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    

Quality Antique Wedgwood Porcelain Black Dip Jasperware 8" Handled Portland VaseVintage Signed Wedgwood 3 Piece Blue Jasperware Porcelain Tea Set Pot Sugar JcbPre-1860 Antique Wedgwood Caneware Blue Fern & Star Design Vase C.1810-20Antique Crimson Wedgwood Jasperware Candlestick - PtSet (8) Wedgwood Gold Florentine W4219 China Footed Cream Soup BowlsAntique Wedgwood Creamware Footed BowlAntique Signed Wedgwood Deep Cobalt Blue Jasperware Porcelain Small Tea Pot JcbWedgwood Wild Strawberry Bone China 4 Dinner PlatesPair Wedgwood Jasperware Tall Sage Green Candle Holders Candlesticks Roman/greekRare Wedgwood Texas A & M College Plate Cushing Library 1929Wedgwood Light Blue Jasperware Miniature Tea Coffee Set 9 PiecesWedgwood Jasper Light Blue 3 Piece Tea Service C1951Antique Wedgwood Jasperware Sage Green Curtain Tiebacks Pair6 Wedgwood Embossed Queensware Cream On Lavender Shell Edge Cups & SaucersRare Wedgwood Acanthus Black Basalt Large Bowl StunningWedgwood Jasperware Blue Muses Planter Jardiniere Euc England 189os EraWedgwood "old Windmill, Nantucket" Blue Transfer Souvenir PlateWedgwood Wild Strawberry Bone China 4 Rim Soup BowlsWedgwood Barlaston Etruria Embossed Queens Ware Tea Pot Blue / WhiteRare Vintage Wedgewood Jasper Ware Cobalt/white Cameo Chocolate/coffee PotWedgwood China - Ventnor Pattern - Teapot BottomWedgewood Clock Free ShippingWedgwood "india" Sugar Bowl And Creamer Wedgwood Cornucopia Bicentenary Bone China Deep Rectangular DishWedgwood "india" Oval Serving Bowl 10 Inches By 7 3/4 Inches Wedgwood Cornucopia Bicentenary Bone China Playing Card Box (no Cards) With LidSarah's Garden By Wedgwood England Egg CupsVintage Wedgwood Porcelain England 'clio' Design 20 Piece Tea Set & Tea PotWedgwood Wild Strawberry Bone China 4 Small PlatesGorgeous Pair Antique Wedgwood Majolica Fish Plates 9" Diameter, Great ColorBlue Willow Pattern Chinese Legend Wedgwood Large Lidded DishWedgwood Blue Jasper Mezuzah Case In Box - JasperwareWedgwood Countryside 4 Cup Teapot Tea Pot Blue & White Nice!!Wedgwood "india" Serving Platter 14 1/2 Inches By 11 Inches Wedgwood Saxson Blue Jasper Jasperware Year Of The Snake Tray Plaque 2013 RareWild Strawberry, Wedgwood Bone China Salad Plates, Set Of 3 England.Wild Strawberry, Wedgwood Bone China Bread & Butter Plates, Set Of 5 England.Set Of 4 Wedgwood White On Blue Embossed Queensware Rimmed Soup Bowls UnusedWedgewood Water Lily Etruria Darwin Platter Blue & White 12 3/8" EnglandWedgwood Cornucopia 8 Bread/butter Dishes And 8 BowlsWedgwood Pink Round Trinket Box Jasperware Scalloped Lid & Body Angelic ScenesWedgwood 'basalt' Large SetWedgwood Florentine Turquoise W2714 Cups & Saucers 2 Sets ExcNew Wedgewood Runnymede 5 Pc Place Setting #3Wedgwood Bone China Florentine Turquoise Tea Cup & Saucer W2714 Wedgwood Jasperware Blue Demitasse Cup & SaucerWedgewood Wild Strawberry 8.5" Square Plate In Good Cond! 8 Dinner Plates Wedgwood England 11 Inch Bone China Gold RimWedgwood Blue & White Jasper Ware Tea Cup & SaucerLarge 12 3/8" Clarice Cliff / Wedgwood "bizarre" Plate / ChargerWedgwood Celadon Green 3 Bread Plates Queensware 6" AcrossAntique Wedgwood Muffineer Sugar Shaker Blue & White Winged Horse Greek Figures3 - Vtg Wedgwood Queensware Cup/saucer Sets-ivory Grapes On Lavender Blue Shell Wedgwood Primrose Yellow Jasper Prunus Relief Bowl JasperwareWedgwood Runnymede Blue Bone China 5-pc Setting - W4472Wedgwood Bone China St. Austell 2 Dinner Plates 10-3/4" No Reserve, EnglandWedgwood 1899 "old Blue Historical" Old North Church - Antique - Stunning!Wedgwood Counrtyware Strawberry BasketTea Cup And Saucer Lot Adderley ,windsor, Colclough,q Ann & SutherlandWedgwood Amherst Bone China Oval Vegetable Dish, Platinum, England, With Wrapper