A Touch of Holland
Windmills, wooden shoes and tulips – items that rise up when one speaks of Holland. Travelers to the town of Delft, Holland quickly become aware of a fourth collectible, equally as popular although prized for its quality, craftsmanship and appreciation in value: Dutch Delft pottery.
Dutch Delft pottery, commonly termed "Delftware," dates back to the early 1600s. Produced by 32 factories in Delft, Holland from the 17th century through the mid-19th century, this tin-glazed earthenware was designed by master craftsmen and entirely hand-painted using centuries-old techniques. Two popular styles of Delftware include the Delft Blue and the Delft polychrome, or multi-colored, pottery.
By the mid-19th century, acceptance of Delftware declined as other European porcelain gained popularity. Of the 32 Delftware factories in Delft, De Porceleyne Fles was the sole survivor. In 1876, a Delft engineer, Joost Thooft, purchased De Porceleyne Fles and revitalized interest in Delftware by developing a new, stronger earthenware. This new line soon became the world famous "Royal Delft" when, in 1919, the Queen of the Netherlands gave De Porceleyne Fles permission to use the honorary title "Koninklijke" (the Dutch word for "Royal") in support of its superior quality. Every piece of genuine Royal Delft bears the official trademark: an apothecary bottle, the initials "JT" and the word "Delft." A Certificate of Authenticity issued by the Delft Chamber of Commerce also accompanies each item.
Today, Delftware is a generalized term that encompasses many types of pottery produced by a number of manufacturers. From souvenir-ware to Royal Delft, the term "Delftware" is used freely with varying levels of quality. According to Ed Goldgehn, president of Delft Wares, Inc. and co-founder of the Delftware Collectors Association, "Authentic Delftware is the artistic work of specially trained painters. This is far different from the products collected by tourists or often found in local antique stores and the reason that genuine Royal Delft remains a good investment and the Delftware actually displayed in Dutch homes."
True Delftware collectors look to the bottom of each piece to find the official trademark, their guarantee they hold authentic Delftware from manufacturers still honoring the centuries-old tradition of hand painting. Joseph Nelis, co-owner of Dutch Village/Nelis Imports, advises, "When considering a purchase of Delft Blue pottery, one should be wary. Prospective buyers would do well to educate themselves before making a purchase. For the prospective collector, education is an absolute must!"
Delft Blue pieces commonly found in Dutch homes today include garniture sets (ginger jar and vases), tulip vases and large, floral plates. Whether you intend to become a collector or simply admire the rich contrast of blue on white, Delft Blue pottery is a classic for any home.
Where to Buy Delftware
Delft Wares, Inc.
26 Winters Street
Marietta, GA 30060
On the Web: www.delftwares.com
12350 James St.
Holland, MI 49424
On the Web: www.dutchvillage.com
To learn more about Delftware:
- Read Royal Delft: A Guide to De Porceleyne Fles by Rick Erickson. Publication of this book coincides with the 350th anniversary of De Porceleyne Fles in 2003. More than 650 color photographs show the quality and beauty of Royal Delft pottery.
Discovering Dutch Delftware: Modern Delft and Makkum Pottery by Stephen J. Van Hook. Contains listings and histories for nearly 50 companies, 46 color photographs, 145 black and white photographs, 160 pottery marks and artist marks used by several companies.
- Contact the Delftware Collectors Association, an online association of several hundred collectors of Dutch Delftware and Gouda Pottery. On the Web: www.delftware.org