The original term of Chinese Export essentially refers to porcelains that were exported to Western markets, particularly Europe, from around 15th to the 19thC. Commonly also referred to as Chinoiserie, these were very expensive and affordable only by the very rich or noble households. This changed dramatically with the advent of German & French porcelain-making in the mid-1700s. Chinese porcelain was imported in lesser quantities and the local Meissen & Dresden and Sevres & Paris porcelain equivalents were greatly attractive to even wealthy clients that were very happy in satisfying demand while paying less.
However, this trend of lower Chinese porcelain imports from the Orient over the last 150+ years has nowadays been reversed exponentially and to unprecedented levels. Although still of great quality, Chinese porcelain made in the last part of 20thC to the Present is still signed with old marks that are often identical to those observed on authentic antique Chinese pieces from many centuries ago.
This complicates matters when it comes to properly identifying Chinese porcelain. Obviously, experience is the key, but it also important to realize that the vast majority of items marked with old Chinese symbols are nonetheless recent reproductions. The chance that a flea-market find will turn out to be the proverbial Ming vase is just bogus and so unlikely, that it is more probable to be hit by thunder than discover such a treasure [except when it actually does happen, I guess; then it is truly like being hit by thunder... Just don't count on it!]
Another category of Chinese porcelain marks that are somewhat easier to decipher are those that resemble older European makers, especially on items in Western styles. Apart from some rare but blatantly bold attempts to deceive by marking these wares with identical copies of German or French or British backstamps, a vast proportion of these reproductions bear marks that differ in some subtle ways from the original. A trained eye can distinguish these more often than not and mistakes can be avoided.
For an in-depth article related to this topic, please see: Chinese export porcelain
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