Discover Vintage America - APRIL 2020

Ironstone dish set traced to prominent 19th century importer

Q: I have these china dishes that were left to my husband and myself by my father-in-law who just passed at 98. They belonged to his grandmother or great-grand- mother. They area t least 125 to 150 years old. I cannot figure out who made them. There is a shield with a lion and the word Karlsbad, I can also make out Bavaria and the letters BDB. Can you help?

A: What you have is ironstone, often called white granite ware, and not porcelain or china. Ironstone was intended for everyday use due to it being sturdier and more durable than porcelain or china.

The mark or back stamp on your pieces are that of Bawo & Dotter, which began oper-ating in New York as an import company in 1860. They imported fine china and trinkets from all over Europe with a heavy focus on the Limoges region of France.

Around 1870, they opened a decorating house in Limoges and purchased only the finest porcelains from Europe to decorate and ship back to New York to sell to the public. By this time, they had opened several retail stores in America. They also expanded their European interests by purchasing other porcelain factories and decorating houses. They were in Bavaria (Germany), Austria, Limoges (France), Czechoslovakia, and their original firm in Bohemia.

The city of Carlsbad is spelled “Karlsbad” in German. It was the center of the Bohemian porcelain industry before World War I. Bavaria indicates the factory where the pieces were made and decorated.

After all these years in the industry I have yet to uncover why Bawo & Dotter uses BDB in their marks. I know that Bawo & Dotter had a partner
for a number of years and assume that the extra “B” designates the partner, but I have not been able to find out the name of the partner.

Bawo & Dotter have several marks; including
Elite and Limoges. They also used the double line shield surrounding a lion, and the picture of St. Martial from the seal of the City of Limoges. So, when identifying a Bawo & Dotter piece you need to look at all aspects of the mark to help you determine where it was made and who decorated it.

As for value, the creamer and sugar would sell for $75, the coffee pot $125 and the platter around $60 - $75. These prices are for pieces in excellent condition with no chips or cracks.

Michelle Staley is a Lenexa, KS-based dealer and researcher with 35 years of experience in the antique trade. Send questions with photos to Michelle to Please keep queries to one question; questions without photos of the item may not be answered. Michelle is also available for consulting and extensive research work beyond this column. If you would like an appraisal on an antique or collectible please go to for a one-on-one appraisal.