Inside the Archives: Delft Pottery Prices

Pair of Dutch Delft blue and white bottle vases, late 19th century, $6,300 via Susan Silver Antiques.

Captured in some of the most beloved Dutch paintings of the 17th century Golden Age, the city of Delft in the Netherlands is renowned for its legacy of pottery production that traces back centuries. Delft pottery is still in production today, but it is the maker’s antique ceramic wares that truly excite collectors. Made in an array of styles and formats, high quality antique Delftware works typically sell within the modest range of $3,000-$6,000, but the more rare and remarkable works can reach prices twenty times as much.

The Secret to Success

The secret to Delftware’s success was its use of tin glazing. The advantage of this glazing technique was that it allowed for a brilliant and uniform white surface – in short, a blank canvas – on which motifs and decorative elements could be painted. The English, the Spanish and the Italians had previously pioneered the tin glazing technique, and it was an Italian master by the name of Guido da Savino who brought the technique northward to the city of Antwerp. Setting up his own workshop in the early decades of the 16th century, da Savino helped to popularize the technique. It was not until the later half of the century, when Belgian potters migrated to the Netherlands to escape a Spanish invasion during the Eighty Years’ War, that the technique took off.

Delftware grew in acclaim in the early 17th century, with the number of prominent potters growing exponentially in response to demand. Their ceramic wares became sought-after thanks to their perfect pairing of painted blue motifs on the object’s clean white surface. This color choice was not coincidence: Dutch Delft potters were hoping to compete with rich blue color used in Asian ceramic wares, which were increasingly filtering into the western European market of the day. When Asian imports came to a virtual standstill in 1620, Dutch ceramic makers capitalized on that dearth by saturating the market with Delftware.

One of the most brilliant elements of Delftware pottery is the sheer diversity of its product line. Delft china, tiles, and vases are likely the forms that instantly come to mind, but over the course of Delftware’s centuries-long tenure, its makers experimented with a wide variety of forms, from elaborate tulipières and cisterns to vibrant, colorful polychrome pieces.

The dazzling appearance of Delftware pottery continues to capture the hearts of collectors today. To help those considering beginning or adding to a Delftware collection, below is a list of realized prices for Delftware from the Invaluable Price Archive that highlights some of the most characteristic examples in a range of styles and prices.

The Lure of London (or English) Delft

Some of the most coveted ceramic examples included within the Delftware tradition are those known as “London Delft” (or English Delft) pottery. So named because they originated from makers in London and its surrounding region, London Delftware celebrates the tin glazing tradition with striking, yet subtle, blue painted accents. Surviving examples of London Delftware are some of the oldest specimens available, making them also some of the expensive on the market.

1: A London Delft Dated Blue and White Candlestick

Christie’s, New York (24 January 2011)
Estimate: $70,000-$100,000
Realized Price: $146,500

2: A London Delft Dated Blue and White Goblet

Christie’s, New York (24 January 2011)
Estimate: $30,000-$50,000
Realized Price: $122,500

3: An important London Delft armorial moulded dish, circa 1649-1651

Bonhams, London (10 December 2008)
Estimate: £40,000-£60,000
Realized Price: £54,000

4: English Delft two-handed posset pot and cover

Pook and Pook, Downington, PA (28 September 2007)
Estimate: $8,000-$12,000
Realized Price: $42,120

5: English three part Delft fuddling cup, late 17th century

Pook and Pook, Downington, PA (28 September 2007)
Estimate: $6,000-$8,000
Realized Price: £11,700

6: London Delft Blue and White Plate, dated 1715

Northeast Auctions, Portsmouth, NH (22 February 2008)
Estimate: Unavailable
Realized Price: £11,115

7: A Dutch Delft Blue and White Plate, circa 1670-85

Christie’s, London (1 December 2015)
Estimate: Unavailable
Realized Price: £10,000


Polychrome Pieces

Delftware is immediately recognizable for its iconic blue color – so synonymous is the shade that it is known as “Delft Blue.” Delft blue decorations are classic, but even more elaborate are Delftware polychrome works. These pieces incorporate a wider array of colors to add vibrancy to their depicted stories and scenes. The stories that these ceramic pieces share, ranging from Biblical scenes to fantastical grotesques, add to their intrigue as much as their history does.

1: A London Delft Dated Polychrome Dish

Christie’s, New York (24 January 2011)
Estimate: $120,000-$180,000
Realized Price: $218,500

2: An English Delft polychrome dated royal commemorative mug

Christie’s, London (11 October 2002)
Estimate: $62,000-$93,000
Realized Price: $111,523

3: Early Delft Charger with Polychrome Rooster Decoration

Cottone Auctions, Geneseo, NY (5 October 2013)
Estimate: $200-$300
Realized Price: $22,500

4: A Dutch Delft asparagus box and cover, mid-18th century

Sotheby’s, New York (21 November 2014)
Estimate: $2,000-$3,000
Realized Price: $10,625


Vases, Bowls, and Jugs


Delftware vases and vessels of various sizes are a consistently in-demand collector’s item. Showcasing the rich Delft blue color that renders intricately designed motifs, Delftware vessels can range widely in price depending on element such as size, decorative complexity, and condition. Regardless of price point, though, an antique Delft vase or vessel is sure to complement any collection.

1: A Dutch Delft polychrome cistern, 18th century

Sotheby’s, New York (28 April 2007)
Estimated: $2,000-$3,000
Realized Price: $19,200

2: A large Dutch Delft blue and white urn and separate stand, late 19th century

Dreweatts & Bloomsbury, Newbury, UK (6 January 2015)
Estimated: £800-£1,200
Realized Price: £31,000

3: Large Dutch blue and white Delft punch bowl

Pook and Pook, Downington (26 September 2008)
Estimated: $15,000-$20,000
Realized Price: $11,115

4: A Pair of Delft Blue and White Tow Tier Tulipières

Christie’s, London (1 December 2015)
Estimated: $3,000-$5,000
Realized Price: $10,625

5:  A Dutch Delft Blue and White Octagonal Large Baluster Vase and Cover

Christie’s, London (1 December 2015)
Estimate: unavailable
Realized Price: £7,500

6: Delft Faience Vase and Cover, late 17th/early 18th century

Christie’s, Paris (16 October 2013)
Estimate: €1,500-€2,000
Realized Price: €6,000


Captivating Cisterns

As one of Delft’s more unique forms, cisterns proved to be an opportunity for rich decoration and more experimental shapes. As the name might suggest, cisterns were akin to large tankards or small pitchers with a low spout for easy tabletop dispensing of its contents. Delft potters transformed a very utilitarian object into a delightful work of art with a number of variations, from figural groups to mischievous monkeys, that further illustrate the versatility of Delftware designers.

1: A pair of Dutch Delft polychrome figural cisterns, mid-18th century

Sotheby’s, New York (20 January 2002)
Estimate: $5,000-$7,000
Realized Price: $20,300

2: A massive blue and white Dutch Delft cistern with pewter spout

Rob Michiels Auctions, Bruges, Belgium (1 October 2016)
Estimate: €6,000-€12,000
Realized Price: €8,000

3: Delft pitcher in the form of a monkey sitting on a pedestal

Beaussant-Lefevre, Paris (19 October 2011)
Estimate: €1,500-€1,800
Realized Price: €4,500



One of the means by which Delft ceramic makers made it into many homes was in the form of decorative tiles. Indeed, a skillful eye that looks to the interior scenes of famed 17th-century Dutch painter Jan Vermeer will note the incorporation Delft tiles as a lower baseboard to some of his rooms. These tiles are desirable themselves – a Daily Mail report form 2015, for example, celebrated the discovery of a cache of Delft tiles valued at £50,000 – but their singular companions, Delft plaques, have proven particularly collectible. Typically larger than their tile counterparts, Delft plaques also tend to showcase a larger array of themes, from elaborate painted patterns to cityscapes and narrative vignettes.

1: A Dutch Delft dated rectangular blue and white plaque, 1658

Christie’s, London (1 September 2015)
Estimate: Unavailable
Realized Price: £13,750

2: A Dutch Delft blue and white plaque, dated, with interior scene

Christie’s, Amsterdam (24 September 2002)
Estimate: $5,910 – $8,865
Realized Price: $7,062

3: A decorated Delft Rectangular plaque

Piasa, Paris (4 June 2008)
Estimate: €1,000-€1,200
Realized Price: €4,500