Antique Roseville pottery is collected not just for its understated Arts and Crafts style beauty but for its charm as Midwest Americana. Its pieces are some of the most beautiful American antique vases, bowls, and wall sconces, and complement furniture such as antique tables or antique lamps.
Early History of Antique Roseville Pottery
Roseville pottery is part of the Arts and Crafts movement, which was a response to both political and artistic change. One of its aims was to provide dignity and beauty to the working and lower-middle classes by emphasizing the beauty of handmade artisan objects and, at the same time, to produce affordable goods that added beauty to utility. Roseville was founded in Roseville, Ohio, in 1890, just as the Arts and Crafts movement was reaching its heights. Roseville Art reports that J. F. Weaver, its founder, believed strongly in hand craftsmanship. While Roseville Pottery began with strictly utilitarian items, it started its first art pottery with the Rozane line (the name combines Roseville and Zanesville, where Weaver bought up other potters).
Antique Roseville Pottery Patterns and Designers
From 1904 to its closure in 1953, Roseville had some notable master designers. Each contributed important old pottery patterns that collectors still prize today.
Frederick H. Rhead and Harry Rhead
In 1904, Weaver hired Frederick H. Rhead, an English master designer, as an artistic director and he designed or commissioned several lines such as Egypto and Aztec. Frederick Rhead was only a designer for six year, but his brother Harry Rhead continued his work. Most of the Rhead designs have very little in common with their namesakes; no Egyptian or Aztec would recognize their influence without a lot of hints. However, these names added a touch of the exotic. These early pieces are the most valuable, partly because of their age, partly because they are entirely handmade. Most sell from $1,000 to the upper thousands in stores or at antique auctions. These are some of the popular lines from that period:
- Della Robbia - This was a sculpted line that cut away parts of the surface and added three-dimensional decoration in these areas. The decorations came from a wide variety of influences, from folk art to ancient Egyptian and Persian design.
- Mongol - This line featured reds and rusts, colors ranging from warm to very cool.
- Donatello - These sculptural pieces feature slightly classical-style cherubs and trees and soft ivory and green color schemes. Think Wedgewood as redesigned by, say, Beatrix Potter.
- Egypto - This line featured cool greens, either pine or celadon, with Egyptian-inspired shapes.
- Aztec - This very simple style included cool blues and tans with Aztec-inspired shapes such as a four-sided elongated pyramid
Frank Ferrell, a local, took over as art designer in 1918 and left only in 1953 when Roseville Pottery closed for good. During his tenure as desinger, he created at least 100 different lines. He not only provided artistic oversight but made the originals for some of Roseville's best loved designs:
- Pinecone - This is the best-selling line in a wide range of shapes and colors. The predominant color schemes are either browns and greens or clear blues.
- Wisteria - These are some of Roseville's most sensuous designs, combining purple blossom, green foliage, and brown background on graceful shapes. They offer a bit more contrast than many designs.
- Blackberry - This line has cool, autumn-like browns and greens with the dark berries for unassuming contrast.
- Futura - This line is inspired by Art Deco's more geometric shapes but is still distinctly Roseville.
- Zephyr Lily - This pattern offers very fluid lines with the signature lily design.
- Snowberry - With slightly less surface ornamentation than many designs, this pattern has very striking lines to lead the eye.
- Dogwood - This lovely pattern was one of the first floral designs made by Roseville and is beloved by collectors today.
Understanding Roseville Pottery Marks
If you have a piece of Roseville pottery and would like to identify it, you can sometimes use a pottery mark to do this. They type of mark can help you determine the date of your piece and even its value. However, there were inconsistencies with the marks, making the whole identification process a bit confusing.
How to Find Roseville Pottery Marks
To find a mark on your Roseville pottery, simply turn the piece upside down. The mark will be on the underside of the item in the unglazed portion of the bottom. Look for a series of letters or numbers. Some pieces feature raised marks, while others have imprinted marks.
Is Roseville Pottery Always Marked?
Roseville pottery is not always marked. In fact, pieces made between 1927 and 1935 were often marked with a triangular black paper or foil label. In many cases, this label has disappeared, leaving the Roseville piece unmarked. Some collectors believe Roseville also made pieces without a mark or even a paper label.
Roseville Pottery Marks With Names
If you have a piece of Roseville pottery with a mark, look for the following marks to help you identify and date the piece:
- RPCo - This mark appears on pieces made from the time the factory opened in 1904 through the 1920s.
- Rozane - The Rozane mark was used before the mid-1920s and sometimes also included the name of the line.
- Rv - This mark appears on pieces made from around 1915 through about 1925.
- Roseville Pottery Company - This was another very early mark in the company history, and pieces bearing it date to before 1930.
- Roseville, USA (indented) - This mark was used between 1932 and 1937.
- Roseville, USA (raised) - This mark was used from 1937 onward.
Meanings of Numbers in Roseville Pottery Marks
Beginning the in the mid-1930s, Roseville began to add shape and size number marks to their pottery. This additional mark usually appears below the letter mark, offering extra information about the piece. The number marks often have two or three digits, a dash, and one or two more digits: XXX-X. The first number refers to the line. The second number refers to the size of the piece, either in height or diameter. Here are some examples:
- 35-9 - Roseville Bushberry 9-inch piece
- 738-10 - Roseville Silhouette 10-inch piece
- 294 - 12 - Roseville Moss 12-inch piece
Determining Fake from Real
Even experts have a difficult time distinguishing genuine antique Roseville pottery from the false, partly because the Roseville company was not consistent about applying its marks, partly because there were so many contemporary imitators, and partly because there are so many antique reproductions being made today. Most of these are from China, and they often include misleading marks, including the word "Roseville." The following can be signs a piece is fake:
- Carelessly applied glaze - Roseville was known for its meticulous glazing, so drips or smears, or simply a dull or flat glaze, are an immediate indication that a piece is very likely to be an imitation.
- Light weight - Roseville used denser clay than most of its imitators, so real pieces feel substantial. If a piece feels light, it's a sign you should dig deeper into its history.
- Bulky handles - Most imitations have bulkier handles than the originals, which were light but sturdy.
- Vague details - Real Roseville pottery has beautiful details. If details aren't sharp and clear, it's very likely a fake.
- Bright or muddy colors - Genuine Roseville pottery has subdued but glowing colors. Bright or muddy colors are both bad signs.
- Too-low prices - If it's in an antique store or sold by an antique dealer and the price is less than $50, it's either damaged or not Roseville. Roseville is so well known these days, thanks to several taste revivals, that the odds of finding an undervalued piece are only a bit better than lottery tickets.
Learn About the Value of Roseville Pottery
If you are considering buying or selling some Roseville pieces, take some time to research Roseville pottery prices. Special pieces can sell for thousands of dollars, but it's important to understand how condition and other factors can affect value. That way, you can use your knowledge of Roseville pottery marks to choose the items you really want in your collection.