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Collecting Antique Blue Willow China

Updated on May 30, 2016
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.


Joined: 9 years agoFollowers: 4,734Articles: 425

The Blue Willow pattern has been beloved by collectors for centuries and produced by numerous manufacturers. It is one of the most collected patterns in the history of china because of its beautiful design, striking color combination, and the story told by the pattern on the plate.

Basics of the Blue Willow Pattern

While there are variations in the design from manufacturer to manufacturer the basics elements always stay the same. Within the pattern you will always find the following images:

  • Doves
  • Fence
  • Fruit trees
  • Palace
  • People (at least a young couple and an old man, often a soldier or two)
  • Willow trees

The pattern is always printed on a white background and is usually blue. However this pattern can also be found in other colors such as:

  • Brown
  • Green
  • Pink

Source

Story of the Blue Willow Pattern

The pattern is the illustration of an ancient Chinese legend.

Once upon a time, in the China of long ago, lived a beautiful young girl by the name of Koong Shee. She lived in a wealthy household surrounded by luxury and servants. Koong Shee soon fell in love with Chang, one of her father's servants. Because she was the daughter of a respected nobleman and lived in a palace she was forbidden to marry Chang. The girl was devastated and decided that she would ignore her father and continue to meet Chang in secret.

They met daily under a willow tree on her father's estate. It didn't take long for her father to find out. He became furious and had his servants put up a crooked fence to keep Chang away from the girl. Although the lovers were unable to meet they still were very much in love.

Eventually Koong Shee was told she was going to marry a wealthy friend of her father, an old man. The wedding would take place when the cherry trees were in bloom. In despair, Koong Shee poured her heart out to the birds that she often fed. Her sorrow was very deep.

Before the wedding could take place Chang snuck into the palace and took her away to a small house where they were married. They were very happy for a time but Koong Shee's father (in some versions fiancé) pursued them until he found them. He set fire to their small home on fire and burned it to the ground.

The couple was killed in the fire but upon their deaths they were transformed into doves and lived happily ever after.

Source

History of the Design

In 1780 a man named Thomas Turner created the design from the story he had heard. He asked an engraver, Thomas Minton, an apprentice in the Spode Company, to engrave it. Spode introduced the design in Staffordshire in 1784 and it was immediate popular. In fact it was soon personalized and released by other china companies including Adams and Wedgwood.

The pattern has been in continuous use for nearly 230 years, longer than any other pattern.

Examples of the China by Different Manufacturers

Blue Willow is a particular design that is categorized as transferware. You can see some excellent examples of this pattern on the following websites:

How to Evaluate Blue Willow China

The value of the china, like the value of all antiques, is given based on several criteria. While the oldest pieces are highly sought after and command high prices at auction, many of the newer pieces are valuable as well.

Condition

Look for pieces that are not chipped, cracked, and that do not show repairs. Some crazing is fine. Crazing is the crackly appearance found on many old pieces of china. It is only on the outer glaze, the piece itself is not cracked.

Color

Blue is the most common, as well as the most sought after color and will often be priced a little higher than a comparable piece in a different color.

Rarity

Certain pieces are rarer than others and will command top dollar when they can be found.

Desirability

If you live in an area where there are few fans of Blue Willow you may find that the pieces in the local antique shops are priced considerably lower than those in other areas. If you happen to live in an area where there are many collectors you can expect to pay higher prices due to the demand.

Provenance

If the china belonged to George Washington, and this fact can be proven, it will naturally be worth more than china that doesn't have an impressive past. Make sure that no matter what you are told about the china you get a certificate of authenticity as a guarantee.

Manufacturer

In addition, Blue Willow is worth more when it is from one of the more famous manufacturers:

  • Spode
  • Staffordshire
  • Wedgwood

Keep in mind that there were over 500 manufacturers of Blue Willow China over the centuries.

The Story of Blue Willow

Caring for Antique China

All antique china should be treated delicately no matter what the pattern.

  • Always use a gentle soap not detergent.
  • Fold a towel on the bottom of the sink to guard against chips and cracks.
  • Rinse well in warm (not hot) water and dry away from sunlight and heat or air conditioning vents. Sudden changes in temperature can crack the dishes.
  • Store in a glass front cabinet away from sunlight.

What's It Worth?

The value of antique china depends on the many factors listed above. If you are a new collector you should invest in a good price guide and develop a relationship with an antiques dealer you trust. Novice collectors should be wary of "great deals". There are a lot of newer pieces and lesser known manufacturers out there. The pitcher that you spent $350.00 might only be worth $50.00

An excellent resource for all collectors, whether they are just beginning or have been collecting for decades, is International Willow Collectors. This site is full ofhelpful information and images.

Enjoy your collection. Keep it somewhere that you can see it every day and marvel at the beauty of this classic design.

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    • rcorcutt 3 years ago

      I grew up looking at this same kind of china in my Grandmothers cabinets. When I was really young she never let me use it and now that I am older I understand her a little more. This article brought back a lot of memories, thank you.

    • Journey * profile image

      Nyesha Pagnou, MPH 3 years ago from USA

      Marye Audet,

      Thanks for this very interesting hub. Voted up and interesting.

      Best,

      Journey *

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I love blue and white china and Blue Willow is the queen! It's amazing how a pattern has been around for so long and treasured by so many people. My personal favorite piece is a chunk of Blue Willow that I found on a beach after a storm - I wonder where it came from, how old it is, how it got to be tossed on that beach.

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 4 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      thank you.

    • pconoly profile image

      pconoly 4 years ago

      This is a wonderful article,very informative.

    • Navneet Thakur profile image

      Navneet Thakur 4 years ago from India

      very very outstanding

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      Hi Marye, I'm so sorry to learn you have been ill. I do hope you are better now. Take care of yourself, and don't worry about responding to all your fans: I know they understand! Let us know through the forums how you are doing, OK?

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 4 years ago from Central United States of America

      Best get well wishes Marye Audet...just noted your comment as I have finished reading your hub.

      Very interesting information. My brother has a quite large collection/set of Blue Willow of which he is very proud and protective - and now I see why.

      The voice of the video is mightily amazing...loved him!

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 4 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Thank you for your sweet comments. Have not responded because i am quite ill.... but thank you.

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      An engaging hub filled with an interesting story, rich information and immaculate details! Congrats on the hub of the day! Well-deserved!

      Thanks for SHARING. Pressed all buttons except funny(sorry). Voted up.

    • urmilashukla23 profile image

      Urmila 4 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

      Thanks for explaining the history of Blue Willow. Very interesting.

      Congratulations on Hub of the day!

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      They are definitely beautiful!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      Thank you for sharing all of this information.There is so much I did not know. I have one plate that is often in my cooking articles. It is one that has been in my family for many years. I may just need to search in the little nearby village antique shops for some pieces.

      Congratulations on hub of the day...

    • 4FoodSafety profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 4 years ago from Fontana, WI

      I own some of these pieces and find that they simply work in every room - the great room has a massive plate, the kitchen has some jars. This design is so functional and crosses every decorating trend from modern to traditional. Yes, it is "Asian" but I find it blends with all of my rooms - no matter what décor.

    • nochance profile image

      Chloe Davis Smith 4 years ago from Duluth, MN

      My grandmother has been collecting Blue Willow for years and I knew it was important but I didn't know there was a story behind the designs. That's so cool. Wonderful hub. Thank you for sharing.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      I have a few pieces of Blue Willow and have always enjoyed looking at it. Congrats on HOTD. I can't help but notice you have not responded to the comments you received on this Hub; just wondering why??? I always try to read those Hubs whose authors have a high score because I learn from them.

    • mollymeadows profile image

      Mary Strain 4 years ago from The Shire

      Marye, congratulations! And what a romantic legend! I had always assumed such china simply depicted a generic landscape, but knowing that it has a meaning makes it more beautiful. Interesting hub!

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 4 years ago from Northeastern United States

      Mary, I've always admired homes that have a lot of the blue china in them. Our neighbors, as I was growing up, had a lot of it and my guess is that some of it, at least, was a true antique. Thank you for sharing this great hub!

    • kelleyward 4 years ago

      I have always loved this pattern. There is something so unique and special about it. Thanks for sharing this fascinating hub! Congrats on HOTD! Take care, Kelley

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Voted up, awesome, interesting, and beautiful!

      Thank you, Mary. I've read a little about you, the legendary Hubber, and now I'm honored to have read one of your Hubs. Congratulations on your wonderful success. Thanks for being a great inspiration to the rest of us!

    • amberld profile image

      Amber Dahnke 4 years ago from New Glarus, WI

      my mom has this pattern, I think only a few pieces have survived thru the years. Nice hub.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Vicki L Hodges 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Interesting to read about the history of the blue willow dishes. They are so pretty. Nice hub! Many votes! Congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • pinto2011 profile image

      Subhas 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Wow ! What an intriguing article this is. Thanks for foretelling and sharing such an interesting history behind 'Blue Willow China'.

    • Emma Harvey profile image

      Emma Harvey 4 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Nice to hear all about blue willow. My Mother (who is from the Staffordshire Potteries) has a collection, some of which has been passed down to me. I keep it on my shelves and also make use of the jars and cheese dishes.

      I have learned a lot here.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      I have a tea set with the geisha in the bottom of the cups. They were made pre-WWII in Japan by a single family. The geishas are the faces of the wives. The men were killed during the war and the technique for the faces was lost. I have several sets of this and one of them is blue willow.

    • Dawnrichard profile image

      Dawnrichard 4 years ago

      Interesting article. I love it. Congratulations for being the hub of the day. You deserve this. Cheers @maryeaudet.

      Dawnrichard

    • twentyfive profile image

      twentyfive 4 years ago

      A very special design a collector must have. Excellent hub!

    • Vanderleelie profile image

      Vanderleelie 4 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

      Interesting information about the mythology and symbolism represented in this traditional ceramics pattern. The poem in the video is a lovely way to recount the Chinese legend. Voted up!

    • Navneet Thakur profile image

      Navneet Thakur 4 years ago from India

      nice and interesting

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

      I'm so glad this was picked as the Hub of the Day - I might otherwise have missed it! What an interesting story about how the pattern was created. I didn't know it dated back more than 200 years - as with almost everyone I know, I grew up with it, but I thought it was probably from the late 1800s or early 1900s. It is beautiful, and the story is intriguing. Thanks for sharing!

      Voted up and up!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      I have a friend who collects Blue Willow and I've always been fascinated by her collection. This is a great, informative hub. Congrats on your well-deserved HOTD!

    • Henry 4 years ago

      I have several blue willow pieces which are now showing brown aging color. Has anyone else had this problem?

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

      It was very interesting to me because I have a coffee set from my mother and it must be about 100 years old. It is so thin and when you look into it you can see a gesha head in it. Any information I would be most grateful.

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 5 years ago from Central United States of America

      I don't collect Blue Willow but a relative has a full blue set. I think it might be Wedgewood. It is beautifully displayed in a glass cabinet. I did enjoy learning a bit more about the Blue Willow from your hub, so thanks very much!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I love Blue Willow! Thanks for the great information.

    • rsusan profile image

      Rika Susan 5 years ago from South Africa

      You have done it again, Marye! An interesting hub about one of my favorite topics. With such a rich history behind it, it is no wonder that Blue Willow china is always so beautiful.

    • floraphil profile image

      floraphil 5 years ago from hyderabad, India

      i liked the article

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Interesting article. Thanks for sharing. I enjoy it.

      Flag up !

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