1867
German Democratic Republic 1949-1990
Germany 1885
Hungary 1935
Japan 1921
Norge (Norwegian for Norway) 1911
Norway 1935
People’s Republic of China 1949-
Portugal 1853
Russia before 1917, after 1991
Soviet Union ca.1919-ca.1991
Sweden 1933
Switzerland 1906
United States of America 1935
USSR After 1924-ca.l991

 Words Found in Marks


Bone china—20th century: The English name for a special type of ceramic developed about 1800. The words “bone china” do not appear as part of a mark until about 1915.

©—1914-present: The copyright symbol used in the united states, indicating that a work has been registered with the (j.s. copyright office. The earliest we have seen a © mark used is 1914.

Cooking ware—ca,1923-present: A ceramic container that is suitable to use while cooking food. It can withstand oven temperatures and is appropriately shaped.

Copyright—after 1858 to present, usually 20th century: The design or name or material is registered under the United States Copyright laws. The earliest we have seen the whole word used is 1892.

Copyright reserved—after 1876 a legal term used on English wares.

Craze proof—ca. 1960-1970 The glaze will not develop fine lines or cracks with normal wear.

Delft—if the word “delft” appears, the pottery probably dates from the 19th or 20th century a tin-glazed earthenware, often blue and white, but other colors were also used.

Depose—ca. 1900: Depose is the French word for “registered.”

Designed expressly for—ca.l927-present: Factories sometimes made special patterns for use by one special customer. These were often marked with the customer’s name as well as the factory name.

Detergent proof or detergent-resistant colors—ca.l944-present: The design will not wash off if dishwashing detergent is used.

Dishwasher proof—after 1955: The dishes can safely be washed in a dishwasher. The heat of the water will not injure the decoration or ceramic.

D.R.G.M.—1990-1945+ Deutsch Reichs Gebrachmuster. “In use model.” Type of copyright notice.

East Germany—1949-1990: Germany was divided into four occupation zones after World War II, from 1945 to 1949. The Russian zone became the German Demo¬cratic Republic, or East Germany. In 1990, Germany was reunified.

Fast color—ca.1960: The decorations will not fade.

Freezer-oven-table—1960s and after: The dish can be put in the freezer, then directly into an oven until the contents are cooked, then used for table service.

Gesetzlich Geschutzt (Ges. Gesch.)—after 1899: These are the German words for legally patented or registered.

Handmade—ca. 1962:
The dishes are at least partially made by hand, not molded by machine.

Hand-painted—England and the United States about 1935:The design is painted directly on the dish by an artist. Each dish is therefore slightly different. Hand-painted china was popular in the 1880-1910 period, when it was made by many women at home as a hobby. The words “hand-painted” as part of a mark were used in the 20th century.

Incorporated—ca. 1940: A legal designation for the formation of a corporation in the United States.

Limited (Ltd.)—after 1861: Part of English firm name that has a specific legal meaning concern-ing the formation of the company.

Macau—became China in December 19, 1999.

Made expressly for, made exclusively for—ca.l927-present A factory made the dishes with a special design used by one cus­tomer.

Made in—1887 and after: English law required imported wares to be marked with these words and the country name. It was usually used in the U.S. after 1915.

Made in Occupied Japan—1945-1952 The Allies occupied Japan after World War 11 and these words were used on exported goods.

Microwave safe—after 1970 The ceramic is suitable for a microwave oven.

National Brotherhood of Operative Potters—1940-1955 United States Potters Union members were employed at the factory.

Nippon—1891-1921 as a country name, sometimes after 1891 as part of a company name it’s the Japanese name for Japan.

NRA and eagle symbol—1933-1936 The National Recovery Administration, United States, created by the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, helped to create jobs. The symbol was used on products the NRA supported.

Oven proof—after 1933: The ceramic can be used for baking in an oven.

Oven tested—ca.1935: The ceramic has been tested and is safe for use in an oven.

Oven-to-table— 1978-present: A ceramic designed to be used in the oven and as a serving dish.

Patent applied for—1902-present: A patent application has been filed with the United States Patent Office.

Patent pending—1940-present: A patent has been applied for in the United States but not yet granted.

Patented—1900-current: A patent has been granted by the United States Patent Office.

Permanent colours—ca.1960: Term used on English wares.

Published by—ca. 1830-1840: This term refers to the Sculpture Copyright Act of 1797 (amended in 1814) in England. In a twentieth-century piece picturing lithographs like Currier & Ives.

 ®—1949-present: This symbol is used to designate a legally registered design in the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Trademark registration began in 1881.

Refrigerator ware—ca. 1938-1952: These words were often stamped on sets of ice water pitchers and containers made for refrigerators and sold as part of the original equipment.

Reg. CI.S. Pat. Off.—ca.l932-present: Registered United States Patent Office.

Reg., Rd, Registered, with a number—1884-present: The English designation that indicates a design or process has been registered.

Registry mark, diamond shaped—1842-1883: The English designation that indicates a design or process has been registered. See page 238.

Royal—after 1850 (Royal Crown Derby, 1876; Royal Doulton, 1902; Royal Worcester, 1862):
The word “Royal” was used as part of many English marks.

Russia—1992, before 1917

Semi-vitreous (s-v)—after 1901 A type of heavy ceramic popular for dinnerware.

Trademark—after 1862, usually after 1875: This word was used on English pieces after the Trademark Act of 1862, used on United States wares after 1875.

22 carat—term used after 1930s The gold trim is real, 22 carat gold.

Underglaze—ca. 1903-1945: The design is applied under the glaze.

Union Label—1930s The dish was made by a factory in the United States with a unionized work force.

Union made—1930s A term used in the United States; dishes made by a company with union employees.

USPA approved glaze—1975 The United States Potters Association approved the glaze for safety, durability, etc.

U.S. patent—after 1900: The design or method is patented in the United States. This term may appear on wares made outside the United States also.

U.S. Zone, CI.S. Zone Germany—1945-1949: The name of the United States-occupied section of Germany after World War II.

USSR—1922 -1991

Warranted—1890s, 1920s: There are three different uses of the term “warranted.” In the United States it appears with the factory marks as a description of the com¬pany in the 1890s. It is part of the term ‘warranted 22 karat gold,” meaning guaranteed to be real gold, in the 1920s. It appears as part of a company name on English wares in the 1890s.

West Germany—1949-1990: At the end of World War II, Germany was divided into occupation zones. The United States, Britain, and France occupied these zones from 1945 to 1949. Then the three zones became the Federal Republic of Germany, or West Germany. In 1990, Germany was reunified.


 Foreign Words Sometimes Found in Marks

AG—Aktiengesellschaft; joint stock company (German)

Aluminite—high-fired porcelain developed in 1900, used for oven-to-table cookware (French)

Brevete—patented (French), used as early as 1820 Cie—company (French)

Decore a la main—hand-decorated (French)

Decore par—decorated by (French)

Dep—depose; registered (French)

Deponiert—registered (German)

Depose—registered (French)

Eingetragen muster—registered design (German)

Eneret—monopoly or privilege, the same as patented (Danish)

Fabrique par—manufactured by (French)

Fayence—faience (German)

Fils—son (French)

Firenze—Florence, Italy

Flammefest—flame resistant (German)

Flintporslin—creamware (Swedish)

Gebruder (Gebr.)—brothers (German)

Ges.—protected (German)

Geschutzt—protected (German)

Gesellschaft—corporation (German)

Gesetzlich—by law or legally (German)

GMBHGesellschaft mit beschrankte Haftung; limited liability company (German)

Grand feu—high temperature, name for a ceramic fired at a high temperature (French)

Gres—stoneware (French)

Hochfein—super fine (German)

Hochfeine qualitat—finest quality (German)

Keramische—ceramic (German)

KG—Kommanditgesellschaft, limited partnership (German)

Mikrowellen—microwave safe (German)

Musterschutz—protected against copying (German)

Plateelbakkery—pottery factory (Dutch)

Porcelaine fabrique—porcelain factory (French)

Porzellanfabrik—porcelain factory (German)

Porzellanwerke—porcelain works (German)

Registered—registered design or process (England)

SA—Societe Anonyme (French), limited liability company

S.A.R.L.—Societe Anonyme a Responsabilite Limitee, a limited lia-bility company (French)

SAG—Sowjetische Aktiengesellschaft—Soviet joint stock company in Germany

S.G.D.G.—Sans Garantie du Gouvernement, without government guarantee (French)

Sohn—son (German)

Solidaire—jointly and separately liable (French)

Steingutfabrik—stoneware company (German)

VEB—Volkseigner Betreib; Nationalized German Democratic Repub¬lic company, used after 1945 (German)

Venezia—Venice, Italy

Veuve (we)—widow (French)

VVB—Vereinigung Volkseigener Betriebe, Association of People’s Own Enterprises (German)

Werkstatte—workshop (German)

Wien—Vienna, Austria

Witwe (Wwe)—widow (German)

Meissen Augustus Rex

Pottery & Porcelain: Meissen Augustus Rex Mark

The Meissen Augustus Rex mark is the letter “R” wrapped around the letter “A”—both in a flowing, cursive style. This mark was copied by many factories and was registered as a trademark in 1873 after many years of use. The mark is still in use today.

Meissen Augustus Rex Porcelain Mark

Meissen Augustus Rex Porcelain Mark





Sevres Porcelain Factory Marks

Basic Sevres MarkThe Sevres Date Mark, is made from two lines that look like a cursive “L.” One is the mirror image of the other and they cross to form a triangular cartouche. A letter inside the lines dates the porcelain. It has been used by the Sevres factory in Sevres, France, since 1753. Each year from 1753 to 1793 different letters and combinations of letters were rotated in and out of the cartouche. Letters were not in use from 1795 to 1801. A new set of date marks was adopted during France’s First Empire (1804-1815) and was placed below the mark of a crowned eagle. Under Louis XVIII’s reign (1814-1824) the cartouche was still used; but under later kings, republics, and empires, the cartouche shape was discontinued. Factories in England, Germany, France, and the United States copied this mark, causing confusion for collectors. Copies are still in use.


Silver Identification Guide

The marks on the bottom of a piece of silver can be an indication of the age, maker, and origin of the piece. This mark is referred to as a “hallmark.” To find Kovels’ silver hallmarks’ database, go to “Look for your mark.” Other articles and marks can be found in” Silver and Other Metals identification guide and in the Article on Marks, and enter “Silver” in the filter.  A single mark usually indicates that the piece of silver was made in America, although there are some Irish and Scottish pieces with just the maker’s name. This is a list of American silver marks and solid American silver. Other lists include silver-plated wares and pewter. It will not help you to identify other silver. Four or five small pictorial marks usually indicate England as the country of origin. For example, the leopard’s head indicates England. Become familiar with the English king or queen’s head mark as an indication of age. If the king’s head faces right, it was made before 1850. Queen Victoria faces left. Queen Elizabeth faces left. Silver was stamped with a lion for London, a thistle for Edinburgh. The harp indicated the piece was made in Dublin. Glasgow silver-smiths used a fish or tree. Ornate capital letters or the fleur-de-lis were used in France. A hand indicates Antwerp, a spread eagle Germany or Russia. The word STERLING indicates Ireland as well as America. COIN, DOLLAR, and STANDARD were usually American terms, but some Irish makers also used them. The words quadruple, triple, double, EPNS, and EPWM indicate that the ware is silver plated. “800” is usually found on continental silver.

If a piece is not American, refer to the sources about English or Continental silver. If it seems to be American, this dictionary will help.

The earliest silversmiths in the colonies used their initials. Many makers used their last name, or first initial and last name. Pseudo-hallmarks were used about 1800. They were meant to mislead the public into believing that the silver was of English origin. Many unmarked pieces of American silver were made by 1825. The pieces were later marked with the store name. By 1830 the words COIN, PURE COIN, DOLLAR, STANDARD, PREMIUM, or the letters “C” or “D” were placed on silver to indicate that it was 900 out of 1000 parts silver. The word STERLING was frequently used by 1860. STERLING means that 925 out of 1000 parts are silver. This is still the standard for sterling silver. Gorham Silver Company used a special mark for their Martelé silver from 1899 to 1912. Martelé was made of silver of sterling or better quality, some with 950 parts silver to each 1000 parts.

Silversmiths in Baltimore, Maryland, had a maker-date system from 1814 to 1830. An assay office was legally established in 1814, and marks were placed on all silver sold. The head of liberty indicated quality; a date letter, the arms of the city of Baltimore, and the maker’s initials or name were included. The dating system was discontinued in 1830 when the silversmiths developed another system. Numbers like 10.15, 112, or 11/12 were stamped on the silver to indicate the percentage of pure silver in the metal.

When the American silversmiths were first “discovered” in the early 1900s, most collectors felt that only the eighteenth-century makers were important. Now, years later, collectors know that fine American silver was also made during the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

This is a guide to makers. Learn to know good work by its shape, feel, and construction. Look up its maker and determine its age and origin. This listing should make it easier to identify Grandma’s spoon or a dish in an antiques shop, but remember a mark can easily be copied.


English Registry Marks

The diamond-shaped English Registry mark, was used by the English patent office since 1842 to identify pieces of English pottery, porcelain, and other products. It is easy to tell when the ceramic was made. The mark has the Roman numerals “IV” at the top of the mark if it is for a ceramic. Between 1842 and 1883, the diamond-shaped mark was used. Marks registered from 1842 to 1867 have a letter at the top of the diamond. Marks registered from 1867 to 1883 have a number instead of a letter at the top of the diamond. After 1883, the diamond shape was discontinued and “Rd. No.,” followed by the number assigned to the ceramic, was used. Tables listed here tell how to decode the mark to learn the type of material, month, maker, and year of manufacture.

To obtain more detailed information, contact one of the following offices or visit their websites:

For pieces registered 1839-1991: For pieces registered AFTER 1991:
The National Archives
Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, UKIntellectual property: registered designs 1839-1991 – The National Archives


Intellectual Property Office
Concept House
Cardiff Road
South Wales NP10 8QQ, UK Email:

Both offices will research designs for a fee. Information is available on their websites.

Here are some notes to help date any piece that bears an English registry mark.

A diamond-shaped registry mark was used between 1842 and 1883. The information within the diamond changed after 1867.

english register marks examples

Mark “A” represents the mark used between 1842 and 1867; mark “B” represents the mark between 1868 and 1883. After 1884, the diamond-shaped marks were replaced by the letters Rd. No. (for registered number)—and numbers indicating the year the piece was registered (see Mark “C).

In Mark “A,” the various letters and numbers indicate the following: the large “Rd” means “registered”; the Roman numeral in the circle at the top of the mark represents the type of material used to make a piece (see Table 1); the Roman numeral in the top inside section of the diamond represents the year the piece was registered (see Table 3); the Arabic numeral on the right-hand section represents the day of the month the piece was registered; the Arabic numeral in the section at the bottom represents the parcel number, which is a code indicating the person or company that registered the piece; and the letter in the left-hand section represents the month the piece was registered (see Table 2). In other words, Mark “A” appeared on a piece of ceramics registered on June 2, 1850.

In Mark “B,” the various letters and numbers reflect the following: the large “Rd” means “registered”; the Roman numeral in the circle at the top of the mark represents the type of material from which the piece was made (see Table 1); the Arabic numeral in the top inside section of the diamond represents the day of the month; the letter at the right-hand section represents the year the piece was registered (see Table 4); the letter in the bottom segment represents the month the piece was registered (see Table 2); and the Arabic numeral at the left-hand side represents the parcel number. In other words, this mark appeared on a piece of ceramics registered on July 7, 1873.

Table 1

Type of material or class
V— paper hangings VI—carpets
VII – printed shawls VIII—other shawls
IX—yarn X—printed fabrics
XI—furnitures (printed fabric with repeat greater than 12 x 8) XII (i)—other fabrics
XII (ii) – other fabrics (damasks) XIII – lace


Table 2

Month of the Year of Manufacture

Table 3

Year of Manufacture: 1842-1867

Table 4

Year of Manufacture: 1868-1883


After 1883, the diamond marks were discontinued and a simpler marking system, consisting of the letters “Rd No” followed by a number, was instituted. This mark appears on decorative art (china, glass, metal, or wood) manufactured in England since 1884.

Table 5: Design Registry Numbers—1884-2009 lists the English registry numbers by year. (For example, if a piece is marked with the number Rd. No. 821265, it was registered sometime in 1937.)

Table 5

Design Registry Numbers: 1884-2009
Jan.1884— 1
1885— 20000
1886— 40800
1887— 64700
1888— 91800
July 1989—1061406 (last no.)
Aug. 1989—2000000
1998—602537 *
2007—4000966 **
1967—929 335

Based on information supplied by the United Kingdom’s Intellectual Property Office.
* Textile designs had a separate Number sequence until 2001; this number was probably a textile design.
** 4-million sequence started in Oct. 2006 following new legislation.

Updated January 10, 2022

Antique Pottery & Porcelain Marks Identification Guide

Every collector knows that the quickest way to identify a piece of pottery or porcelain is to identify the mark, but sometimes it’s unreliable because marks are often forged and changed. This is a listing of the better-known marks and backstamps and enough information so that you can learn more about your porcelains. Research and experience will tell you if the color, texture, weight, design, or general “feel” of the piece is right. This will help you identify the mark.

Antique marks are listed according to their shapes. Some marks are made up of letters listed in alphabetical order. Some marks look like a circle, square, bird or animal shape, etc.

There are many problems with company names. Obviously, the original name of a German company was in German. When translated, several possible forms could have been used. In some cases, it is an comfortable translation. If the initials in the mark were directly connected to the foreign name, it may have a more awkward translation. In a few cases it is the foreign title.

Reading the mark’s date is relatively simple. “1895–1900” means the mark may have been used during those years. If it is a date such as “1895+,” it is not known how long after 1895 the mark was in use. “ca.1895” suggests a general time period. The date could have been used at any time during the years on either side of 1895.

The factory dates are more difficult. Most of the time they are from the first year that any predecessor company worked until the last year any successor company worked, provided that the name or management was continuous. Two companies frequently merged into one and the mark was used for the new company so it is dated back to the oldest company with a direct relationship to the mark. For example, the mythical company of “Ralph Ltd.” was founded in 1820. This company bought “Terry and Son,” a company started in 1840. If the new firm took the name “Great Pottery, Inc.,” it would then be listed as dating from 1820. If “Terry and Son” had bought “Ralph Ltd.,” the new company would be dated from 1840. The information was often sketchy and sometimes conflicting. The successor company, if it is still in business, is listed at the bottom of the mark caption.

There is some confusion in any reference containing Delft marks. The Delft factories had a special way of registering their marks, and the factory names which were registered are often misspelled. Here each factory name is written in Dutch and then translated into English, so you will be able to find these names in other sources. Because each writer spells these names a little differently and each century saw a change in the actual way the Dutch language was written, each name is in its modern-day Dutch spelling. Often, for the Delft factory, a person’s name may be listed instead of a factory name. This is usually an artist or the factory owner and is important for further research.

The marks were chosen primarily so this listing would be useful to the average collector. The majority of marks date after 1850. Some are current marks. (It may be disappointing, but it is important to know you do not own an antique). Most of the marks listed are from the United States, England, Germany, and France. Some factories are represented by many marks because each one gives dating information. Some firms have only a single mark that was in use for many years.

There are two marks that need separate explanations; the Sevres mark and the English Registry mark. Both are in charts listed in our identification help section.

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