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Flow Blue Antique China: Prices and Patterns

Kate Miller-Wilson
collection of Chinese blue and white porcelain

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.
Antique Flow Blue J & G Alcock Scinde Pattern
  • Podmore & Walker Manilla pattern - This circa 1845 pattern features willows and palm trees in a dream Oriental motif.
Flow Blue Pitcher Podmore Walker Manilla
  • Edward Challinor Rock - Made as early as 1845, this Oriental pattern has willows, geometric designs, and florals.
ROCK by Edward Challinor Flow Blue Plate
  • Tomas Fell Excelsior - This 1850 pattern shows a river or canal, a pagoda, and willows.
Antique Flow Blue Ironstone Plate Excelsior Pattern

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.
KYBER by W. Adams & Co.
  • Sarreguemines Jardinière pattern - This gorgeous floral pattern dates from about 1870 and features delicate flowers and leaves.
Sarreguemines flow porcelain plate
  • Jacob Furnival Gothic - Dating from the 1860s, this pattern shows a Gothic cathedral and trees.
Gothic Flow Blue Water Pitcher
  • 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.
William A. Adderley Flow Blue Constance Pattern

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.
Flow Blue Server by Alfred Meakin Kelvin pattern
  • W.H. Grindley Argyle pattern - With its swirling paisley design, this popular pattern from 1896 is a classic.
W.H. Grindley Flow Blue Argyle
  • Wheeling Pottery of West Virginia La Belle pattern - Dating from 1900, this beautiful pattern features hand-painted floral details.
Antique Flow Blue La Belle China
  • New Wharf Pottery Waldorf pattern - Dating from 1892, this pattern showcases lovely florals in the center and near the rims.
Antique Flow Blue Waldorf New Wharf Pottery

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:

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.

Flow Blue Antique China: Prices and Patterns