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

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.

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

Check what language is written on your Satsuma

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.

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 "Made In China" 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.

These are some examples of fake satsuma markings that our readers have sent in. They don't all have to use English writing in. You can see that some look "stamped" or printed rather than hand-painted.

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.

Satsuma with no markings on - are they fake too?

If your Satsuma piece has no markings on at all, then it will be harder to prove it is a genuine antique. You will have to resort to checking the quality of the painting, the "ring" of the porcelain and check the provenance of the item.

In my experience, I haven't seen many valuable antique pieces of Satsuma that don't have markings on. So if you think you have something worth money, get it checked by a reputable antique dealer in your area.

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.