QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
What's the name of the service?
Many thousands of different patterned tableware sets have been manufactured since the factory opened in 1726. Far from all were given names. Some were just given a production number. Some didn’t even get that. If there’s no name stamped underneath the chances of identifying it are limited. The best source for Rörstrand’s tableware patterns is Bengt Nyström and Peter Stenberg’s book “Rörstrands serviser”. See our reading list for more tips on books about Rörstrand.
How old is the porcelain?
The marks underneath can give pointers to the age of the porcelain. Since the beginning of the 18th century all goods leaving the factory using the proper channels have been stamped. As well as the actual Rörstrand factory mark, numbers and letters could also be impressed onto the bottom of the piece. These are technical designations indicating the model of the object or the composition of the mass, for instance, and have nothing to do with dating. See our page about marks and how you can date your pottery using them.
In the vast majority of cases no records of how many series were made were kept. Production continued as long as there was a demand. The factory was busy producing goods, and documentation wasn’t always managed as efficiently as we would like it to be today.
Regarding tableware sets we can get an idea of the amount made by looking at the years of production. There are probably more samples of services that were produced for many years than the ones which were only manufactured for a short period.
How much is the porcelain worth?
Monetary valuations of objects is something that museums, for ethical reasons, are not allowed to do. If you’re interested in a valuation we advise you to go to your local antique dealer or auction house instead.
It’s often the so called sentimental value that is worth most. There’s a story behind the object which gives it a special value just for you. Maybe it belonged to a close relative or you might have used it on a special occasion. Make a note of the story and keep it with the object.
What is earthenware?
Earthenware is fired at a lower temperature (around 1000 degrees). It’s cheap, porous and absorbs water, but has a warm, unpretentious feel. The lower firing temperature gives rise to rich glaze colours. Earthenware pottery is made of secondary clay which has been moved far from the parent material and been contaminated by soils and minerals.
Tin-glazed earthenware is called faience and was one way of imitating genuine porcelain before the knowledge of how to manufacture it existed. Faience was a delicate and impractical material for everyday use, but the exquisite blue painted faience made at Rörstrand during the 1700s became an art form of its own.
What is flintware?
Flintware is an alternative to porcelain, derived from white-burning clay containing flint. (Firing temperature around 1200 degrees). Flintware is inexpensive and allows finer forms and underglaze patterns in many colours to be achieved. The seams absorb moisture and are susceptible to damage and glaze crazing. Rörstrand began to make flintware in the 1770s and used it for household items until the end of the 1980s.
Because the seams were porous the pieces were completely encased in glaze. But a plate couldn’t of course just float around loose in the kiln, it had to be stood during firing on a triangular ceramic stilt, which left three small marks on the underside. These marks are called spur marks and are a characteristic of flintware in particular.
What is bone china?
Bone china has a strength and white sheen to it which is quite exceptional (firing temperature around 1250 degrees). It contains 40-50% animal bone ash, an English innovation patented in 1748. It has a high impact resistance, which is why it’s often used in restaurant dinnerware.
At Rörstrand, bone china was manufactured as a luxury material from 1857 to 1926, when the Stockholm factory was closed down. It was a speciality of the Gustavsberg porcelain factory as well, where it was made with pride. Bone china is extremely translucent, which you can test yourselves by holding a piece of it up to a light.
What is stoneware?
Stoneware is a high fire ceramic (approx. 1280 degrees). The grains in the clay mass have vitrified, merged and formed a harder, grey seam which is non-porous. With advanced glazing techniques stoneware was mainly used as an artistic material during the 1900s, but also to make tableware and items for everyday use.
When the shaped piece had dried it became so hard that it could be both decorated and glazed without previous bisque firing. If a stoneware plate is turned upside down you can see that the foot ring isn’t glazed. It doesn’t need to be as the seam is so impermeable and hard that it doesn’t absorb any moisture.
What is feldspar porcelain?
The backbone of feldspar porcelain is the kaolin, a clean white-burning primary clay which is still found in its original location, for example in Kao Ling in China, where mankind’s history of porcelain originated in the 7th century.
Kaolin, quartz and feldspar make up feldspar porcelain which is fired at a high temperature (1400 degrees) and produces a white, translucent seam which is non-porous. Rörstrand started to make feldpsar porcelain in the 1870s and it has become the most common material used by the brand since then.
Lead in old porcelain?
We can’t comment on specific dinnerware but can give general advice. Lead was present in the paints as well as the glazes and actual ceramic pieces, mainly during the production of flintware and bone china, but it was primarily a danger to the health of those who worked on the actual manufacture of it, in the glazing and clay preparation rooms. If the piece is in good condition with a smooth, glossy glaze it should be fine to use, but if on the other hand the surface is dull, porous or chipped then it shouldn’t be used, mainly as the glaze has then lost its ability to act as as a hygenic shield.
Literature about Rörstrand
Stora boken om Rörstrand by Bengt Nyström, Petter Eklund and others (2020)
Rörstrand i Stockholm by Carl-Henrik Anckarberg and Bengt Nyström (2007)
Rörstrands serviser by Bengt Nyström and Peter Stenberg (2016)
Art noveau från Rörstrand by Markus Dimdal (2016)
Gunnar Nylund – Konstnär och industriformgivare by Petter Eklund (2017) Stålhane by Petter Eklund and Patrik Johansson (2005)