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Hand Made Italian Ceramics: learn how to spot a fake

September 29, 2011

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Recently, while surfing the internet, I’ve come across a very interesting article on hand-made Italian ceramics. Now, I know you’re thinking-what’s interesting about that? But this one is about fakes. Spotting fakes before you go and spend a small fortune on them, to be precise. Getting more and more interesting, isn’t it?

Well, lucky for you, the nice people from That’s arte gave me the permission to reblog their post, and here it is! In case you like the lovelies on the images, it’s aaaaaaaaall on their site, where they also sell authentic Italian ceramics, and if you want to receive news on exhibitions and event reviews, check out their blog.

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Here is what they say: Before you close the deal of your life and pay an incredibly low price for what looks like a stunning piece of Deruta pottery, STOP and read these simple guidelines.

Stores are full of rubbish, believe me.
Lots of nice looking ceramic pieces which are machine stamped and sold as original hand made Italian Ceramics. Possibly from reputable regions, like Deruta.

Spotting a fake is possible and quite easy. Follow these simple steps.

1 – Turn the Italian ceramic piece you’re interested in upside down and make sure there is an unglazed area.

Italian ceramic bottom - visible unglazed areaThis area, usually a circle, shows the natural brownish orange color of the terracotta (bisque). The bisque is sometimes made of white grayish clay, often used for small pieces, but it’s still clearly visible.

Now you’ll be wondering why this detail is so important.
Let me remind you how the humble terracotta changes into a priceless Italian ceramic. Before the actual hand painting the artisan dips the terracotta deeply into a sieve containing fast drying liquid glaze. This fine powder will prevent the colors
from spreading and blurring into each other during the painting and will bond with the subsequent colored glazes during the final firing.

The glaze however gets quite sticky during the firing. That is why the clever artist makes sure that his or her fine Italian ceramic pieces are not in touch during the firing and carefully removes the glaze from their base.
The damage would be otherwise irreversible.

2 – Touch the unglazed area. It must be rough.
If it is white and smooth then its not an original Italian ceramic, made with traditional materials and techniques.
Sometimes it is still possible to detect the marks of the long pincer the artisans use to glaze their pottery: it’s two tiny dots usually positioned near the rim of the pieces.

3 – Brush strokes must be visible.
Italian ceramics are alwaysItalian wall plate - Julia Bella by Alvaro Binaglia (Deruta) hand painted and if you look at them closely you will be able to see the single stokes that contribute to the beauty and artistry of your piece.

You will never forget the emotion of a close look to a Renaissance portrait and will find it hard to believe that those colorful, lively characters are painted with no more than 4 or 5 colors.

Now you own the key tools to spot a fake.

If you are passionate about Italian ceramics, though, I have a suggestion for you which goes beyond technicalities.

My suggestion is: look at as many Italian ceramics as possible.

Browse Internet, read books, visit museums, go to exhibitions, visit the stores of your city and touch them. Your senses will grow accustomed to their patterns, their shapes, their look and feel. And in a few years your expertise will match your passion.

In the meantime if you wish to start your own collection of fine Italian ceramics, buy from a reputable dealer. Someone who is willing to tell you more about the piece than just its price, who is happy to spend some time to educate you, who knows the name of the artist and offers a clear return policy.

That is what we try to do at http://www.thatsarte.com, the web site I set up together with my best friend Manuela, also a lover of quality pottery.

About one year ago Manuela and I decided to step change our professional lives and turn our passion into a real work.
We spent quite a lot of time traveling around the best known Italian ceramic centers to choose the pieces of Dinnerware, Tableware and Decoration accents we most liked.

Tough life, you must think.

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*Images and text from Thatsarte.com

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