Japanese Dragonware

DragonwareJapanese Dragonware is exotic.  The designs are often well detailed and simply put, they are beautiful. Does it mean though, that if a piece of ceramic has a dragon on it, that it is known as Dragonware?


True Dragonware is Moriage pottery and has been made since the late 1800s in Japan. In order to understand what is Dragonware and what is not, we first have to understand what Moriage pottery is.

It is defined ‘to pile up’ or ‘to heap on’. Slip is used to create the raised decoration. Slip is a thick mixture of clay and water. Also, Moriage pottery is not glazed so it has a matte finish.

Dragonware Tea CupThe original Dragonware was originally made in the late 1800s. Although the over all style has not changed with the years there have been some changes that do help determine the age of the piece. The original designs were quite ornate and the dragon design would literally wrap around the entire ceramic piece.The eyes were glass beads and often there was enamel work done around the edges.

As time passed the glass eyes disappeared.  The ornateness was toned down.  The size of the dragon was diminished. Still beautiful pieces but not quite up to the standards of the original.

Modern Dragonware is made for the souvenir industry and the workmanship is poor.  You will not have to “study” the piece, it will be painfully obvious.Dragonware Tea Set

In order to get a handle on the approximate age of the piece, study it.  Start with marks. If it is marked Nippon is 1891 – 1921. Dragonware that is marked Made in Occupied Japan dates from 1946 – 1947. If it is just marked Made in Japan then you will need to take a closer look at the design to help in determining age.

If the design has enamel as well and is not marked Nippon, I would definitely date it pre-WWII. In fact it is probably turn of the century. If the dragon wraps around the whole piece, again, pre-WWII. If design is high end but only is on one side of the object, then it is probably post-WWII. Items that are of poor workmanship….oh, just leave those right where you found them.

Wedgwood Jasperware Jewelry CasketYellow Enamel Siam Sterling Quadrafoil Bracelet Wedgwood Jasperware Ring BoxAnchor Hocking Colonial Knife and Fork Pitcher

9 comments on “Japanese Dragonware

    • Fabulous collection of Dragonware Shawn! Thank you SO much for sharing. I did not know that there was a Dragonware FB page so I will have to check into that. You are welcome to post the link to the Facebook group here.

    • Can you tell me The Tag name of the Face Book page ? . I have tried to search under Dragonware but to no avail . I am very interested in having a look as I have recently purchased a tea set in Black Dragonware and would like to know a little more about it .

  1. after losing my hubby and fellow dragonware collector it is with sadness I have decided to sell my entire dragonware collection. LAST COUNT WAS OVER 350 Pieces of beautiful original dragonware. Just devideo to sell so I am really not prepared but I know I have to do this. Email with questions. I am into my advanced stages of MS so please be patient with me. I LIVE IN longview-tx 75601.

    • I’m sorry to hear that. That is just never an easy one.

      Oh my…really? Such a beautiful collection! Where will you be selling it at or are you planning to just find a dealer and sell it all in one fell swoop? If you put it online I would be happy to post a link on my blog for you so let me know what your plans are.

  2. I have a dragonware teaset ( teapot, sugar bowl, creamer and 3 cups and saucers ) that belonged to my mother. I am guessing it is vintage.
    They look like the handprinted grey Nippon set that I see a lot of but the markings on the bottom are different. There is a raised white star on the bottom and then a small picture and Made in Japan in red. I want to sell the set but do not know how to price it because I am not sure who made it or the year it was produced. I was hoping you could help me – I can email you a picture if that helps too. Thanks!

Leave a Reply