There are two main elements to identifying ceramics:

  • Type of ceramic – way the clay is treated
  • Glaze and decoration – ways the finished product is treated, glazed and painted
Type of ceramic Property
Earthenware Coarse, rough, granular feel
Stoneware Hard, heavy
Porcelain Hard, lighter, thinner
Translucent if held to light


Type of glaze/decoration Property Date
Lead glaze Yellow/green in colour  
Tin glaze White in colour 1500; 1640-1750
Slip Liquified clay used as decoration.  Gives decoration raised or nodular feel/appearance Especially late 17th century
Transfer printed Sometimes able to see a ‘join’ in the decoration 1750 onwards
Lustreware Thin layer of metal as decoration 1800 onwards


Resource: SHCG has run a training session on ceramics and the ceramics handout is a good starting point to their identification.

Also search on FirstBASE for pottery, ceramic or porcelain to find more resources.