If you have come across shiny porcelain figurines before, you likely have wanted to know beforehand whether or not the porcelain was real. Reproduction figurines are not new concepts, though. Figurines have been made similarly to authentic porcelain and sold to consumers for centuries. The first known instance was Rome imitating art from Greece. You might know China as “reproduction central”, even to this day, but Europeans were known to copy traditional Chinese art for multiple centuries, even going as far as copying Chinese symbols, even though almost all Europeans didn’t know what they meant at the time.
Artwork that is popular and sells adequately will be expected to be duplicated and reproduced in mass quantities, no matter if they’re paintings, figurines, furniture or even expensive watches. Some people consider counterfeit items to be bad for the market, but in essence, they are actually a good thing. For example, a Meissen figurine made in 18th century Germany can be easily compared to other figurines that imitate it. If you know what a real Meissen artwork looks like, you can easily distinguish a real figurine from a fake one. This also makes it easier for collectors and sellers to sell their real artwork for a lot of money and consider them to be antique collectibles.
However, there are ways to tell whether a porcelain figurine is real or not, just by looking at its mark. Authentic artists and sculptors have included a signature mark to help consumers tell if a figurine is real or fake. For instance, a real Meissen figurine has a mark of two swords. Other sculptors have caught on and created their own marks as well, but these marks can differ from the real artist’s mark in more ways than one.
If you are looking for a figurine, here are some ways to determine if it is of real porcelain by looking at its mark.
Age of the mark.
If the mark looks too perfect, then it’s obviously new. Authentic sculptors of the past would stamp their mark by hand using ink, which was a little crooked. Today, these marks look partially faded. If the mark you’re looking at is perfectly aligned and looks like it was done by a machine then it’s an obvious replica.
A date or model number.
Authentic sculptors did not mark out the date of creation or a model number. Imitation sculptures often do this to easily tell people how old the artwork is, but marking the date was never a thing back then. If you happen to see an old date or model number, that is a giveaway that the figurine is faked.
Fingers and toes.
If a genuine Meissen figurine still has its fingers and toes, there are ways to check that it’s real porcelain. Older porcelain figurines will have delicate fingers that are not attached to one another. The toes, if the figurine is barefoot, are also distinct. Newer porcelain figurines will have fingers attached to one another or attached to the body with minimal detailing. If the porcelain figurine is too small for fingers to be sculpted in detail, then it’s more about looking at the mark to tell if the figurine is real.
There are genuine signs of aging, and then there are ways for imitators to fabricate the look of aging. If the figurine feels waxy, it may have a sepia tone glaze on it to make it look older than it actually is. If the glaze appears to be uniform and all over the figurine, that is easy way to tell that a figurine is faked.