Josiah Wedgwood founded the Staffordshire pottery that bears his name in 1759. The company’s rise to prominence was extraordinarily fast, in part because Wedgwood initially focused on refining existing techniques and working in traditional forms rather creating something entirely new from scratch. He also appeared to understand the power of branding and marketing.

His first major success, and the one that would open doors for his company throughout the rest of his life, occurred in 1765, when he developed a cream-colored earthenware of Cornish clay and presented a tea set of the ware to England's Queen Charlotte. By all accounts, the queen was so pleased with the look and feel of Wedgwood’s creation that she gave him permission to market it as Queen’s Ware.

Despite its name, Queen’s Ware was not designed for royalty or special occasions. In fact, it was meant for daily use. Accordingly, Wedgwood produced Queen’s Ware plates, cups, saucers, bowls, and even candlesticks. Surfaces were typically gilded or enameled, with designs often taken from nature. By 1766, Wedgwood had been named Potter to Her Majesty, and within just a few years, Queen’s Ware was so ubiquitous that Wedgwood’s competitors, especially those creating goods for the growing markets of the New World, took to calling their products Queen’s Ware, too.

Wedgwood’s next big success was another refinement, this time of a style known as Egyptian black. Wedgwood called his version Black Basalt, and produced vases and urns with a smooth, matte black finish. On the surfaces of these vases, he painted Etruscan scenes in rusty red—the handles ranged from lion’s heads to swans. The Black Basalts were such a signature for Wedgwood that when his company moved into new quarters in 1769, Wedgwood himself made a set of six commemorative vases in the Black Basalt style to mark the occasion.

Charlotte was not the only royal to fall for Wedgwood ware. In 1773, Russia’s Catherine the Great ordered a 1,000-place setting known as the Frog Service after the green frog crest that sits in the oak-leaf border at the top of each piece. Hand-painted scenes on the ware were of views near the new Wedgwood factory.

Jasperware came next in about 1774, and, unlike Black Basalt and Queen’s Ware, this was something entirely new. Like the Black Basalts, the surfaces of Jasperware pieces had matte finishes, but the range of colors was greater, with blue being the most famous. Against this hard "ground" of color, Wedgwood placed ceramic reliefs in white, creating panoramic cameos on the sides of his vases.

If Queen’s Ware was meant for the every day, Wedgwood’s Jasperware pieces were produced primarily for display. There were vases, pitchers, and large bowls. Jasperware portrait me...

If Wedgwood had done nothing else in his life, it would have been a rich one, indeed, but one of the little-known facts about Wedgwood is that he was an active supporter of progressive causes. From the beginning of his rise, he contributed to free schools in his hometown of Burslem. In 1778, when the Revolutionary War was at its height, he supported the Americans. And in 1787, he created a cameo medallion of a chained slave kneeling beneath the words "Am I Not A Man And A Brother"—the Slave Emancipation Society was allowed to use the image as its logo.

After Wedgwood’s death in 1795, his sons permitted the firm to drift, and mass-production techniques in the 1840s resulted in a loss of quality. But the company found its footing again in the 1870s with majolica pieces and creamware that featured the animal paintings of Henry Hope Crealock. Thomas Allen became Wedgwood’s chief designer in 1876, and signed Shakespearean plaques by him are highly collectible.

In the 20th century, Wedgwood designer Daisy Makeig-Jones strayed even further from the company’s Greco-Roman forms and naturalistic designs with a series of vases and other objects that were decorated with dragons, fairies, and goblins in the manner of illustrations for children’s books. This was not your father’s, or even great-grandfather’s, Wedgwood, but the public warmly embraced it.

Today, Wedgwood collectors are aided by the company’s habit of marking all pieces to help ensure their authenticity (Wedgwood fakes were a problem almost from the beginning). So, for example, if a piece of bone china has an iconic depiction of the Portland Vase on its underside, along with a single line punctuated by three dots and the word "Wedgwood" below that, it is from 1878 to 1890. In 1891, the word "England" was added below "Wedgwood," and in 1940 pieces of Queen’s Ware got a mark of their own.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Thepotteries.org

Thepotteries.org

Steve Birks' super deep site is a tribute to a bygone era, chronicling how a pottery center of excellence (they did… [read review or visit site]

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

This gallery showcases highlights from the 5,000 items in the museum's ceramics collection dating from 1500-1900. I… [read review or visit site]

Ceramics at The V&A

Ceramics at The V&A

A great reference on ceramics from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Learn about different ceramics techniques and st… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Wedgwood Jasperware Black White Neoclassical Double Handle Domed Urn JarEarly 19thc Wedgwood Black & White Jasper Ware Dancing Hours Coffee CanWedgwood Daisy Makeig-jones Fairyland Lustre Vase Chinese Dragon & Cricket C1915Wedgwood Daisy Makeig-jones Fairyland Lustre Cup & Saucer Butterfly C1915Wedgwood Daisy Makeig-jones Fairyland Lustre Tyg Cup Snake & Dragon C1915Antique Wedgwood Blue Jasperware Lion Head Planter / Jardiniere C1900Wedgwood Majolica Relief Pair Of Women Panel Plaques Tiles Fire And Water Rsq Mini Vase Wedgewood Jasperware Reverse Blue - Unusual Piece -ships FreeWedgwood China Springer Spaniel American Sporting Dog Plate Marguerite KirmseWedgwood Jasperware Limited Edition For Harrods Dark Blue Cheese Dome SuperbWedgwood China Golden Retriever American Sporting Dog Plate Marguerite KirmseWedgwood Jasperware Crimson Creamer 2 1/2" Height NiceVintage Wedgwood Jasperware Dark Blue Small Plant PotWedgwood China Irish Setter American Sporting Dog Plate Marguerite KirmseWedgwood China Gordon Setter American Sporting Dog Plate Marguerite Kirmse 11"Rare Yale University Wedgewood Jasperware Trinket BoxWedgwood 50193201653 India 7.75-inch Noodle BowlVintage Wedgwood China Pointer American Sporting Dog Plate Marguerite Kirmse 11"Wedgwood China Irish Water Spaniel American Sporting Dog Plate Marguerite KirmseAntique 1867 Dip Medium Blue Footed Jardiniere Planter Wedgwood Jasperware Wedgwood Chesapeake Bay Retriever American Sporting Dog Plate Marguerite KirmseWedgwood China English Setter American Sporting Dog Plate Marguerite Kirmse 11"Larger Terracotta Spike Finial Box Wedgwood Jasperware Wedgewood MintWedgwood Daisy Makeig-jones Lustre Hexagonal Ring Tree Tray C1915Wedgwood China Wirehaired Griffon American Sporting Dog Plate Marguerite KirmseWedgwood Lilac Jasper Ware Egg CupWedgwood China Brittany Spaniel American Sporting Dog Plate Marguerite KirmseWedgwood Florentine Sage Green 4 Teacups & Saucers (leigh) Brand New/unusedVintage Wedgwood Mie 5,5" Upright Jug - Pitcher Buff Yellow - Black NrAttractive Pale Blue Jasper Ware Wedgwood Teapot . Vintage . A1 Condition Wedgwood Samurai Bone China Shallow Bowl Dish Tray 7.5" AcrossVintage Pair Wedgwood Blue Jasper Kicking Horse Cuff-links In Presentation CaseVntg Wedgwood China Cocker Spaniel American Sporting Dog Plate Marguerite KirmseSet Of 12 Vintage Wedgwood Old London Views Dinner Plates Protective Bag10pcs. Wedgwood Wild Strawberry Bone China Porcelain Tea Cups & Saucers England Wedgwood Daisy Makeig-jones Fairyland Lustre Miniature Vase Astrology C1915Coalport Bone China Hunting Scene Handled Cream SoupWedgwood Yellow Jasper Ware Egg CupWedgwood Rare Tri Colour Jasper Ware Large VaseWedgwood Lilac Jasper Jasperware Oblong Rectangle Trinket Box8 Wedgwood Dark Blue Cobalt Dip Jasperware Condiment Jar Pot Replacement LidWedgwood Daisy Makeig-jones Fairyland Lustre Turtle Small Japanese Bowl C1915Wedgwood Daisy Makeig-jones Fairyland Lustre Humming Bird Small Bowl C1915Vintage Wedgwood England Miniature VaseWedgwood Jasperware - Terra Cotta - CreamerAntique Dip Medium Blue Wide Vase Wedgwood Jasperware MintWedgwood Jasper Ware Black Dip Miniature Salt Bowl EnglandWedgwood Peter Rabbit By Beatrix Potter - Nursery Lamp BaseVintage Cobalt Blue Jasperware Wedgwood Jewelry Tray Dish4 Wedgwood China India Square Salad Plates 8-1/4"Wedgwood Coalport Hunting Scene 10 3/4" Dinner Plate Fine Bone ChinaWedgwood Amherst Platinum 8 1/2" Coffee Pot With Lid - Made In EnglandWedgwood Wild Strawberry Accent Salad Plate Set Of 2Wedgwood 1958 Citadel South Carolina Plate -- Mark Clark HallSet Of 6 Wedgewood Flying Cloud Dinner Plates 10.25" In Rust Collector's EditionWedgwood Very Large Bowl Uc California Diamond Jubilee 1868-1943 11 3/4" X 5"Wedgewood Peter Rabbit Egg CoddlerWedgwood Etruria & Barlaston Patrician 9 1/2" Square PlatterSet 6 Wedgewood Home Amway Lemon Tree 6" Cereal Soup Bowls (lemons Blueberries)Wedgwood Celadon Green On Cream Shelledge Embossed Queens Ware Cup & Saucer