An intriguing legend surrounds Staffordshire’s dog figurines. The Victorian tale goes that spaniel figurines placed on the windowsill sent out a secret message. A woman would place the ornaments in her front window; if they were back to back, it meant her husband was at home. If the dogs faced each other, it meant her husband was out at sea, welcoming her lover in to the house.
The Staffordshire region (an industrial area with the towns Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton) started in the ceramic business in the 17th century thanks to an abundance of local natural materials.
Staffordshire dogs are some of the most reproduced figurines in the world.
Other animal figurines came out of the Staffordshire region, from domesticated dogs to wild animals like zebras, lions, elephants, and more. You can also find figures of people and scenes.
Do you own what might be a Staffordshire figure, or are you on the lookout to own one? Here’s how to tell the difference between authentic and reproduction Staffordshire figures.
- A big difference is that old figures were made in press molds vs. the more modern slip molds. The uniform dime size holes from slip casts at the base prove a modern reproduction.
- Color on the figurine. Authentic pieces will have soft gold trim, likely with some wear. Reproductions are more likely to have bright and shiny gold instead.
- Any figurines with labels that say “Made in England”, “Genuine Staffordshire”, or “Ye Olde Staffordshire” are reproductions.
- Along the same vein, scratching in the glaze on the base of the figure indicates that a manufacturing mark has been scratched off, implying a reproduction.
- Authentic Staffordshire might very well have some crazing, but if the piece has a uniform crazing pattern or crazing all over, it’s probably not original.
- Older Staffordshire often have dirt ground in that’s difficult to remove. But some pieces have a “pattern” of dirt or even sprayed-on dirt to make the piece look old – in which case, it’s obviously not genuine.
- Dog figurines come in pairs, but once again, any uniformity gives it away. Mass-produced figures have the exact same look, but old, authentic pieces will have slight variations from being handmade. Dogs that look like exact mirror images side by side are reproductions.
When it comes to deciding the authenticity of a piece, bringing it to a professional will give you the final word. But using your own common sense will also get you far.
Please note: we do not have any experts here who can examine, validate, or value any Staffordshire dogs. Please check with your local ceramics experts.