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Using Identification Marks: What’s a Rd. Number?

by Mike Wilcox (11/21/11).

There are several ways to place an estimated date of production for factory-made pieces of pottery or porcelain. Some involve the marks used by the company over its history of operation, other marks were required by international trade laws that are all well documented. Putting all these clues together is a lot like solving a mystery, each clue bringing us closer to the solution. One such marking can tell us a lot from one look: the British Design Registry number, or as some in the trade refer to it as the “Rd. Number.”

Here’s an example of what a Rd. Number looks like:

Beginning 1884, the British Patent Office issued a registration number like the one above when a design or mark was registered. The marking had an added feature of indicating to the buying public that the piece was a product of Britain. This marking also made it very clear that the design was protected, that copying it would lead to legal problems with both the company that owned the design and the government that registered the design. The length protection offered for the design of the item depended on the material type it was made of; pottery and porcelain items were covered from design piracy for a period of three years.

What the numbers tell us is the first year the design was registered for protection. In the case of the Rd. number above, “Rd. No. 56790,” means the mark was registered sometime in 1886. Being that the protection of such a marking was only good for three years, we could say a date estimate of 1886-1889 would be reasonably accurate, but it should be noted the design could have been in production a great deal longer than three years. Using the chart below will enable you to determine the earliest year of production for any piece of English pottery or porcelain that carries a Rd. number. It should be noted that Rd. numbers can also be found on metal and glassware items, this chart applies to these items as well.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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