This oval carved carnelian brooch with a pierced floral pattern in a simple silver setting was made in China around 1920. After it dropped and broke in half, a resourceful jeweler laced it back together with silver wire, using the pierced holes in the design.
This past May I traveled to Dresden, Germany, to see the world renowned ceramics collection at the Porzellansammlung (Porcelain Collection) at the Zwinger, Dresden’s magnificent palace. Not only did I see the jaw-droppingly gorgeous ceramics, sumptuously displayed in various rooms and hallways of the palace, but I was given a private tour by Heike Ulbricht, conservator of ceramics. Ms. Ulbricht was most generous with her time, spending over 2 hours showing me early repairs sprinkled throughout the collection, and giving me a peek at pieces she and her colleagues were currently working on. Only about 10% of the collection is on view to the public so I was thrilled to witness the astonishing collection of over 20,000 examples, kept cool in underground vaults below the great halls of the palace.
These two pieces of Meissen porcelain, both with sturdy brass staple repairs, are in the private collection of Heike Ulbricht.
This Chinese bowl, which measures 2.75 inches high and 5.75 inches diameter, is decorated with flowers, pagodas, and bridges in the Japanese Imari style and palette. It was made for export to Europe in the early to mid 1700s with just the blue underglaze decoration, but soon after arriving, it was overpainted in red and gold to keep up with the public’s new demand for colorful porcelain. This method of overpainting is often referred to as clobbering.
You may wonder why I am featuring a bowl that appears to have had its broken halves merely glued together. But the “Mifs Cox” red mark on the underside – she was most likely the original owner of the bowl – gives insight into how the bowl was repaired. An early form of ceramic repair practiced in England during the late 1700s to middle 1800s was called “china burning,” in which broken ceramics were re-fired at a low temperature, causing the broken pieces to fuse together. The most renowned china burner was Edward Combes of Queen Street, Bristol, who signed his pieces on the underside in red script, similarly to the mark on this bowl. I have a few examples of pieces repaired and signed by Combes and will post them in the coming months.