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Old Copper Lustre

Of the three types of lustre-ware perfected by Staffordshire potters in the latter years of the eighteenth century, copper was the first and most widely produced. Although a potter there named Hancock is credited with the rediscovery of this ancient Persian. over-glaze, it was Josiah Spode who perfected it. Wedgwood, always at the forefront in "he search for better decoration, soon achieved a gold lustre that varied in tone from pink to purple, and shortly afterward a silver lustre.

Copper lustre was not only the least expensive of the three but lent itself to a variety of decorative effects, ranging from solid copper color in stripes and bands to resist and relief designs against a pastel background. A good grade of white earthenware was ordinarily used for the body of pieces so decorated. An exception was the factory at New Hall where only porcelain was used. The most intricate of the decorative treatments was the resist. The pattern was painted on the unglazed body with glycerin. Then the piece was coated with a metallic solution and set aside until partly dry when it was washed in clear water. The glycerin disappeared along with the metallic coating but that painted directly on the clay body resisted the water and remained. From this came the name as well as many beautiful and complicated patterns.

Floral designs against a background of light blue, buff, green, or other soft colors were very popular. Quite often these were painted in contrasting colors after the glaze had been fired. Transfer-printed designs were also used under a thin lustre to decorate the body of a piece, especially a pitcher.

Pastel bands with relief decoration show the influence of Wedgwood's jasperware motifs. The designs were many and varied, with floral patterns probably most in favor and animal figures a close second. Pastoral vignettes were also used. Objects in copper lustre included pitchers of varied sizes and shapes, goblets, vases, bowls, and complete tea sets. These pieces, made between 1820 and 1855, are good examples of resist and relief decoration. The top row shows goblets at right and left with light blue bands and resist decoration in a floral pattern; the pitcher in the center also has a light blue band on the body with a hunting pattern in relief. In the center row, left to right, pitcher and bowl are relief-decorated against a blue background but the pitcher at the right has a floral resist pattern against a buff background. The bottom row shows cups and saucers, sugar bowl, and teapot of a tea set that originally had eighteen cups and saucers, teapot, hot-water pot, sugar bowl, and creamer. Here cream-colored bands ornamented with sprays of flowers and pastoral vignettes in relief contrast with the rich copper lustre.

Copper lustre in its varied forms of decoration was made in Staffordshire and other English potteries from about 1800 to 1860. Some of it is marked with either an impressed name or letter; much of it bears no mark. Most of the Staffordshire potters made this ware. Minton, Spode, Wedgwood, and a few others marked their pieces with their names. Plain or marked, a large amount reached the United States and, by the mid-nineteenth century, there were comparatively few homes without one piece at least of this richly colored ware, often a small or medium-size creamer.

Both pink and silver lustre-wares were also in demand by those who could afford them. The latter was first made in imitation of silverware. The pieces had the silver glaze inside and out, and were shaped and decorated in the silversmithing style of the period. This held for some of the copper pieces also.Pink was mostly used for bands, stripes, scrolls, and designs done in silhouette against the white body of a piece.

Like copper, silver lent itself to resist decoration. Designs were many and intricate, with polychrome colors added. Lustre pitchers were produced in quantity since there was always a ready market for them and the opportunity for variety in shape and decorative detail was practically limitless.

Pitchers decorated with silver lustre are now considered the most desirable. Gold in its shadings from pink to purple ranks second. High in favor, too, are silver lustre tea sets.

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