Is My Satsuma Pottery Genuine?

I get messages over at our facebook page that accompanies this site, asking if pieces of inherited or bought pottery are genuine and if I can give an approximate value. Apart from people looking for information on Satsuma Pottery or getting a great deal on the eBay listings I provide on each page, this is the most common reason people might visit this site.

Get your pieces valued here, using our recommended online service.

So how do you tell if a piece you own is a genuine antique Satsuma vase, plate or button?

Actually, it is much simpler than you think and with the item in your hands, the only question you need to ask yourself is "where is the marking and what does it look like?".

The "makers mark" or marking on each Satsuma piece is the key to unlock the value, age and authenticity. Looking at the marking will let you know a rough date and if the item is worth anything or not.

Check for English words first.

So you have the piece in your hand now and have flipped it over and found the marking - what next?

First of all, look to see if there is any english words on the marking, such as "Made In Japan" or "Hand Painted". If there are, then the piece is most certainly NOT an antique.

Once the Satsuma style was seen by the general public and became a popular look, the style was mass produced across the world (usually in China) and stamped with these sorts of markings. If your piece has this on, it is probably made in the later half of the 20th century and will not be worth a great deal of money.

However, collectors do still want these items and if they are good condition or come with a good story, then you might get some money for it on eBay.

Check for the Shimazu crest.

Another good sign of an authentic antique mark is the presence of the Shimazu family crest. A simple circle with a cross through it is the sign of the clan that ruled the Satsuma province in Japan around the time that most of the original items were made. If this crest is on the pottery item, then you most likely have an original piece.

The crest should also be accompanied by a signature or mark of the maker and is often painted in gold strokes. The Kanji (Japanese symbols) will often be the name of the maker or sometimes a number, placing the piece as one of a series of potteries, designed to be displayed in a certain order.

Is the makers marking hand painted or stamped on?

All of the original Satsuma pottery pieces were made, glazed and painted by hand. Therefore, you should be able to see if the marking has been painted by hand or stamped on.

If a stamp or print has been used to mark the piece, you may have a more modern item - most likely mid to late 20th century and worth less value. Obviously, a stamped mark will look more “perfect” than a hand painted one, so it should stick out like a sore thumb.

Do you know the history of the piece?

Many of you contact me with stories of inherited pieces of Satsuma pottery or asking for information about a family heirloom that has been passed down through the years. Knowing where and when the Satsuma pieces came from can also help determine their value.

Due to the style becoming so popular in more recent years, many people purchased (not inexpensive) pieces that have stayed in the family for many years, only to be found again or looked at in more detail more recently. If you are able to find out when the pieces were purchased, it may help you work out how old they are.

The more modern items are mass produced and are marked with English writing, which should be a good indicator of their age.

Does it "ring"?

One of the obvious differences between porcelain and earthenware pottery is that the former is very thin, which allows you to hold the item and tap it, producing a "ring" sound.  You can probably test this on some more modern items you have at home.

The fact that Satsumaware is made from clay and earth means that they have generally thicker "walls" and the material will not allow a "ring" when tapped.  You can test your Satsuma piece yourself to see if it will produce a high pitched round when tapped.  If you get a dull sound, then you are more likely to have a genuine piece.

What to do next.

If you are really stumped and can’t find the information you need, there are a few other options you have.

Get a cheap online valuation.

We have partnered with ValueMyStuff where you can get your Satsuma pieces or other antiques.  Read more about the service on our Satsuma Valuation Service page.

Join our Facebook page.

We discuss markings on our Facebook page and if you can send in a picture, I will give it my best shot to try and identify it.

Check other useful sites.

The excellent Gotheborg satsuma markings site is a brilliant resource and is a great place to look for pictures of markings on Satsuma pieces. It should be easy to compare your marking with the ones there.

If you are feeling brave, use the Kanji by radicals site to construct the Japanese symbols and try to work out the meaning yourself.

Get some good Satsuma pottery books.

There are a number of good books at Amazon which are perfect for learning about Satsuma Pottery and identifying the piece you have. You can also check out our post of the best books to use to help you.

Join the Conversation


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  1. I have a full tea set with desert plates and the marking I have submitted. My grandmother always told us this was an Irish Tea set. I believe our relatives just brought it to America from Ireland. Clearly this is not Irish. Can you tell me anything about the mark or where to research it. Thanks.

  2. I have Two objects the first is a small satsuma bowl decorated inside and out with tree branches leaves and pink blossoms in gold fillea 3inches high and a diameter of 4 inches. A stamp in gold block is marked with the maker or manafacturers name William Rae: the road Kore: made in Japan. When struck it gives a dull sound. The second piece is a small vase 7incches in height again with tree branches in gold fillea and pink blossoms wit and ah 5at the bottom of th vase A white dove gold etching for wing and tail and a pidgeon coloured blue/green with similar gold etchings. There is a hole at the bottom of this vase
    , perhaps for drainage. When struck it gives of a dull sound and has no visible markings of maker; Any ideas on these two??

  3. I have a porcelain moriage (?) coffee/tea set with vivid blue and marriage dragon. My father brought it back after being in Korea and Japan. The markings say tori inside of an archway or gate

  4. Hi, I have in my care 2 vases I suspect are of some value. I have photos of them, from the early 60s also. They have lids, with dragons on, sadly, they are both cracked and have previous, old repairs. I can’t see a makers mark. Or any English words. They do have an amazing ringing sound. Really quite lovely in fact. They stand 18 inches tall without the lids. With lids, around 24 inches. They are beautifully illustrated. With lots of gold. I do have photos. I wondered if anyone can help me?


    1. Hi Karen. Thanks for getting in touch. I am no expert, so would not be able to advise you on what these are, especially if there are no markings. It sounds like they have been well cared for over the years though. Perhaps try an online antiques valuation service?

  5. I have a pair of Japanese Satsuma vases flat sides 3-1/2″ wide at the bottom and 4-3/4″ at the top they stand 14″ high they are painted with Dragons and mostly men’s faces but there are 4 ladies faces on each one. They have the dull sound when tapped a painted signature and the circle with the cross inside. There is also a label on the bottom of one about the size of a postage stamp which as a bit missing you can make out first line is a No 10- – – the second line starts with Made but that is all you can see. The vases were brought by my wife’s Granddad in India when he went out in 1910 as a drummer boy with the 2nd Battalion the Black Watch. Any information would be greatly appreciated. We also have two matching plates.

    1. Hi Kevin – hard to say without seeing any images of the items. I know it is only a sticker, but any piece with “Made in xxxx” on will mean that it is a more modern piece.

  6. A friend has two Satsuma ( I believe) vases that are about 9 feet tall. They are white with lots of gold outlining the painting and there is a high pitched ring when they are tapped. I am not able to see any markings on the bottom as they are too heavy to move. Any idea about possible value?

  7. I have a beautiful vase i believe to be japanese antique, ive looked everywhere on sites and cant find its maker, could u tell me, ill send picture to you, thanks dorothy

  8. Question – I have a button converted into a pendant which has Genuine Satsuma and Japan printed/painted in gold on the back. I realize this removes it from being an antique but wondered if it still may be a true Satsuma. The button has the classic irises on it, it is 2 inches in diameter. We lived in Japan in the early 50’s so I don’t know if my mother purchased it there or whether it was acquired in the states (mom and grandmother were avid dressmakers, etc.)

    1. Hi Eugene. The older pieces were normally marked with the makers name or place/company. If it is not marked, it could be a more modern piece or part of a larger set of items (however, those usually had a number on to denote the position in the display).

  9. I have a satsuma (I think) incense burner, it has 3 symbol marks, in gold. Need your expertise on this one. It’s in my possession for 35+ years.

    1. Hello Ven. I have never seen an incense burner before. I suspect it would be a more modern piece.

  10. I have a vase/piece with legs that was brought over from Germany during the war. Intricate design,writings on bottom are in gold. Lid has dog/dragon on top. Would love someone to authenticate it.

  11. Hi. Im not a collector of porcelain or earthenware, but lately I received three vases: two very old Delft vases, that I plan to sell, as they are real antiques and in perfect condition, and one Satsuma. But: the Satsuma vase is damaged (!). And as I know, damaged items are normally not worth to keep. So I actually dont need a valuation, but I would like to get an advice: shall I throw the damaged Satsuma vase away, or is it worth keeping? All I know about the vase: it has no mark at all and it definitely is earthenware and not porcelain. So I ask myself, if it is a mass produced vase or a genuine antique piece. In the latter case I would probably not throw it away.

    1. It depends on how badly it is damaged I guess! Probably worth keeping in my opinion, but yes, it will affect it’s value.

  12. I have a large vase. The pattern has little raised dots all over it, with almost a quilt pattern and pink roses and gold handles at the top , with a small mouth. The mark on the bottom says “made in China, SATSUMA” in red letters.Can you tell me any thing about it?

    1. Hi Beth – any item with English writing on, such as “Made In China” or even “Satsuma” is probably not worth much. Proper antiques only have hand painted marks in Japanese text and without any English at all. I suspect you have one of the mass-produced pieces that were made in the Satsuma style when it became popular.

  13. Hi i have two peices of royal satsuma with the marks you show above the shimazu mark one is an egg about 6or 7 inches high and the other is like a trinket box about 7inch by 4inch and has very nice pictures and raised bumps over the whole box and egg was wondering if they are worth anything abd they are both in perfect condition no chips scratches or marks on them would be thankful if you could give me any info

  14. Hi there! Just stumbled upon this in my grandmothers house! I don’t think it is antique after reading your website but any info would be appreciated!

  15. Hi
    I have 2 of what I tho k are satsuma mini vases they are only about 4in tall.
    One has a dig a tyre on the bottom and one has just some lines. I don’t have Facebook to upload any pictures. I would just like to know what the writing says.
    Have you got email I can send some pictures to show

  16. Hi,
    Actually I have a beautiful pair of satsuma ,
    But I couldn’t find any mark at the bottom
    Please inform me about the price
    Thank you so much in advance