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About Spode (Manufacturer)
Spode is one of the oldest and most distinguished of the great pottery companies of Staffordshire, the time-honored home of English ceramics. The firm’s blue and white bone china transferware is a timeless classic. Spode dishes compose the sort of elegant dinner service that most of us envision on a traditional holiday table.
The company was established in 1770 in Stoke-on-Trent by Josiah Spode, a friend and neighbor of another estimable English ceramist, Josiah Wedgwood. Spode was particularly known for two technical achievements in the firm’s early decades. The first was to develop a standard formula for the making of bone china — a type of porcelain (made with a mixture of bone ash, minerals and clay) that is dazzlingly white and so strong it can be used to create very thin translucent plates and vessels. The other was to perfect the making of transferware. That process involves the transfer of pictorial images inked on tissue paper — such as the garden scenery in the famous Willow dish patterns — onto ceramics that are then sealed with a glaze. In 1833, following the sudden death of Josiah Spode III, business partner W.T. Copeland took over the company and changed its name. Collectors regard Copeland-marked pieces as Spode china. The Spode brand was revived in 1970.
From the 1820s onward, Spode enjoyed tremendous success both in Britain and elsewhere owing to the beauty and vitality of its decorative imagery. By some counts, Spode created more than 40,000 patterns in the 19th century. Many favorite Spode patterns — among them Blue Italian, India Tree, Greek and Woodland — date to the company’s early years. Spode’s most popular pattern, Christmas Tree, was introduced in 1938. Prices for Spode china vary widely, based on the size of the service, its condition and the pattern. An antique dinner service for 12 people or more, in good repair and complete with cups and serving dishes, will generally cost between $10,000 and $20,000. Such Spode services become heirlooms — a proud and timeless addition to a family’s table. And as you will see on these pages, Spode’s rich and varied wares offer a visual feast in and of themselves.