As a collector, you may have heard the terms 1st quality and 2nd quality china Just like factories grade meat or other products, porcelain is also set into categories according to quality. Some manufacturers will go beyond 1st and 2nd quality china and even grade their wares into 3rd and 4th quality categories.
Each manufacturer had (or still has) a quality control system that ensured that every piece that left the factory met their stringent quality control standards.
Those standards differ from one company to the next. What puts an item as 1st quality for one brand, may end up being 3rd quality for another. Basically, anything that does not pass the inspection but still deemed worthy of sale will be assigned to lower quality status. Grading has been a long-standing practice, with Meissen grading its products as early as 1712.
Preserving a Reputation
So what does 1st quality and 2nd china quality mean? 1st quality items are pieces that are free of any major defect. When you think of defects, you may think of major issues like chips or hairline cracks but those issues are likely to happen once a piece leaves the factory. Sometimes, the issues that take a teacup from one category to the next can be very minor. Remember that, the name and reputation hinged on the quality of the items they produced. A company like Royal Albert, Meissen or Shelley would never dream of having anything leave their factory floor that was less than absolutely perfect. Many other manufacturers adopted the same philosophy as the production of beautiful bone china pieces was an extremely competitive endeavor.
What qualifies as a defect
Again, the elements that push a piece from 1st to 2nd or even a 3rd quality grading can differ greatly from one company to the next. Some of the following may result in a downgrade:
How Would You Know?
Each company developed a system of grading and marking their pieces. The marks are typically found on the back stamp. Royal Albert often scratched the back stamp or used an X to indicate that a piece did not measure up. Other companies put 2 lines to indicate 2nd quality, some put cut lines with a grinding wheel or a green dot like the ones used by Wedgwood. It’s important to do research and learn just how each manufacturer indicates its grading system.
Should You Shy Away From 2nd Quality Items?
2nd quality china doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. Sometimes, the flaws are so inconspicuous that if nobody told you, you would never know. I am not condoning dishonesty, I am just saying that you may end up foregoing beautiful pieces because of minor details. Sometimes, a manufacturer or re-seller will offer a discount on pieces that are less-than-perfect making these items more accessible and budget-friendly. In the end, it depends on your level of comfort and the intention you have for your collection.
As our business has evolved, so has our mission. We go beyond just selling beautiful fine china. Our mission is to educate our buyers so that every purchase they make, whether it be through The Teacup Attic or through another retailer, is an educated one. We want to empower buyers to be knowledgeable about their purchases and confident in their skills to acquire beautiful pieces. Read our tips for buying fine china online and in person.
Let us know in the comments if you would consider adding 2nd quality pieces to your collection.
Don’t forget to enter The Teacup Attic October Giveaway. You can win this beautiful Queen Anne teacup and saucer.