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The McKinley Tariff Act of 1891 required that the name of the country where the ceramic was originally made must be printed on each piece.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)

2 responses to “The Vocabulary of Marks”

  1. Cynthia Pérez says:

    I have two little cup and saucers, in porcelain painted with dragons and flowers in blue, they are very thin and translucent, have the mark in the bottom “ENGUM” inside a shield with the letters C and N inside two parallel lines, I don´t have any idea about the origin. can you help me?

  2. Harma Newport says:

    Delft Blue Pottery Vase with crown and 471. Trying to find the age of the item

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