Lustreware has a shimmering
iridescence of colour, mysterious and fascinating to the eye. This unusual quality, together with the great range of forms and patterns available, underlies its appeal.

Lustre ware is produced by applying a thin metallic paint onto a pottery glaze. The technique can be traced back to Persia in ad 800, and is also associated with Granada in Spain in the 14th century and northern Italy in the 16th. Most lustre pieces on the market today were made from the 19th century onwards, with many reasonably priced examples dating from the 1930s to the 50s.

 Four different metals are used in lustre ware: silver, gold, copper, and platinum. Only platinum produces a silver tint: silver yields a straw colour, gold creates shades of red


Exotic appeal

The popularity of lustre ware in the n Victorian era can lie traced hack to
Wedgwood, who were refining ancient lustre techniques in the 1770s for the market of the day. In the early 19th century,

 Wedgwood mostly used copper lustres, reserving the more costly platinum for a silver-resist' effect, and gold for exotic pieces. 

The appeal of lustre ware for the Victorians was its exoticism, combined with its heavy decoration and colour. 

The early Victorians also covered whole items in silver-resist lustre to give the impression that a piece was made of silver.

 The lustre in suchpieces can wear thin and become patchy. In this condition, they are not greatly valued.

The century turns

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, developments in oxidisation technology improved the purity of lustre liquids. Other manufacturers in Britain - including the Staffordshire, Swansea, Sunderland, and Leeds potteries - adopted the technique, applying it to earthenware and porcelain.

 They gave their wares a uniquely British style, which met with a good response from their customers.

The "splatter' technique, in which only a little lustre was applied, wasused by the Sunderland potteries. 

Their ranges of pink lustre wares,transfer-printed with pictures and mottoes or rhymes,are highly collectable.

Shimmering fairytales 

Wedgwood continued to produce lustres from around 1917, making a series of Ordinary Lustre pieces decorated with dragons, fish, and butterflies. 

These were developed by Daisy Makeig-Jones, one of the firm's most respected designers. Ordinary Lustre was followed by her Fairyland range of more intricate and sparkling effects. 


These were inspired by a mixture of fairytales, exotic landscapes, and mythology - evoked in patterns such as 'Ghostly Wood', Candlemas', 'Bubbles', and Lahore'. Their brilliant colours and designs gave the company a commercial edge. Expensive when launched, the Fairyland pieces are more sought after than the Ordinary Lustre range and fetch high prices.

In Wedgwood's wake

The success of the Fairyland lustres influenced other manufacturers including Crown Devon, Royal Winton, and Carlton Ware, although these never achieved the quality of

Wedgwood, or the prices that Fairyland pieces command in today's market. Carlton Ware produced an outstanding range of Ait Deco pieces in colourful lustres, such as Jazz', 'Mikado', and Barges', and these can fetch high prices, depending on their size, pattern, and shape.

The smaller manufacturer A.E. Gray & Co. Ltd produced lustre wares from the 1920s to 50s. Some of the earliest, most desirable patterns were designed by Susie Cooper and Gordon Forsyth, and feature dragons and leaping deer.

 These patterns appeared on plaques and ginger jars, which were probably used in showrooms and on trade stands, lint many were also sold commercially. At the cheaper end of the market, in the 1950s Gray's revived the Sunderland Splatter' technique for a popular range of giftwares, often incorporating black-and-white prints of shells and ships.

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