Q. I inherited this serving set. My father was in the Navy and stationed in Japan during the 1950’s and may have bought it there. It is marked “Hand Painted Kutani Yamazaki.” Underneath it is stamped “Made in Japan.” How old is it and what is it worth?
A. Your “Lazy Susan Set” or “relish tray” was made circa 1945. The United States Customs Bureau required all goods be marked “Japan” or “Made in Japan” as of August 1, 1921. Prior to this, there were still stamps, but all Japanese goods were stamped “Nippon.” At the time, paper labels did not adhere well enough to ceramics so they were stamped in indelible ink to make it through customs.
No ceramics were imported from Japan to the United States during World War II (1941 to 1945). From 1945 until 1952 (when your father was most likely stationed there), ceramics were imported with stamps of “Japan” or “Made in Occupied Japan.” In 1952, the stamps returned to “Made in Japan” but were on paper labels due to the advances in adhesives which kept the labels on the ceramics well enough to satisfy the Customs Bureau.
Kutani porcelain has been made since the mid 1600’s. The name “Kutani” is not for a specific factory but a region in Japan where there is a natural abundance of kaolin which is a necessary ingredient in making porcelain. Most ceramics from this region are made for the export market.
This set would sell for around $25-$30.
Karen Waterman is a fine art, antique furniture and decorative arts appraiser in the East Bay area and will answer as many questions about your own “hidden treasures” as possible. By sending a letter or email with a question, you give full permission for use in the column. Names, addresses or e-mail will not be published and photos will be returned if requested. Send e-mails (digital photos are encouraged) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Send snail mail to East Bay Newspapers, attn. Karen Waterman, P.O.Box 90, Bristol, RI 02809.