Vessels: Pitcher, vase, cups, saucers, and decorative vessels such as figurines and plaques.

Lustre is a decorative technique that was used on several ceramic wares, including refined white earthenwares, fine pasted red earthenwares, porcelain and stoneware. Lustre decorated wares are created when a thin metallic film is applied over the glaze of a vessel. When fired in a muffle kiln the metallic glaze would fuse to the body of the ceramic. The application of specific metallic oxides was used to create different lustre colours (Bedford 1965:8). Lustre colour could also be affected by the colour of the vessel body. For example, a copper appearance could be created using a gold oxide on a red bodied earthenware or by using copper oxide on a white bodied ware.

Lustre had been used to decorate Spanish ceramics for centuries, but British potteries did not start to produce lustrewares until the end of the 18th century (Hildyard 2005:177) and it reached its height of popularly around 1860 (Gibson 1999:174). Throughout the 19th century, different types of lustre decoration were popular, including variegated, overall, mottled, stenciled, or painted. Lustre was also used to create bands along the rim and base of vessels to frame printed, painted, or sprigged decoration (Lewis 1999:152).

Painted or stenciled lustre decoration was used over a longer period, from the early 19th century until the height of lustre popularity in the 1860s and beyond. Painting was either applied conventionally or as a resist. The conventional manner involved freehand brushing or the use of a stencil to create designs with a metallic oxide. A common example was bone china teaware with copper-coloured leaves painted on a band of purple. This design was created by using the variations in lustre effect resulting from more than one oxide application. Copper oxide was applied in a band that appeared purple, followed with a second application of oxide to paint the leaves, which appeared a copper colour (Hughes 1968:81). These painted and stenciled decorations used designs such as floral and geometric motifs, vines and birds, or landscapes, church, and hunting scenes (Gibson 1999:29; Hughes 1968:79).

Decorated vessels could also be created by using the resist technique. For this decoration the vessel was painted in a resistant substance like glue, a fine clay mix, glycerin, or honey. The vessel would then be painted with the metallic oxide, preventing it from adhering to the areas that were painted in the resistant substance. After drying, the substance would be washed away and the decoration would include a metallic background with the decoration in the original body colour (Hughes 1968:79).

A great quantity of lustre decorated pottery was exported to North America during the 19th century (Gibson 1999:15). Beginning in the 1840s, English potters started to ship ironstone, decorated with copper lustre bands or simple motifs, made exclusively for the North American market. A popular motif was the ‘Tea Leaf’ pattern on ironstone. Lustreware’s production peak occurred in the mid-19th century and then waned (Gibson 1999:174). However, the tea leaf pattern on ironstone continued to be made by several English and American potters into the early 20th century.



Jefferson Pattern Park and Museum, Diagnostic Artifacts of Maryland 2002:

Bedford, John. 1965. Old English Lustre Ware.  Cassell, London.

Gibson, Michael. 1999. Lustreware.  Shire Publications Ltd., Buckinghamshire

Hildyard, Robin. 2005. English Pottery 1620-1840.  V&A Publications, London.

Hughes, G. Bernard. 1968. Victorian Pottery and Porcelain.  Spring Books, London.

Lewis, Griselda. 1999. A Collector’s History of English Pottery.  Antique Collectors’ Club, Ltd., Woodbridge, Suffolk.  5th edition, originally published in 1969.