Are You A Satsuma Pottery Expert? Or How To Spot A Fake

An example of a real Satsuma marking. Note the Shimazu crest at the top (circle with a cross)

The team and I get plenty of emails from readers of this site asking us to look at their Satsuma Pottery and tell them the value, the history and anything about it we can.

The only problem is, that 80% of these messages are met with the same reply:

"I'm sorry to say that this piece is not a real Satsuma antique, it is a mass-produced copy, probably not even made in Japan"

Being able to determine which item is real and which is a copy or fake is not an easy task. You will need to be able to find the marking on the item and confirm that it is the real deal and not a copy.

A great rule of thumb is to remember that all original pieces made in the Satsuma region of Japan do not have any english words on them. The artists and makers always signed the pieces with their names and often the word Satsuma, but never in english. They also commonly show the image associated with the emperor of the time, a circle with a cross through it.

An example of a copied Vase or jar in the Satsuma style

So remember, if you are looking at purchasing a Satsuma Vase or something similar, turn it over and look at the marking on the bottom.

If it says "Royal Satsuma" or something similar, you know it is not an antique. The pieces that were copies are very beautiful and look very nice and there is nothing wrong with owning one. It will cost you substantially less than other originals too.

You will also need to remember to look for the crackled glaze and the off white or creamy coloring of the pottery underneath. The images are also important too and you should look for traditional Japanese people such as Geisha girls, immortals or plants and animals. Anything contemporary will show that the piece is a copy.

Do you have any tips for our readers on spotting fakes or copies of Satsuma Pottery?

You might also be interested in our list of books to help you find out about the Satsuma markings.

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  1. Image

    Thank you for a most helpful post. I have been stumped by this Satsuma four sided vase which was given to my great aunt in the 1930s. Do you have any insight about the mark as well the piece itself? The other three sides are traditional life scenes. Two sides highlight women and two sides highlight men . . . It stands about 6.5″ high. Thanks!

  2. I have a medium size covered vase I bought at the good will.., it has no markings on the base or lid? Its hand painted greenish glace with ill fitting lid.. very ornate.
    Do the jars ever come with with out a stamp? or symbol?

  3. Hello we have a satsuma dragon tea set 12 cups and saucers milk jug sugar bowl tea pot the marking on the bottom have made in japan written in english a circle with cross inside a trident symbol and a asian marking i gather they are not antique but in excellent condition would they be of much value on ebay

  4. I have what appears to be a satsuma porcelain lamp. Not sure of the value of my lamp, can you help?

    1. Hi Donna. I did leave you a reply to your previous comment. If it is a real antique and has been made into a lamp, it will not be worth much as it has been damaged. You can either find a local antique dealer who will be able to advise you or use the online service we recommend (link at the very top of the page).

  5. I have a vase that reads in a kind of script on the bottom, Rayai Satauma Fre handpainted porceciain for decoration use only, with 20, 3 know it is not an antique but could not find any referee with this spelling. Am I missing something

    1. Hi John. Yes, it does sound like a more modern piece. I suspect this is just a case of some bad spelling in broken English – or some bad handwriting?

  6. I have 3 of these plates. 2 of which looks like the word satsuma is hand written in blue Ink. They are black and gold and some of gold is thick on plates. Do they sound real?

    1. Hi Carie. If the plate has the word “SATSUMA” on (in English) then it is not an antique – it is most likely a mass produced copy.

  7. Just purchased this piece
    I like it . looking for any info on it you can help me with. Big big thank you

  8. I have a miniature satsuma vase with a red square shape but no writing. Is it posssible that the painted writing could have rubbed off?

  9. I’m hoping to find out more about a couple of vases I purchased. I believe them to be Satsuma pottery. They have very fine crackling and intricate designs. I was told the previous owner’s grandparents had them, making them at least 100 years old. The mark on them has a square with a cross through it rather than the circle with cross. It appears not to be a stamp since the two vases have slightly different marks. Can anyone recommend a place to send photos to have them evaluated? Thanks!

  10. Ok, I feel stupid. The mark on the bottom of my teapot is WAY off- it says “Royal Satusma made in China” and then the number 7. It’s still really pretty and I love it but what a letdown. Satusma. For heaven’s sake.

  11. just bought a used reproduction and In the middle i found a piece that instead of the made in Japanese write is a mark, i will like to send you a picture dont know how

  12. I purchased a Meiji era 3 tier square lunch box with no marks on the base. Fairly ornate blue design with bamboo, trees birds and what looks like Mt Fujiyama on lid with trees etc in foreground.

  13. I purchased a pottery dish. Meiji era. Trying to find the mark on base. Do you know if the mark is genuine please. It is quite simple in design. In Blue 3 lines, a dot above last line then a symbol like an elongated S.

  14. I’ve bought a satsuma vase if I was to post a picture on here could you tell me a little about it…thank you very much

    1. Hi Jim – Sorry, I totally missed the auction and can’t see the signature – were you able to sell the vase in the end?

  15. I just acquired a vase at an auction. Was hoping you could tell me about the marks but i cannot attach or load a photo in the comment.

    1. Hi Renata – you can paste a link to the photo if you can upload it somewhere else.
      Alternatively, you can log into our Facebook page and upload it there?

  16. Dear group, i would like a question, what do you say about satsuma pottery without any mark ( unmarked )? tks you

  17. So I was in an antique store today and saw what I thought was a Satsuma Tea Pot it had all the markings, like the geishas, and the fu dogs for the handle, spot, and top. On the bottom it was stamped in english Satsuma. While I know this is an old reproduction at least 50 years old, my question are those worth a fair bit of money? The one I saw was priced at $300.

    1. With any older item, the amount you pay can vary depending on the size, quality, condition or who it was even owned by. I have also seen Satsuma pieces sell for a lot of money, despite them being reproduction types.

  18. Get ready to laugh: I bought a small vase at a garage sale that said “Made In China”–But that wasn’t what was laughable. I’ve seen “Made In China” Satsuma vases sell for pretty good money! This vase that I bought, in addition to “Made In China” actually said “Satsoma!” Lol!!!!

    1. πŸ™‚ good story Marsha.
      I guess with some of these items, the beauty (and value) is in the eye of the beholder.
      Some people like to buy replica vases just because they are lovely (and also cheaper than an original!)

  19. Hello, we found a Satsuma style tea cup and saucer at a thrift store one time. We were in love with the style and the fact that they are hand painted. We are unsure if these are genuine though. The dishes seem very old, with an odd creamy color and crackles all over. Whether or not they are genuine they are still beautiful, but we would love to know if they are genuine. I have a picture of them. We are very curious if they are true satsuma pieces.

  20. I have two small figures that are around 3 cm high and decorated with minute patterend coats. One is holding a theatre mask and the other a book and brush. The glaze is finely crackled. The underside is in yellowish-pink earthenware. On the underside one of the figures has a sign with two small intersecting circles carved in it and the other two short lines with a third line crossing the two lines. There are also several small black hand-writings, which I assume are Japanese, beside these carved signs although I have absolutely no idea of what is written. Unfortunately both have broken necks and the brim of the hat of the ‘scholar’ is severely damaged. I think they might be real Satsuma figures but I’m really not an expert in the field at all. What do you think?

  21. Hi, I have a egg not sure on what kind it is. It has gasha girls and a man on a river, with what looks like their house and mountains in the background. Divided by a band of gold dots and very blue background with flowers and gold rivers . . But there are no markings what so ever on it . Does not ring when tapped. Similar image searches have led me to belive it be Satsuma ?

    1. Hi Jenifer.
      The odd thing about Satsuma Eggs is that you don’t see them when you see the older items made by the original makers – so I suspect they are replicas.
      This would be even more true seeing as there are no markings.

  22. Hi,
    I found a vase about 8 inches tall, bulb shape with branches and flower dots out lined in yellow and green dot leaves. It has a kinkozan tsukuru red mark in a red square above the word NIPPON also in red. You can feel the mark but it is flat not shiny. The item itself is all crackle glaze. It also has dots on the top rim and all the decorations are raised. Is the mark supposed to be under the glaze or shiny to be authentic? Thanks Jaci

    1. Hi Jaci – The marking should be under the glaze (although not all the time) and as the are usually hand painted marks, they are not usually raised.

      However, if the vase has the word NIPPON (in English) then I suspect it will be a more modern replica of a Satsuma piece. Does it look like NIPPON is printed on?

  23. Hi. Please please assist. I have a beautiful vase clearly and stunningly handpainted. However , I cannot see any markings. Where can I still look? We need to sell desperately and need to know if this will have some kind of value.

  24. Hi there, I am planning this pair of vases and these are pictures of one vase . Can any body shed light if this is a genuine piece and what it would be worth ? thanks.

  25. Hi I have come across the egg pictured, it’s only markings are on the bottom and it reads Sasuma it is 9″ high and certain parts of the finish are like brail and it looks to be gold but I know nothing the bottom is white with a hole centered and maybe someone knows if I found a long lost piece of history

  26. hi i bought a vase with marking i cannot find anywhere on the net please could somebody help me thank you

  27. did Satsuma Pottery every have images on the inside of the work? like i have a bowl/vase not sure what to call it but it has fish on the inside….

  28. I have a small plate (7″) with eight figures that looks extremely similar to your bowl, John. It is hand-thrown and decorated, perhaps by the same hands as yours. I wish I knew more about it including its value. Thoughts?

  29. I have a piece I would call a ewer or a jug. Very pretty scenes & intricate decoration. Crackled. Gold on inside of handle is worn. My problem is that there is no mark whatsoever on the bottom. No modern printing. No hand written characters. I have not found any references to ‘no marks at all’ & feel stuck. My grandmother owned this piece. She lived from 1887-1960. I acquired it in 1992 from my parents’ estate. Help?

  30. Here is an image of the bowl in question – it was purchased in an antique store in East Africa in 1951.

  31. Can anyone shed some light on the markings in the picture? I will upload a copy of the bowl in my next post.

  32. Hi I inherited a pair of what I believe are satsuma vase, they are mirror images of each other and have a cracked glaze over them and clay is a yellowish colour. They where my grandads who obtained them when he was in the merchant navy possibly around the 1920s as he died when my father was 4. They have hand painted marks on the bottom as they not the same size so not printed on, they have a landscape on one side and a man and woman on the other, black in colour with raised told outlines. Could you tell me if they are genuine and roughly what year these are from and if possible any information that you can , thanks LIZ

  33. Hi,
    I have 2 vases that I am unsure about. I shall add some pictures. Are they genuine or mass produced please?

  34. Hi I Java I.have a satsuma it says on the bottom hand painted satsuma 4 it looks hand written but would not think a foreigner wrote it I have had this since the late 70tees

  35. I have a vase which I have been told is a Satsuma pre-ww2. It is about 20 inces tall and has images of geisha’s on it and other detail. The painted gold on it feels ‘bumpy’. Could this be genuine and of any value?

    1. Hi Amy.
      Yes, it might be genuine – however, we would need to see images of the vase and specifically any markings on the bottom. You can post them here or over at our Facebook Page.

        1. Hi Amy – thanks for posting those images.
          I would say that it is not a genuine antique, based on the fact that it has no recognisable marking from one of the “old masters” (so to speak).

          However, it is more likely to be a more modern reproduction piece, which were made in a mass-market fashion in the 1940’s.

  36. I have a vase that I acquired about 35 years ago. There is no English,and the only markings on the bottom is a column of oriental markings with the cross inside a circle. The images depicted are of Asian men mostly and a few Asian females, just the heads. They are very detailed with various expressions. Could this be genuine?

  37. I’m rather flustered. I have what I believe is a repro Satsuma trinket box, with “Han dpainted Royal Satsuma” stamp on it followed with some oriental characters. No where does it say “Made in China” which is what people are saying to look out for. The glaze on the bottom is creamy/ivory and is crackled…like crazing. The figures on the top are a samurai and several “geisha” type women apparently being wooed by the man. I see “not top” workmanship, but the piece is nice and I do enjoy it. I’ve been hearing about “New Satsuma” that is sort of a read deal though…like newer pieces. Is that even a possibility? The thing is, I bought it because I liked it. It was only $20, so nothing ventured, right?

    1. Hi there – yes it sounds to me like you have some sort of more modern piece of “Satsuma style” pottery. Pretty much anything with English words on will be a reproduction or a piece that was mass produced.

      However, if you like it then that is best – they can’t all be valuable antiques πŸ™‚