With its gorgeous, flowing blue colors and beautiful patterns, Flow Blue antique china is highly sought after by collectors around the globe. This classic china comes in a variety of patterns, some of which are extremely valuable.
What Does Flow Blue Mean?
Flow blue is a blue and white china pattern, but it differs from traditional Blue Willow and other crisp transferware designs. Instead, the blue design is intentionally a bit blurred, an effect that results from adding lime to the kiln as the piece was being fired. Historians disagree about whether this blurring was initially an accident or an intentional experiment, but either way, the look was very popular with consumers. Flow blue china was popular throughout the Victorian period, tapering off during World War I.
Flow Blue Patterns Through History
Flow blue china pieces weren't limited to traditional items like cups and plates. If you collect this type of transferware or visit your local antique shop, you may see everything from serving pieces to dog bowls in flow blue. There are even flow blue chamber pots and dresser trays. These items come in a number of different patterns.
Early Victorian Flow Blue - 1830 to 1860
Prior to the American Civil War, Americans bought flow blue pieces en masse. The china originated at English Staffordshire potteries and was designed to mimic popular Oriental designs of the era. These pieces are ironstone with a vivid cobalt blue glaze, and most feature an all-over pattern. These are a few patterns from the early Victorian era:
- John & George Alcock Scinde pattern - Dating from 1840, this Blue Willow-inspired design features a graceful willow tree, flowers, and temples.
- Podmore & Walker Manilla pattern - This circa 1845 pattern features willows and palm trees in a dream Oriental motif.
- Edward Challinor Rock - Made as early as 1845, this Oriental pattern has willows, geometric designs, and florals.
- Tomas Fell Excelsior - This 1850 pattern shows a river or canal, a pagoda, and willows.
Mid-Victorian Flow Blue - 1860 to 1885
Flow blue patterns became more elaborate during this era. You'll see pieces with gold trim, as well as intricate floral designs.
- W. Adams Kyber pattern - This pattern dates from the 1870s and features a traditional Oriental-inspired scene with very elaborate details.
- Sarreguemines Jardinière pattern - This gorgeous floral pattern dates from about 1870 and features delicate flowers and leaves.
- Jacob Furnival Gothic - Dating from the 1860s, this pattern shows a Gothic cathedral and trees.
- William A. Adderley Constance - This simple pattern from about 1875 skips the details in the central portion of the piece and has pretty florals on the rim.
Late Victorian Flow Blue - 1885 to 1920
Often crafted of lighter china instead of ironstone, the patterns of this era were pretty and elaborate. Many included strong floral elements and Art Nouveau touches. These are a few patterns from the time:
- Alfred Meakin Kelvin pattern - This pattern, dating from 1891, features soft florals and touches of gold.
- W.H. Grindley Argyle pattern - With its swirling paisley design, this popular pattern from 1896 is a classic.
- Wheeling Pottery of West Virginia La Belle pattern - Dating from 1900, this beautiful pattern features hand-painted floral details.
- New Wharf Pottery Waldorf pattern - Dating from 1892, this pattern showcases lovely florals in the center and near the rims.
Flow Blue Price Guide
If you're considering buying or selling flow blue china, it's important to know about its value. Because this china was so popular for so many years, there's no shortage of pieces on the antiques market. This makes it an affordable antique to collect. Inexpensive pieces start around $10, but some are much more valuable. As with all antique dish values, condition is very important. If you think you may have a valuable piece, you should invest in a professional appraisal. Here are a few sample flow blue china values to give you an idea of what pieces might be worth:
- A flow blue coffee pot in the Cashmere pattern sold for almost $900. The coffee pot was in almost perfect condition.
- A large platter in the Adams Kyber pattern sold for $275. It was in excellent condition.
- A square dish in the Wheeling Pottery La Belle pattern sold for under $100 in very good condition.
Variations on Blue Willow
Many flow blue designs are inspired by the classic Blue Willow pattern. Learning more about the history of Blue Willow can help you learn what to look for as you build your collection of flow blue.