The Blue Willow Pattern, depicting the popular old Chinese story & poem - see more details on the Willow legend - falls in the same category as Blue & White Chinoiserie wares, yet it is a distinctly British design that was adopted by many UK earthenware companies and Staffordshire potteries. It begun around late-18thC and mass production techniques for Transferware china already developed at that time, helped in quickly propelling it to a very trendy and fashionable decorative style.
The somewhat romantic nature of this pattern with exotic Oriental overtones, was produced in many variations, yet all were very characteristically similar, with the only differences being tiny details on the overall landscape or background. Chinese design influences were still prominent in Europe at that time and many companies felt that the Blue Willow pattern offered a great opportunity of promoting locally produced tableware, while riding on the fame and desire for celebrated Porcelain imports from the Far East.
With the rise and expansion of so many companies producing chinaware, coupled with rapid industrialization methods during the 19thC, the manufacturing of earthenware in the Blue Willow pattern in all sorts of forms & shapes, proliferated quickly and created an overwhelming abundance of such wares, many available at cheap prices and easily affordable by most families. For these reasons, Blue Willow tableware has survived in vast numbers in the antiques market, yet continues to be an attractive collectible.
Polychrome Blue Willow versions seem to have appeared around Victorian times. These are fine renditions and usually preferred by many collectors interested in having such pieces displayed. There are fewer of those in number, so they appraise at higher prices. In this case, colored Blue Willow plates are also acceptable, even if only a partial set, because of their aesthetic impact. Both the traditional Blue & White and enhanced versions are now being copied furiously by factories in China and elsewhere in the Far East. Makers' marks are also forged and can easily mislead even an experienced dealer. Caution and research are required in correctly identifying the maker and origin or age of each piece. Using our Ceramics marks guides can steer you in the right direction or use our Inquiry Form to ask our specialists directly.
Appraisal values for Blue Willow depend primarily on three factors: Condition, Rarity of Shape, and Completeness of Set. Condition is quite self-explanatory, especially as one considers the utilitarian nature of most related wares. Rarity of shape refers to its function and size, for example Serving pieces such as Tureens, Large Platters & Bowls, Jugs etc seem to fetch much higher prices than Dishes or Plates and Cups & Saucers. Some of the rarer forms, are often afforded some allowance in maintaining a higher value for very slight defects or professional restoration, because they are fewer of those available and are at times destined to be used primarily as display pieces. When it comes to ordinary or everyday items in the Blue Willow pattern, the completeness of a Set is paramount. In most cases, six of each is sufficient to call it a set, but four is acceptable also, especially if made by a reputable or famous company. More than six in a set is definitely a bonus.
Below are some examples of items of various sizes & types in the Blue Willow pattern from our Pricing Guides database.