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    

A Superb Wedgwood Fairyland Lustre 'garden Of Paradise' Dish C1920's - 28 CmsPair Antique Wedgwood Black Basalt Classical Relief Plaques C18thWedgwood Amherst Platinum 35 Piece Coffee Set Vintage Antique Dip Cobalt Blue Wedgewood Jasperware Demitasse Cup & Saucer Wedgwood Olive Drabware Tea Pot Ca 1860 Aesthetic DecorationWedgwood Queensware Teapot Tea Water Serving Pot Pitcher Pink Grapes On CreamAntique Victorian Wedgwood Blue And White Tea Cups Saucers Teapot Sugar BowlWedgwood Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit Christmas Ornaments Set Of 2 Mint!!!Wedgwood Queensware Complete Service For 8 + 7 Serving Pieces 71 Pieces Mint Wedgwood Three Colour Jasper Vase, Dated 1874. The Four Seasons. Fine Quality.Lot Two Cups & Two Saucers, Pink/cream Wedgwood Queensware Etruria/barlaston XtrAntique Wedgwood Jasperware Green Tea Pot W/ Cameo Of G. Washington & FranklinCrimson Wedgwood Jasperware Heart Trinket Dish Wine England(2) Vintage Wedgwood Arcadian Black Bud Porcelain Vases Jasperware Set - 4 5/8"Wedgwood Teapot Blue And White- Christmas Ornament Downtown Abbey Movie PromoWedgwood Queens Ware Lavender On Cream Color (shell Edge) 5pc. Place Setting #3Vintage Wedgwood Florentine Turquoise Teapot 4 Cups Bone ChinaAntique Wedgwood Green Jasperware Creamer & Sugar W/ Cameo Washington & FranklinAntique Wedgwood Mantle Clock Case, Jasper Ware,nude, Seth Thomas, Large Case, Set Of Two Cups & Two Saucers, Pink/cream Wedgwood Queensware Etruria/barlastonFive Wedgwood Queensware Lavender Blue With Cream Bowls 6-1/4" Dia., EnglandWedgwood Caneware Basketweave Miniature Tea Pot Ca 1820 Fine, Wedgwood Black Jasperware Vase Williamsburg Wedgwood Green Shell Edge, Coffee & Tea Pots & 10 Cups & 7 SaucersRalph Lauren Claire Wedgwood England Cracker Tray Plate Candle Rectangular BreadWedgwood Jasperware Creamer Pitcher Olive Green Rare Wedgwood Etruria Salt And Pepper Pink GrapesWedgwood Flow Blue "chapoo" 1800's Tea Pot & LidWedgwood Queensware Dinner Plates Lot Of 4 Lot 10" Vintage Pink Grapes CreamWedgwood Only Pair (2) Mini Plaques In Bronze Table Top Frame N/rPair Of 1879 Multi-colored Cricket & Soccer Wedgwood Pitchers 7.7”x4.4” #12 YvhPitcher, 6.25x4" Mr Punch Punishes Misrule, Wedgwood, 1880s Transfer, Satire1977 Wedgwood Solid Silver Jasperware Queens Silver Jubilee Portrait MedallionWedgwood 7 Pcs Pale Blue Jasperware Silver Shape Mythological Figures TraysSet Of 5 Wedgwood Queensware Pink On Cream Bread & Butter PlatesRare Vintage Green Wedgwood 5" Jasperware Classical Greek Covered Dish Jar Look WedgwoodWedgwood Queens Ware Lavender On Cream Color (shell Edge) 5pc. Place Setting #2Vintage Wedgwood Black Jasperware Dip Charger / Large PlateWedgwood Citrons Pickle Dish - No Reserve Large CollectionWedgwood Jasperware Teal Spruce Candle Stick HolderWedgwood 7 Pieces Lilac Jasperware Box, Tray, Vase, Dresser Tray, Dish EtcWedgwood Vintage 1950s Peter Rabbit Cup & Saucer Set Beatrix Potter Nippon Wedgwood Jasperware Style Blue Moriage “m” Mark Footed Bowl15% Off SaleWedgwood Blue Jasperware Set Of Two Cups And SaucersWedgwood Indian Hunter Menotomy, Arlington Ma - Made For Friday Social ClubWedgwood China - Queen's Plain - 4 Fruit BowlsWedgwood Embossed Queensware Cream On Grey Oval Serving 10" Vegetable BowlWedgwood Blue Jasperware Egg Shaped Trinket Box – HeronRare 19th C. Wedgwood Cupid Stringing His Bow Solid Blue And White Jasper PlaqueAntique Dip Dark Cobalt Blue Teapot Wedgwood Jasperware Wedgewood & UnderplateWedgwood Florentine Black, Set Of 8 Footed Cups & 8 Saucers, Leigh ShapeWedgwood Jasperware Blue ShoeWedgwood Williamsburg Potpourri Nut Dish Porcelain Flowers Square Nk510 NiceDark Blue Wedgwood Jasperware Small Mustard Server With Silverplate CoverWedgwood Florentine Turquoise Open Sugar Bowl Footed Green StampWedgewood Jasperware Goddess Plays With 2 Cupids Green & White Open Mouth Vase Wedgwood Jasperware Domed Box ReverseFour Tea Cups & Saucers - Wedgwood Bone China Louisiana Pattern (lot #3)Wedgwood Flow Blue 14 1/4" Round Serving Platter " Chinese " Pattern Antique