How to Detect Repairs on Art Pottery

Detecting repairs on Roseville, Rookwood, Van Briggle, Teco, Hampshire and other art pottery is becoming more difficult as the quality of repairs has continued to improve over the years. At Just Art Pottery we regularly have collectors asking for tips on how to detect repairs on art pottery.

The following summarizes practical and easy to perform steps that can successfully be used by collectors and dealers to identify even the most professional art pottery restorations.

  1. The first and often the only step necessary to identify repairs on art pottery is visual inspection of the piece in bright light. Direct sunlight works best. Well over 95% of restorations can be detected by simple visual inspection in bright light. Particular items to look for include inconsistencies in crazing and glaze texture or color.
  2. After identifying a suspected repair, the pin test is a very easy method to confirm if the area is indeed a restoration. This procedure simply requires you to take a safety pin or sewing needle and poke the suspect area. Typically if the piece has a chip restoration, the pinpoint will slightly penetrate the fill material used for the repair. Even if it doesn't readily penetrate the glaze and fill material you can often detect a repair on a piece of pottery by the differences in sound (by tapping the area) heard from the repaired area when compared to the original clay. The nice thing about this method is that it doesn't destroy the restoration, because it simply leaves a minute pinhole in the glaze.
  3. If you are still unsure about a particular piece of pottery after trying the visual inspection and the pin test, another fail proof method to identifying repairs on Roseville, Rookwood, Weller and other pottery is the tooth test. I learned this method several years ago from a long time pottery collector, who despite the odd looks he would get at art pottery sales, consistently used this method to quickly and effectively identify repairs. Once again, it is a very simple method that requires you to take the suspect area of the pot and rub your teeth over it. Your teeth are very sensitive and you will immediately be able to tell the difference between the original glaze texture and the repaired glaze on the vase. While I have had many a strange look, I can honestly say I have had 100% success when using this method to detect repairs on art pottery.
  4. An additional method of detecting pottery repairs is through the use of acetone. In most cases, acetone will remove the repair glaze thereby identifying the repair on the vase. The downside to this method is that it will damage or destroy the repair. Also, some of the newer glazes used are more acetone resistant so the test can sometimes be uncertain. If you use the methods described above the use of acetone should be unnecessary.

By using these methods, you can better ensure that your pottery is free of repairs or better evaluate the extent of restoration on a given item.

Insuring Your Art Pottery Collection

With the steadily increasing value of American art pottery, the financial risk of not having your collection or inventory insured has increased as well. It is estimated that only approximately 25% of collectors insure their collections.

Since many art pottery items are one of a kind, or at least very difficult to replace, and as such somewhat difficult to value, many pottery collectors choose not to obtain insurance. Or they simply assume their homeowner's policy will cover them in the event of a claim from theft, fire, flood or other natural disaster. Unfortunately, in many cases, the typical homeowner's policy does not have enough content insurance to cover both normal home contents and a large art pottery collection.

Some homeowner policies will not cover art pottery at all. These insurers typically require a special antique policy. It is important for collectors to confirm the requirements of their policy and specific coverage limits with their insurance agent.

Collectible insurance policies typically can cover just about any type of pottery collection. However, the collector will typically have to estimate the value of the collection. In order to value your collection, you will need an estimate of the replacement value of your items. Appraisals, auction results, Ebay, and art pottery price guides are all methods to value your collection.

In addition to valuing your collection, you will also need a method to keep an accurate inventory. Acceptable inventory methods include videotaping your pottery collection one piece at a time, photographs, and digital photos.

The most recognized companies for collectibles insurance are Collectibles Insurance Agency and Antique and Collectible Association (ACA). Collectibles Insurance Agency can be reached at 888.837.9537. ACA can be reached at 800.287.7127. We have maintained insurance with Collectibles Insurance Agency for years and have found them to be very good to work with.

Additional information on this topic can be found in The Journal of American Art Pottery November/December 2002 issue.

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