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NIPPON PORCELAIN & NIPPON-WARE: Marks & values for antique Japanese Porcelain or Chinaware

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art nouveau Nippon Noritake iris vase
NIPPON is the official name for the country of Japan and it literally means "Rising Sun" as also attested by their national flag. It is NOT the name of a particular company or maker or artisan. By extension, NIPPON WARE refers to Porcelain & Chinaware from Japan. In other words, this term reveals the country of origin of these items, not their maker. Technically speaking, any chinaware or collectible porcelain that was made in Japan would qualify in applying this name; however, most collectors also offer a temporal distinction to this term as in using it only for items made before 1921. The reasons stem from a 1921 US official request on all imports from Japan to be labeled with the English name for the country, JAPAN, and was adopted immediately thereafter. Although this is an artificial separation, it is nowadays widely accepted as the standard way to refer to the two periods of pre-1921 as NIPPON-WARE and post-1921 as JAPAN-WARE. In general, items produced in Japan during these two periods were marked accordingly to reflect these labeling changes, with very little overlap in the early 1920s, which further enhanced the widespread adoption of these terms as a fairly accurate period description of collectible Japanese porcelain & chinaware.

Japanese porcelain makers & chinaware manufacturers rarely marked their products with their company or artisan names or logos. They were simply marked with the country of origin, most often in Kanji or Kana characters before the early 1920s and in English afterwards. Notable exceptions are companies that were heavily involved in Exporting these wares, for example NORITAKE (MORIMURA BROS, est. 1876), a mostly US-based Importers of porcelain & chinaware made by various makers in Japan, but who later begun producing their own items [after 1924]. Yet, there were some others, perhaps less prolific companies, but who also exported heavily to the US & Europe, and who also marked their pieces with specific and documented logos or trade names, such as FUKAGAWA [also known as KORANSHA, est. 1856 and still in business]. However, the very vast majority of Japanese imports were marked as either NIPPON or JAPAN and usually had the logo or tradename of their Importers.

Some individual potters or artisan studios, especially on artistic decorative porcelain or pottery, marked their pieces with their name or location of their studio. Some examples include ARITA, IMARI, KUTANI, HIRADO, SATSUMA and others. Marks for these items can be found in our Porcelain & Chinaware Marks Guides along with an indication of when they were in use and often with historical information that may be of interest to serious collectors. But in general, almost all other names we see marked or stamped on chinaware or porcelain from Japan refer to Trading companies, most of which were based in the US and some were an extension of high-end Retailers based in Tokyo or Kyoto, Japan.

Nippon Porcelain and practically all chinaware originating from Japan has always been and remains of the highest quality. The Japanese have been masters of porcelain making since the 16thC, primarily with the help of Korean potters who were invited to teach the locals in the industry of porcelain in places such as Arita and Hirado. Although the Chinese had invented the Kaolin + Petunse mix for making porcelain many centuries before that, some historians say as early as 100 BC, the Japanese & Koreans were the second such entrants in this Art world-wide and progressed much faster than their European counterparts, producing super-elegant and exceptional pieces that were destined for the Imperial court or similarly upper status families and Klansmen. The use of dyes and colors that adorned these pieces are delicate and full of symbolism. Mostly minimalistic, the blending of a few colors usually revealed a deep understanding of pure aesthetics, avoiding the application of obvious and busy designs that permeated the dominant decorative styles of post-Medieval Europe. These very old and original pieces are now extremely rare and can be seen mostly at major Museums or very fine private collections. Antique NIPPON-WARE and Japanese porcelain found in today's antiques Fairs or Auctions and through dealers were made ca mid-19thC onwards.

Many examples of NIPPON WARE are shown below. These are from our Price Guides and can help in appraising your own antique Japanese Porcelain or Chinaware treasures or collectibles.

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  • (lot of 20) Vintage camera and accessory
    group Nippon Kogaku Nikkor (lot of approximately 20) Vintage camera and accessory group including Nippon Kogaku Nikkor-H Auto lens, 1:3.5, f-2.1 cm; Nippon Kogaku Nikkor-Q ... [more like this]
    SET WITH NIPPON. Including two coffee or tea pots. 9'' h. Six cups. 3'' dia. Five saucers. 5 1/2'' dia. Six plates. 7 1/2'' dia. One covered sugar bowl. 4 3/4'' h. One creamer. ... [more like this]
  • Three Hand Painted Nippon Vases Lot of three
    includes a two-handled vase with hand painted roses raised design and gilt trim marked Handpainted Nippon Wheelock  in blue; Ht. 9 in.; a hexagonal-shaped vase with hand-painted ... [more like this]
    berry bowl, rosy/pink roses with lavishly adorned gold accents, 10 in. dia., marked hand painted, Nippon underfoot; a Limoges, France gold and floral decorated oval tray, ... [more like this]
  • NIPPON TEA SET. Beautiful handpainted Nippon
    set consists of a teapot, creamer and sugar, two cups and saucers and two dessert plates. Each piece is handpainted with geese in flight, gold foliage all against a light ... [more like this]
  • NIPPON BLOWN OUT PLATE. Outstanding Nippon
    plate has blown out figure of a bulldog with studded collar against a shaded background. Greek key typed design done in raised red enamel encircles the border. Marked on the ... [more like this]
  • 757. Pair of Nippon Double Handled Vases
    Pair of Nippon double handled vases have a hand painted sunset landscape with trees. Gilt tripod bases as well have handles. Both marked on bottom "Hand-Painted Nippon" in ... [more like this]
  • Twelve Assorted Porcelain and Earthenware
    Items, seven pieces of porcelain including a gilded handled Nippon hand-painted vase, a hand-painted Nippon bowl, a Nippon jar and underplate, a hand-painted plate, two blue ... [more like this]
  • Group of Vintage Porcelain including a square
    pin tray Floral motif nut dish Nippon handled bowl Nippon hand painted bowl miniature bud vase double handed vase Nippon vase Pink decorated chocolate pot ... [more like this]
  • Antique Royal Nippon Nishiki Hand Painted
    PitcherDates from 1891 to 1921 with closest dates being c.1900 with Art Nouveau handpainted Butterflies with stems and leaves design. Authentic antique Royal Nippon marked ... [more like this]
  • Nippon scenic jeweled porcelain vase with
    hand painted scene of a woman in landscape under jeweled top with handles, marked N hand painted scene of a woman in landscape under jeweled top with handles, marked Nippon ... [more like this]
  • Japanese Nippon Moriage Enamel Gilt Portrait
    Vase: Antique Nippon porcelain vase. Features elaborate hand painted decoration featuring the transferred portrait of a woman in one medallion and a floral motif in the other ... [more like this]
    A NIPPON AND VAN BRIGGLE CERAMIC GROUP, EARLY 20TH CENTURY. Comprising a hand painted Nippon “deer in woods” porcelain handled mug, circa 1912. With Moriage decoration, ... [more like this]
  • Nippon Nikkor-S Auto 1:2. 8 f=35 mm Camera
    Lens: Nippon Nikkor-S Auto 1:2. 8 f=35 mm camera lens. Includes Nippon Kogaku L38 52 mm filter. Height: 2 1/4 in x Diameter: 2 1/2 in SKU: 03025 Follow us on Instagram: @revereauctions ... [more like this]
    13 pcs. One is a Nippon hand painted center bowl, embellished with gold decoration and handles, green and gold bands, 9 in. dia.; a Nippon double handled bud vase, hand painted ... [more like this]
  • 319. Pair of Nippon Chocolate Cups with Saucers,
    circa 20th Century Matching pair of handled cups with saucers. Dainty cups have hand painted design of pink flowers and buds. Scrolling gilt accent is featured on lip and ... [more like this]
  • THREE PIECES OF NIPPON. A two-handled tray
    with decoration of a deer, a two-handled tray with a picture of an Indian in a canoe shooting a moose and a Napi with decoration of two swans swimming. All signed “Nippon” ... [more like this]
  • 622. A Set of Two Nippon Vases This lot
    includes a large vase and a small squat jar with with handles. Large vase is of a bulbous shape; hand painted and features a landscape with a house in the background and pink ... [more like this]
  • 916. A Collection of Nippon Vanity and Table
    Top Porcelain Items A collection of Nippon hand decorated porcelain vanity and table top items including; a circular double handled dish, approx. 7-1/4" in diameter with ... [more like this]

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