Don't Be Fooled: 10 ways to Spot Fake Chinese Porcelains - Bear and Raven Antiques

Don't Be Fooled: 10 ways to Spot Fake Chinese Porcelains

19th C Porcelain Guan Yin

Chinese porcelain is a fascinating and complex subject with a history of over two thousand years. It is admired for its beauty, craftsmanship, and symbolism and reflects China's rich and diverse cultural heritage. 

But not all Chinese porcelain is created equal. 

Unfortunately, the market is flooded with fakes and forgeries made to deceive unsuspecting buyers and collectors. 

These fakes can range from crude copies to sophisticated replicas that mimic genuine pieces' style, shape, glaze, decoration, and marks.

According to Peter Combs,of, less than 5% of the Chinese porcelains offered over eBay are authentic. 

Furthermore, many Chinese ceramics are reproduced to closely emulate originals. Sometimes these reproductions are not necessarily produced to deceive, but nevertheless they aren’t usually worth the value of the originals.

Worst of all, getting your money back is nearly impossible. In fact, it might cost more trying to reclaim your than what you spent. 

Luckily, there are ways to help you spot the true pieces from their forgeries. 

Join us as we delve into the secrets of authenticating Chinese porcelain, unveiling hidden clues that separate authentic treasures from mere replicas.


How to Spot Fake or Reproduction Chinese Ceramics? 

There is no simple answer to this question, as different types of porcelain require different authentication methods. 

The best method is to handle Chinese antiques regularly and develop a feel for them. 

However, some general guidelines can help you identify the fakes more confidently and accurately. 

So, read these tips before you pull out your checkbook to add another exquisite piece to your collection. 


Scrutinize the Seller


Before you even consider parting with your money, look closely at the seller. Knowing more about the business will help you determine whether it’s an authentic or scam company.

  1. Do a Google search and see if any reviews come up about the seller. Also, consider how the reviews are written, as they can be faked. 
  2. Look at the website - does it look trustworthy or “slapped” together?
  3. View their past sales and auctions; is it a new or very small and mostly unknown auction house with regular and big events? Chances are it sells fakes. 
  4. Look at the other items the shop has for sale. Do they appear of good quality and to be authentic? 
  5. See what kind of contact information they have available - a physical address is a good sign but keep in mind that not disclosing a physical address isn’t always a red flag. For example, many collector/sellers, including Bear & Raven Antiques, do not have a brick and mortar location and so don’t post their address publicly. Nevertheless, they should have other ways to reach them, including a working phone number.
  6. Don’t just accept the address at face value; look up the address and use a street viewer to get a better idea of the shop. Yes, some places might double up as more than one venue, i.e., someone selling out of their residential home, but generally, there’ll be information about their shop online.You might also want to confirm the posted phone number to make sure it’s still working and that it is in fact that of the business.
  7. Visit review sites, like Bidamount, to see if and how they rate the seller or the auction house. 
  8. Contact the company for more information about their business and the piece. 


Ponder the Price

Fake Yuan jar
Authentic Yuan jar
Source: Christies
Modern reproduction of Chinese Yuan Dynasty Period, blue and white Phoenix porcelain jar, estimate $600 to $900.It was misrepresented as an authentic example. An authentic example like this one would be worth in the $350,000 to over a million dollars


As with most things, price plays an important role when scouring for Chinese porcelain. Compared to the prices of other items from that period or dynasty, where does the piece’s price fall? Is it similar, a LOT cheaper, or more expensive? Generally, the rule of thumb is if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Yes, getting something for a bargain is beyond delightful, but if it’s fake, it’s value is purely decorative. High quality reproductions (say Republic Period reproductions of Kangxi pieces) often still have value, but make sure you’re not paying the price of the original Kangxi piece. 

Don’t only rely on price alone, though, as some scammers will inflate their prices to deceive buyers and collectors. Also, sometimes dealers might themselves be fooled and think they have an authentic piece. This goes back to securitizing the dealer.

Read the Description

Read the product description carefully. What is being said, and what is left out? Ensure you are comfortable with the information provided and that it’s legitimate. 

  1. Is most of the description and all the pictures the provenance of the “owner”? These tend to be completely true. Unfortunately, the piece rarely belonged to that person.
  2. Do they include the period in which the piece was made?
  3. How do they name and describe the piece, e.g., “A Magnificent Yuan Blue and White Jar, Guan” (real), or just “blue and white phoenix porcelain jar (fake)”? When it’s non-descriptive, technically, it’s you making an assumption when buying the piece. 
  4. Do they show and describe the piece's appearance in detail, including close-ups of the imagery, cracks, and base? The more information they provide about the piece, the bigger the chances it is authentic. 

Examine the Piece

Qianlong Copy  Authentic 18th Century Hexagonal vase with Rococo-style flowers at the Met in New York Another authentic Qianlong hexagonal vase
Very recent (as in probably 21st C) copy of a pair of Qianlong vases. We’ve seen the exact vases show up in multiple sites including eBay, Invaluable and at auction,

Authentic 18th Century Hexagonal vase with Rococo-style flowers at the Met in New York

Source:The Metropolitan Museum of NY

Another authentic 18th C Hexagonal vase



Most importantly, examine the piece. It’s not always easy, as screens and photos can distort the displayed imagery, but you’ll get a decent idea of the piece. 

A great way to determine if a piece is authentic is to research it. Look on the internet, read books, visit museums or auction houses. Compare the piece you’re considering with other known pieces of that era and dynasty.  

There are several factors to consider when determining the authenticity of Chinese porcelain

Consider the following: 

  1. Do the shape, style of the decoration, and other characteristics match known authentic pieces of the era?  
  2. Is the imagery stiff or do they evoke a strong sense of motion and life? The dragons or bats on authentic Qianlong pieces, for example, seem to be almost alive. Many Republic or later pieces feel flat and stiff. That said, there are some incredible well-done pieces from Republic Period or even the past 30 years. They deserve to be collected and displayed, but they shouldn’t be identified - or priced - as authentic. 
  3. Is the porcelain biscuit bright white, or does it have a yellow tone? Kangxi paste was extremely white and refined. The paste used in the late Qing and Republic periods often shows many more impurities.
  4. Does the white glaze have a blue tone, or is it a bright true white? The blue tone results from the cobalt interaction with the glaze, which you should expect to see in many older pieces; too white glaze could indicate a modern piece. 
  5. Examine the shades of enamels used. Is the color of the cobalt you see consistent with the cobalt used at the time? The prevalent source for the cobalt used to make the blue in blue and white porcelain changed over time. The color of overglaze enamels also changed from period to period.
  6. Does the foot match the style of foot from the period?
  7. Look closely at the porcelain or reign mark, usually found on the base. Does it match known pieces from authenticated pieces from the same period? Quite often, the marks on reproductions aren’t completely consistent.


Providing history to the prospective buyers about who owned the item or where and where it was might have been sold previously is very important for Chinese ceramics. This is especially true for rare and very expensive pieces. If a piece can be shown to have been sold at an auction many years ago - especially by a well-regarded auction house or collected by a collector that became well-known for building a great collection, buyers feel more confident in the authenticity of the piece. 

Unfortunately, old collector labels are being reproduced digitally, and labels are sometimes transferred from one piece to another. Major auction house labels with lot numbers get moved from inexpensive items to very expensive looking items. You can't always trust the labels. Again, scrutinize the dealer closely.

If you see an extremely rare object and NO provenance, be very concerned. Do not talk yourself into the bidding.

Ask an Expert


Lastly, if you need more clarification about authenticating Chinese porcelain, always consult an expert or a reputable appraiser before you buy. 

Bear and Raven specializes in Asian antiques and collectibles and are CAGA Certified Appraisers. Besides being dealers, we’re also long-time collectors. We are happy to help you with any questions or inquiries about the authenticity of Chinese porcelain or other antiques and collectibles.

Visit us today to see our collection of genuine and exquisite Asian antiques and collectibles. 

Don't let fakes ruin your passion for antiques!

Please Be sure to subscribe to our blog because, over the next few months, we plan to go into much more detail about many of the topics we discussed in this post. 

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