Q: My husband inherited a set of china that belonged to his grandmother. Is this "flow blue"? I love the china but don't want to use it for fear of chipping or breaking it. Of course it has sentimental value, but if it isn't worth much I will go ahead and use it occasionally and enjoy it instead of simply displaying a few pieces on our hutch. Most of the plates have some crackling on the surface and some staining. Does that reduce the value? This is the mark on the bottom.
A: Blue transfer designs have been used since the 18th century. In the early 19th century, some pieces were made using a dark blue that would "run" or "flow." Collectors call the dishes "flow blue." Your set of china was made by W.H. Grindley & Co. of Tunstall, Staffordshire, England. The company was in business from 1880 to 1991. This mark was used from 1891 to 1914. Crackling in the glaze can happen because of heat or just from age. Stains or cracks will lower the value. We think people should enjoy their collections, so if you want to use the china for special occasions, just be sure to wash it by hand. Don't put it in the dishwasher because the heat may cause the glaze to pop off. A soup tureen like yours is worth about $150.