Living on the Edge: How to Identify Dates of Ceramics Using Their Edge Decoration

Living on the Edge

How to Identify Dates of Ceramics Using their Edge Decoration

By Bailey Tichenor

Use this edge ware identification guide to identify and date antique ceramics. Combining edge colors and rim shapes will give an approximate date range; this guide is by no means an authentication source but provides date information based on known examples. See the References section at the end to explore two very reliable ceramics identification sources.


Edged wares simply refer to ceramics (typically refined white earthenwares like creamware and pearlware) that have a decorative motif(s) around their rim edges. Such decorations can be molded/incised, painted/glazed, or a combination of those techniques. The most common rim colors are blue and green, though rarer colors like purple, green, red, black, and brown are known to exist. Edged ware exists almost exclusively in English pottery.

Josiah Wedgwood was one of the first documented potters to introduce edge designs, doing so on creamware in the mid 1770s. Soon, other factories and potters noted his success and began producing edged wares of their own. Edged wares became popular as a cheaper alternative for extremely ornamented tableware. Their popularity peaked during the rather lengthy period of 1790-1860 in England and America.

Edge Ware Identification

To identify edge ware, one must examine both the color and molded decorations.


Color on edged wares can be painted under- or overglaze. Blue and green are the most prevalent colors. Overglaze enamels in other colors also exist, though these are usually earlier and more rare. Ceramics can be in the Rococo, Neoclassical, or Victorian styles (see molded rim techniques below for further identification assistance).

Blue: 1775-1890s

Purple: 1775-1810

Green: 1770s-1830s

Black: 1775-1810

Red: 1775-1810

Brown: 1775-1810

Decorative Motifs

Rim Shape

Rococo, 1775-1810
asymmetrical, undulating scalloped rim

Neoclassical, 1800-1830s
symmetrical scalloped rim

Neoclassical, 1840s-1860s
unscalloped or straight-edged rim

Incised/Impressed Edges

Neoclassical or Rococo
impressed curved lines (see rim shape above for dating)

Neoclassical or Rococo
impressed straight lines (see rim shape above for dating)

1820s-1830s, various styles
embossed rims with elaborate molded designs

Embossed rim (swag with cornucopia and shell)

Embossed rim (cord and tassel)

Embossed rim (dot and grass) with curved impressed lines

1860s-1890s, various styles
no molding or impressions at all
NB-usually rim lines are painted

Above images from Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland [JefPat].

Decorator's Tip

Today, edged wares make a wonderful table setting. Combine these with a patterned top plate for a “wow” effect!

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