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Delft Blue pottery is part of our Dutch cultural heritage, like windmills, wooden shoes, and Dutch cheese. However, Delft Blue is less known than these other Dutch icons. I visit Delft regularly and researched Delft Blue pottery to answer the 10 most frequently asked questions.

Read on to learn more about the fascinating history of Delft Blue or scroll down to the question about Delft Blue that you are most interested in.

1. What Is Delft Blue?

Delft Blue, also known as Delft Blue pottery, or Delft earthenware, is the tin-glazed ceramic pottery produced in and around Delft in The Netherlands. Other Dutch cities also produced tin-glazed pottery, but the pottery from Delft was considered the best in The Netherlands. Delft was lucky that some of the most innovative potters that fled from Antwerp after the Spanish destroyed it in 1576 ended up in Delft.

Delft also had other advantages that were important for developing its pottery industry. These other advantages may very well have been why Antwerp’s best potters wanted to move to Delft because these other advantages made Delft well suited for developing the pottery industry.

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Delft was located next to the river Schie, where part of the Delft Blue clay was sourced. The clay that was coming from abroad could easily be transported to Delft by ship. The river Schie also provided Delft with a convenient connection to Dutch sea harbors, like Delfshaven and Amsterdam, from which Delft Blue was exported worldwide. At its peak around 1700 AC, the 33 potteries in Delft produced millions of Delft Blue tableware items yearly.

Delft blue pottery was first produced around 1600 to copy Chinese porcelain introduced by Dutch merchant ships that returned from China. Chinese porcelain was very costly, and only the very rich could afford it. In addition, it was impossible to exactly copy Chinese porcelain because the Chinese clay used to produce porcelain contained kaolin, which was not available to the Delft potters.

The large majority of the Delft blue pottery is the characteristic white and blue faience (see image above), although other color schemes were also used. Most of the Delft Blue Pottery was household tableware for everyday use, but other objects like vases, pictorial plates, and tiles were also in great demand. Thus, an inhabitant of Delft in the 17th century, the world-famous painter Johannes Vermeer, will most likely have used Delft Blue tableware.

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Illustrations on the Delft Blue pottery were often typical Dutch, like Dutch landscapes, windmills, and fishing boats. However, tiles with proverbs and sayings were also trendy and present in virtually every Dutch household.

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In the 18th century, clay containing kaolin, used to produced Chinese porcelain, was also discovered in England. This allowed the production of creamware, which was cheaper and more robust than tin-glazed earthenware from Delft.

Josiah Wedgewood founded his factory to produce English creamware in 1759, and Wedgewood is still a well-known brand today. I have to admit that my own tableware is Wedgewood tableware because it is ideal for everyday use due to its robustness. In my opinion, Delft Blue tableware may be more beautiful, but it is also much more fragile and less suited for everyday use.

After the introduction of English creamware by Wedgewood, other European creamware producers in Europe also started producing various types of creamware. At the same time, Chinese porcelain became much cheaper.

Consequently, the global market for Delft Blue decreased after 1759, and virtually all of the 33 Delft Blue factories disappeared. Only a single Delft Blue factory, De Porceleyne Fles, survived and is still producing Delft Blue pottery today.

2. Why Is Delft Blue Pottery White And Blue?

Virtually all Delftware (> 90%) produced was white and blue. Other colors like red were also used but were less popular. There were three reasons for the popularity of the color blue.

  1. Chinese porcelain was also blue, and Delft Blue was an imitation of Chinese porcelain.
  2. The use of blue was also much easier in the production process than the use of red.
  3. Therefore, the white and blue Delft Blue pottery was also much more affordable than white and red pottery.

The white color of Delft Blue is due to the tin glaze used to coat the pottery. The earthenware was dipped into a bath of tin glaze containing lead, tin oxide, sand, soda, and salt before being fired in a kiln at 800 – 1000 oC. Once fired, tin oxide is white, shiny, and opaque; the well-known glossy white background of Delft Blue pottery appears.

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All Delft Blue pottery produced between 1600 – 1800 AC was handpainted. The blue color of the handpainted decorations of Delft Blue is due to a paint containing cobalt oxide. Cobalt oxide is grey but will turn blue once fired in a kiln at 800 – 1000 oC. The more cobalt oxide the paint contained, the brighter the blue would become on the Delftware.

3. How Is Delft Blue Made?

We are fortunate that a potter from Delft, Gerrit Paape, published a detailed overview of Delft Blue pottery’s production process in 1794. The book is called De Plateelbakker of Delftsch Aardewerkmaker (The Potter or Delftware maker), and you can find it freely available here.

In my opinion, You can get a better impression of the Delft Blue production process by watching a Youtube video rather than writing out every step. The best Youtube video of the production process of Delft Blue I could find is the following video of a guided tour in the Royal Delft factory in Delft. Link video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cosPIaG7C_c&t=8s

This video is the third video of a series of four videos. I recommend also watching the fourth video because it also provides an interesting look inside the Delft Blue factory’s factory hall. This first and second video of this series provides a general overview of the Royal Delft museum and museum shop, and they do not focus on the production process itself.

4. Is Delft Blue Valuable?

Prices of new Delft Blue items are reasonable. I have looked up prices at several websites, and prices of new items are in the ranges in the table below.

Item – Price

Dinner plate – € 25 – 35
breakfast plate – € 15 – 20
Bowl –  € 10 – 22
Vase (small) –  € 20 – 30

Vase (large) –  € 60 -80
Wall plate –  € 15 – 120
Tile –  € 8 -15

If you want to, you can buy much more expensive new Delft Blue items. For example, check out the Royal Delft factory webshop to have a look at tulip vases of € 16.000 or a tile painting of Rembrandt’s Night Watch of a mere € 13.500…..!

Antique Delft Blue pieces are much more expensive than the prices of new Delft Blue pieces. High-quality antique Delftware works typically sell within the $3,000-$6,000 range, but exceptional antique genuine Delftware pieces have been sold in the $ 100.000 – $ 200.000 range.

The very best antique Delft Blue items usually end up in one of the best museums in The Netherlands. For example, The Kunstmuseum in The Hague has one of the world’s largest and most beautiful Delftware collections. The exhibition is called Delftware Wonderware, and I can highly recommend visiting it.

5. How To Tell If Delft Blue Is Real?

Delft Blue is not a protected trade name, and any producer from anywhere can call his pottery Delft Blue. White and blue faience was also produced in other Dutch cities and other European countries. Thus, Delft Blue became a synonym for any white and blue faience, whether made in Delft or not.

The increased competition was an important reason that Delft Blue potters started to apply marks to the bottom of Delftware products to distinguish “real Delft Blue” from white and blue faience produced elsewhere. Coca-Cola’s marketing campaign, The Real Thing, may have been inspired by Delft Potters a few centuries ago.

You can tell if Delft Blue is real by looking at the marks of the Delft potters at the bottom of the Delftware products. However, a mark in itself is not enough to conclude that a certain item is a real Delftware. Experts will need to look at materials and decorations to verify that the Delftware piece is real.

These marks were usually painted on the bottom of Delft Blue items and contained the initials or the full name of the pottery owner. A symbol associated with the pottery was also sometimes depicted. Not all Delft potteries used a mark. Only 1/3 of all Delft potteries used a mark to brand itself.

You can see the mark of the only remaining Delft Blue factory, De Porceleyne Fles. The little bottle is a reference to its name.

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Proud Mary Astonia / Beeldende kunst / De Smaak Regeert

6. How To Tell If Delft Blue Pottery is Antique?

To verify if a certain Delft Blue is a genuine antique, experts look at three aspects of the Delft blue item.

Marks. As mentioned above, marks were a way for the Delft potters to distinguish their Delft blue pottery from the white and blue pottery made elsewhere. However, in some instances, these marks were falsified because pottery from Delft was more expensive. Therefore, experts need to check if these marks are genuine and look for other numbers or letters to discover the items’ origins.

Materials: Delft Blue is produced from three different sorts of clays and usually beige, yellow, or light red in color. Antique Delft Blue items often have small damages at the rims of the items, allowing you to observe what kind of clay has been used. In addition, Delft Blue can easily be distinguished from Chinese porcelain because Chinese porcelain is made from bright white clay. Small notches at the bottom of the item are another feature to recognize Delft Blue because these notches were due to its specific production process.

Decorations: Authentic antique Delft Blue is always handpainted, and the decorations, therefore, provide important information about the authenticity of an antique Delft Blue item. Printing of decorations only became possible after 1750.

7. Where Does Delft Blue Come From?

Delft Blue is not a protected trade name, and the name Delft Blue has become synonymous with white and blue faience, independent of where it is produced. However, it is still possible to buy Delft Blue earthenware coming from Delft itself.

The Royal Delft company still operates a Delft Blue factory in Delft, called De Porceleyne Fles, and still produces high-quality Delft Blue tableware in that factory. If you are interested in purchasing Delft Blue from Delft, make sure that their mark (see above) is depicted on the bottom.

8. Where Can I Buy Delft Blue Pottery?

The best place to buy Delft Blue pottery is, of course, in Delft itself. There are several places in Delft where you can go shopping and buy your favorite Blue Delft item.

There is a shop of “Heinen Delfts Blauw” at the market square in the city center of Delft. This shop has an extensive collection of Delft Blue pottery. Ask for the “real Delft Blue” because part of their offerings comes from China. It would be a pity if you are a visitor from China, and you return home with a Delft Blue souvenir made in China…!

Another possibility of buying Delft Blue is at the Delft Blue factory Royal Delft (see above). The Royal Delft Blue factory has guided tours that allow you to see the Delft Blue production process yourself. You can buy their products after the guided tour in their shop. That is an awesome combination if you are interested in understanding how Delft Blue is produced.

If you can’t come to Delft, you can also find Delft Blue shops in Amsterdam or purchase Delft Blue items online.

  • Heinen Delft Blue in Amsterdam
  • on line: Heinen Delft Blue webshop
  • on line: Royal Delft webshop

9. How To Find A Delft Blue Tile?

You can buy a Delft Blue tile in any Delft Blue pottery shop in the Netherlands. All Delft Blue shops have an extensive collection of Delft Blue tiles with saying, proverbs and wishes.

What may be more interesting is to create a personalized Delft Blue tile with a personal wish for a special person. For example, it was quite common in The Netherlands that a new baby’s arrival was celebrated with a Delft Blue tile with its name and birth date.

However, you can be as creative as you want to be. Ask for this possibility in one of the Delft Blue shops in the Netherlands, or order your personalized tile online. Personalized tiles cost around € 8-15 / tile.

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Delft Blue Pottery; The 10 Most Asked Questions & Answers – Netherlands Insiders

10. What Else Is Delft Famous For?

Delft is also famous as the hometown of the world-famous Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, who lived and worked his entire life in Delft.

Delft was also the hometown of the founder of the Netherlands, William of Orange, who is buried in the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) in Delft.

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By: Pim/ netherlandsinsiders.com

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