In the world of fine china, especially fine bone china, the Royal Doulton name continues to stand out. Since its origination in 1815, the England-based company’s dinner sets, serveware, and accent pieces have graced countless homes around the globe. Because Royal Doulton has produced so much fine china, there’s a good chance you’ll find a set (or two) at your next estate sale.
If you’re looking for information on the artful Royal Doulton line, you’ve come to the right place.
Enjoy a glimpse of Royal Doulton’s history and growth, and obtain details on the company’s product lines and patterns. Plus, get useful tips on identifying Royal Doulton china, and view price guide information for Royal Doulton china. Finally, we’ve got the details on where to get a Royal Doulton set of your own.
Royal Doulton China History
Royal Doulton china has a colorful history that began in 1815 in a small pottery studio in Lambeth, England, just outside London. Founders John Doulton and John Watts began by producing industrial stoneware, earthenware, and decorative garden pottery.
During the 1870s, John Doulton’s son Henry turned the focus of the business to decorative arts. In 1877, Doulton executed a takeover of a factory in Burslem, England. The factory soon began producing fine porcelain.
Royal Doulton exported much of its beautiful fine china to North America. At around the same time, Doulton chemists Charles Noke and Harry Nixon were developing new bone china styles and glazes.
Doulton fine china was also favored by the English royal family. During the late 1800s, Queen Victoria showed her appreciation by knighting Henry Doulton. King Edward the VII followed with a Royal Warrant in 1901, allowing the company to become known as “Royal Doulton.”
As the 20th century rolled on, Royal Doulton split its production facilities. The Burslem facility began making fine bone china, while the Lambeth plant focused on artful pottery. External artistic influences, such as the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements, played a large role in Royal Doulton designs.
Royal Doulton’s production stopped during World War II, but after the war, it resumed at the Burslem plant. Shortly after that, the Lambeth pottery plant closed down, making the plant’s vases and character jugs highly prized collectibles.
The Royal Doulton brand continues to experience enduring fame. In recent years, several designers and celebrities have commissioned Royal Doulton to make their own signature products. Some pieces carry the Doulton trademark along with the second entity’s trademark.
Other items feature a specially designed trademark that incorporates both companies’ elements.
In 2015, global consumer product supplier Fiskars Corporation acquired the Royal Doulton and Royal Albert brands along with Wedgwood and Waterford.
The acquisition of these luxury lifestyle brands positioned Fiskars to become a leader in the premium consumer goods market.
Royal Doulton China Products
Since Royal Doulton’s beginnings in 1815, the company has produced many beautiful varieties of fine china and ceramic ware. Although patterns vary in their components, the following are some of the most common Royal Doulton offerings.
Dinnerware and Dinner Plates
Besides a 5 piece place setting, patterns can include dinner plates, salad plates, side plates, and bread and butter plates. Soup bowls, serving bowls, and cereal bowls round out many dinnerware collections.
A scrumptious cake gains added appeal when served on a beautiful cake plate with accompanying dessert plates. Dessert bowls can hold carefully crafted puddings or custards.
A typical coffee service includes a coffee pot, matching saucer set with coffee cups, milk jug or creamer, and sugar bowl.
Also called a tea set, this ensemble includes a teapot, tea cups (or footed cups), and/or a cup saucer set.
Fish Serving Set
This special-purpose set includes a generously sized serving plate and six matching dinner plates. All pieces feature fish-themed decorations.
Salt Glazed Stoneware
Royal Doulton’s salt glazed stoneware includes jugs, mugs, and other vessels. Pieces often feature colorful and whimsical designs.
Royal Doulton China Patterns
Historically, the Royal Doulton brand has been recognized for its prolific production. Even today, the Royal Doulton brand continues to be known for its wide selection of tableware.
The Royal Doulton inventory includes many formal dinnerware sets, some with elegant gold trim. The company also makes casual dinner sets with colorful borders. A Royal Doulton casual dinnerware set is perfect for informal meals at home.
Ceramic dinnerware and serveware, along with Christmas and Easter dinnerware, have all been well-received offerings over the years. The child-themed Royal Doulton Bunnykins ceramic tableware has also developed quite a following.
Very Popular and Collectible Patterns
Two Royal Albert china patterns have been especially popular with customers. Through the years, the decorative pink Carlyle and Old Country Roses patterns have always been sought-after collectibles. You can view a complete list of Royal Doulton china patterns to see the variety of products, patterns, and designs.
How to Identify Royal Doulton China
Correctly identifying Royal Doulton china is quite an exercise. Over many generations, the brand has developed a complex network of product lines, patterns, and series.
To identify its products, Royal Doulton has always used a series of marks, logos, and backstamps. Because numerous variables are in play, collectors (and even some experts) may find it difficult to pinpoint a specific piece’s origin and age.
Fine Bone China Identification
The first step is determining whether a piece is indeed fine bone china. When held up to the light, a fine bone china piece appears translucent, as if the light is almost shining through it.
If you’re fairly certain you have bone china, that’s a good sign. England produces most of the world’s bone china, and that’s where Royal Doulton’s factory is based. All of these variables increase the chances that you’ve discovered a genuine Royal Doulton piece.
Characteristics of Fine China Markings
Fine china manufacturers use many types of marks (or hallmarks) to help identify their products. The mark’s type, color, location (usually on the bottom of the piece), and application method are all important identifiers. Note that a manufacturer’s hallmark may be printed, painted, or impressed onto the item.
Establishing a Production Era
When establishing a production era, pay close attention to the item’s markings. Many marks and trademarks closely resemble each other, so look very closely. The following two resources can help you find your item’s production period.
Company Name Appearance and Trademark
Note how the company name appears on the item. Usage periods of various Doulton name iterations will help to define a production era.
Royal Doulton’s numerous name changes and expansions led to a dizzying array of company trademarks. View a visual trademark reference that will help you pinpoint a Royal Doulton piece’s production era.
Royal Doulton fired many pieces in bulk production runs but didn’t apply decorations or trademarks until later. Therefore, an item’s trademark will overrule other factors in identifying a Royal Doulton piece’s production era.
Doulton Mark Interpretation
Deciphering Royal Doulton marks (and artist monograms) can sometimes be difficult. View a visual mark identification resource that displays trademarks, base marks, and pattern codes, along with commentary on each element.
To further complicate the issue, Royal Doulton often outsourced production to meet predetermined deadlines. Some studios and artists applied their distinctive pattern codes.
Royal Doulton China Value Guides
Numerous variables play a part in determining Royal Doulton china values.
First, the piece’s age is a factor. For example, collectors may attempt to pinpoint the value of Royal Doulton dinner sets from the 19th century.
The item’s rarity also influences its value. For example, if a specific piece had a relatively small production run, it will likely be worth more than a similar item that numbers in the thousands.
Finally, an item’s condition has a major bearing on its value. Let’s say you are determining the value of Royal Doulton plates. If a vintage china plate has excessive crazing, or even a small chip, it will bring a lower price than the same piece in very good condition.
Function of Value Guides
A Royal Doulton china value guide can serve one of two purposes. Let’s say a collector purchases Royal Doulton England fine bone china, and they wish to insure the items. A well-regarded value or price guide will provide credible information on the pieces’ value.
On the other hand, a relative may have inherited a piece of Royal Doulton china, but they are not interested in keeping it. To gauge the piece’s value and establish a potential selling price, they’ll consult a reputable price guide that lists the same or similar items.
Characteristics of Good Value Guides
Every beneficial value guide contains four main attributes. First, the guide should be timely, ideally printed within the last year, so the information is fresh.
Second, a good price guide will explain that items’ prices may vary considerably based on their age, rarity, condition, and other variables. Third, numerous sources have contributed to the value guide, giving a well-rounded blend of experts’ opinions. Finally, the guide should explain the rationale behind the value calculations.
Two Types of Royal Doulton Value Guides
Royal Doulton collectors can choose from two types of price guides: all-inclusive and special-purpose. An all-inclusive guide covers several merchandise categories. A special-purpose guide provides in-depth coverage of select Royal Doulton collectibles.
All-Inclusive Value Guides
This all-in-one value guide provides descriptive information, photographs, and prices on the full range of Royal Doulton products. Categories include dinnerware, stoneware, and decorative plates. Series ware, Royal Doulton figurines, and vases round out the all-inclusive price guide’s offerings.
Special-Purpose Collectible Guides
Royal Doulton’s Toby Jugs and figurines are extremely popular with collectors. This widespread appeal led to the creation of a special-purpose collectible guide for each type of item.
Establishing Royal Doulton Values: More Resources
Several additional sources are useful in finding the value of Royal Doulton fine china. These free resources are available online and/or locally.
Free Online Evaluations from Auction Houses
Well-known auction houses, such as Christie’s and Bonhams, may offer free online evaluations to potential clients. However, participants should understand that this isn’t a substitute for a thorough, in-person examination.
Online Auction “Sold” Listings
Recently completed online auction listings provide a veritable treasure trove of “sold” prices. Asking prices are often unrealistically high, but actual selling prices reveal an item’s real-world value.
eBay is a popular online auction platform that posts items’ “sold” prices for you to reference. To view sold items’ selling prices, visit the eBay home page. At the top of the page, click the word “Advanced” to the right of the blue search bar.
On the destination page, type the search details and click the “Sold” Listings box. Then, press the blue search bar to see results.
Live Auctioneers is another widely followed online auction platform. It conducts numerous auctions for antique and vintage items. After creating a free account, members can easily view “sold” prices for Royal Doulton pieces.
Followers of the “Antiques Roadshow” series will appreciate the hosts’ willingness to give their expert opinions on vintage and antique pieces. Local antiques appraisers may be willing to provide the same service. In both cases, visitors should be aware that a free, informal appraisal isn’t the same thing as an in-depth evaluation.
Where to Find Royal Doulton China
Finding Royal Doulton china and serveware should be relatively easy. Multiple brick-and-mortar and online retailers carry the brand’s new products.
Secondhand venues are good prospects for older fine china patterns.
New Dinnerware and Serveware
Look for casual ceramic dinnerware, serveware, and figurines at the Royal Doulton USA online store. Royal Doulton also offers ceramics at their various outlet locations. These retailers may also carry discontinued Royal Doulton items. However, the Royal Doulton online store and outlets do not appear to carry Royal Doulton bone china.
Antique and Vintage Royal Doulton Offerings
You’ll likely find a number of venues that carry antique or vintage Royal Doulton pieces. Estate sales are a promising option. Estate sales frequently offer collectibles, fine dinnerware, and serveware.
A professional estate sale company often organizes the estate sale. Held over several days, the sale is designed to liquidate everything in the home. Afterward, the home will likely be listed for sale. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, visit an estate sale near you this weekend.
There’s also a good chance you’ll find Royal Doulton china at local antique shops. Upscale thrift stores are also a good bet, as they often feature fine collectibles donated from older homeowners’ estates. Local auctions are also worth a visit, although it’s useful to do some research on the auction items first.
You’re likely to find Royal Doulton china at online antique and vintage marketplaces, such as Etsy and Ruby Lane. Online auctions such as eBay and Live Auctioneers also include Royal Doulton listings.
Finally, online replacements retailers such as Replacements, Ltd. likely stock a good selection of Royal Doulton pieces. The retailers’ inventory may even include some older and/or discontinued patterns.
Finding Your Royal Doulton Muse
Now that you’re well-versed in Royal Doulton china culture, browse through the company’s online offerings and find a pattern or series to call your own. Then, join enthusiastic collectors in the grand treasure hunt for those special pieces that will enhance your collection.