Flow-Blue China | Vintage Blue and White Dishes

Flow Blue is a highly-collectible, antique blue-and-white china. During the Victorian era, in the 1800s, was when this vintage dishware was most popular.

blue and white antique china sitting on a wooden tray

I absolutely LOVE antique dishes. I can’t even begin to tell you how many I have …because I don’t even know! I have them stashed away in so many places in my house that it’s kind of a problem…I forget what I have! haha.

I just can’t help myself though when I’m at an antique store and find something so beautiful and unique. Especially when the pieces are just so stunning…and from the 1800s!! That’s always a win in my book since my home was built in 1886!

The Victorian era is simply my favorite. I love fancy and lots of details! I feel like the Victorians were over the top with a lot of things, but at the same time, put so much attention and detail into making something so exquisitely unique and beautiful…something I feel is extremely lacking these days!

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Antique Flow Blue China from the Victorian Era in the 1800s
Antique Flow Blue China from the Victorian Era in the 1800s
Antique Flow Blue China from the Victorian Era in the 1800s
Antique Flow Blue China from the Victorian Era in the 1800s

What is Flow Blue China and How Is It Made?

Flow blue china is actually china created using a technique called transferware. During the late 18th century, the wealthy in England sought after Chinese porcelain that showcased beautiful, hand painted, rich blue patterns on white backgrounds.

Per the website Hobby Lark “It took over 100 years for English potters to duplicate the salt-glazed earthenware that created the brilliant white background, along with the application of cobalt oxide that made the Oriental blue patterns so attractive.

In the late 1700s, English potters created a technique for imprinting a design on china called transferware:

  • A copper plate is engraved with a design and heated.
  • Cobalt oxide is applied onto the engraved copper plate.
  • Damp tissue paper is then applied to the engraved copper plate.
  • The tissue is lifted off the copper plate and then applied onto the pottery.
  • The pottery piece is placed in water so that the tissue paper floats off.

There is some contention about the exact origin of Flow Blue. Some sources claim that the coloring agent diffused by accident, allowing the cobalt oxide to slightly bleed outside of the lines of the design. Other sources say that the diffusion was intentional in order to soften the edges of the pattern. Perhaps it was an accident at first, with the result being so pretty that the practice became more common.”

The Blurred Look of Flow Blue China

Whether or not the blurred look was intentional, it’s one of the main ways to identify Flow Blue china. Many pieces have much more blurring than others. In fact, one side of one of my tea cups looks completely different than the other because there is more blurring.

Antique Flow Blue China from the Victorian Era in the 1800s

Flow Blue China Became More Affordable and Available

With the creation of Flow Blue, this beautiful chinaware became more affordable and available to the Victorian class. At first, the designs used on the Flow Blue resembled that of the hand painted designs from the imported Asian porcelain, with such patterns as temples and pagodas, but over time, the designs were modified to the liking of the Victorian era and romantic floral patterns and scenes that showcased European life were introduced.

Flow Blue Today

Flow Blue china is hard to come by. It can be found online on eBay and sometimes Etsy. On occasion you may find a piece or two at a local antique store. If the seller knows it’s worth, the pieces may be a bit pricey. Obviously, the better the condition of the piece, the higher the value. Same goes for any stamping or markings on the bottom of the pieces.

As a Flow Blue collector, I love when I happen to come across a piece of Flow Blue while visiting antique shops.

Many people like using solitary pieces to accent and highlight spaces in their home. Blue and white are making a popular comeback, so decorating with pieces that have a historical significance behind them is driving them to be more popular.

Antique Flow Blue China from the Victorian Era in the 1800s

How to Care for and Wash Flow Blue China

These pieces of beaautiful chinaware were created long before dishwashers were ever even thought of, so never place them in the dishwasher.

Hand wash all Flow Blue pieces with a mild dish soap and warm water. Let air dry or carefully hand dry with a towel. Be careful as the pieces are usually very dainty and delicate…and can slip easily out of your hands (I know, I now only have 3 whole tea cups instead of 4 – ugh!)

Antique Flow Blue China from the Victorian Era in the 1800s

One Comment

  1. Leslie Watkins says:

    I have never heard of this china! How gorgeous. Love the history, Stephanie!

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