Wedgwood jasperware: solid jasper or jasper dip?

wedgwood jasper cupid psyche 18th century
Wedgwood jasperware plaque with Cupid & Psyche marriage from Greek mythology, 1770s. Photo by ego technique.

Jasper dip and solid jasper are two different kinds of Wedgwood jasperware. Both have white classical designs on a coloured background, and look similar to non-experts. If in doubt you are always safe calling this style of pottery jasperware.

Solid jasper came first. After secret experiments in the early 1770s, blending clays with other ingredients, Wedgwood produced a range of hard stoneware with an unglazed, matt blue or slate-coloured finish, and white scenes, figures and motifs in a neo-classical style. Most of the designs were carefully sculpted copies of classical Roman or Greek ceramics – pottery in “antique form” as it was called then.

green jasperware teapot 1790
Jasper dip teapot c1790 with relief decoration using a design by Elizabeth Templetown. Photo by Maia C.

The colour was incorporated in the basic mix for solid jasper. This formula was expensive to manufacture and Wedgwood soon developed an alternative – the jasper dip, or surface jasper. This was a way of tinting only the visible surface, leaving backs and insides un-coloured. As well as light Wedgwood blue, colours used for jasper dip during this period included deep blue, lilac, olive, light green, black, pink, and yellow.

White ornamention was made in a mould, then attached to the coloured vases, tableware, portrait medallions etc. This so-called “sprigging” technique was already familiar to potters of the time.

The Cupid and Psyche marriage scene in the first photograph was produced in different sizes, from a small cameo ring to a substantial over-the-fireplace panel. Wedgwood wall plaques in this style fit well into Georgian interiors with white plasterwork ornamenting coloured walls and ceilings.

wedgwood jasperware jewelry brooches
Jasperware cameos - brooches and other small decorative pieces - being made on a 21st century workbench at the Wedgwood pottery in Stoke-on-Trent. Photo by Sunil.

Jasperware was probably Josiah Wedgwood’s most successful creation, imitated by Sèvres and Meissen, and despite going out of fashion for part of the 19th century is still made and appreciated  today. When people say ‘Wedgwood’ or ‘Wedgwood china’ they may well be thinking of this particular kind of pottery with its distinctive white scenes on unglazed colour.

…a fine-grained white stoneware for the ‘sprigs’or bas-reliefs…applied to small background tablets which he coloured blue with a cobalt stain. This blue Jasper has become Wedgwood’s most famous product…
…some had just a ‘blue dip’ because the cost of the cobalt was so high; another, solid Jasper, had the blue colour throughout…
Robert Copeland, Wedgwood Ware


Photographers credited in captions. Links to originals here:
Cupid and Psyche plaque, teapot, workbench with small jasperware.
More picture info here


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