Mellow Yellow (Ware)
Yellow ware is a type of heavy pottery (earthenware) that is made from yellow colored clay. Most often in the form of bowls, pie plates and molds, yellow ware is typically finished with a transparent or yellow-colored glaze. Yellow ware can first be traced to the late 18th century in the United Kingdom; American potters began production in earnest by the 1820s. In the United States, production centered around New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New England and Ohio. Yellow ware continued to be produced in both the US and UK into the first third of the twentieth century.
Yellow ware pieces were thrown, molded, or pressed. The early hand-turned bowls, however, tend to be plain. After 1860, many of the bowls were made with turned lips and bases. The coloring of the clay can range from light bluff to dark golden depending on the elements in the clay and the firing process used. Yellow ware was typically finished with a transparent lead glaze or alkaline glaze although sometimes yellow was added to the glaze to â€œenhanceâ€ the color of the underlying clay.
Many yellow ware pieces have bands of white, blue or dark brown around the bowl or form. This is called slip decoration and was produced between 1840 and 1900. Older bowls might have several bands in the same color. Some have embossed designs around the rim, including vine-like patterns. Yellow ware finished with a mottled or streaky brown glaze is referred to as Rockingham. Although the underlying clay may be yellow, pieces finished with this style glaze are generally referred to as Rockingham rather than yellow ware. Note that not all Rockingham used yellow clay - another reason to put it in a separate category.
Decoration using â€œmochaâ€ patterns was done beginning in the early 19th century. This decorative technique has recurring patterns that resemble objects such as seaweed, earthworms, and cat's eyes. Thistle patterns, which combined a slipped flower with a mocha stem, were the earliest produced, starting between 1810 and 1830. Most mocha motifs, however, post-date 1860.
Estimates indicate that only 5 to 10 percent of yellow ware had markings. Since most yellow ware has no marking making it difficult to determine manufacturing location or timeframe, those with markings tend to sell for more. Using form, weight, coloring and pattern can help determine dating and manufacture of those with no marking.
Yellow ware bowls were produced in graduated sizes from 3â€ to 17â€ in diameter. Many collectors look to either purchase or assemble a set of matching nested bowls. As with all pottery, an antique piece should show signs of wear on the bottom. Chips around the rim or bottom and/or cracks reduce the value of the piece but are still collectible. Some crazing of the glaze will not hurt the value.
Yellow ware is sometimes spelled as yellowware so be sure to search for both when looking for it!
Search for yellow ware, or yellowware and more on Dig Antiques.
- Yellow Ware, Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab, at www.jefpat.org.
- Yellowware, Kovelâ€™s Price Guide, kovels.com.
- How to Identify Old Antique Yellow Ware, Suzanne Robin, eHow.com.
- Collecting Yellowware, Martha Stewart, marthastewart.com.
- Yellowware, Wikipedia.