Twitter icon
Facebook icon
Pinterest icon


Can anyone tell me what period this set if from and if it is Satsuma? There's no markings at all on the bottom of the plates, cups etc. It has an incredible blue color.  Any idea what this might be worth? Did I pay too much?  


Set features entirely handcrafted and handpainted porcelain tea and luncheon set with 24 kt gilt Dragon's heads on the pouring spouts, top handles, inside rims of cups and around saucer rims. This large set consists of the following 21 pcs:

  • One Large Tea Pot, measuring 8" tall x 9" wide
  • One Large Creamer, measuring 6.5" tall x 7.5" wide
  • One Large Sugar Bowl, measuring 6.5" tall x 7.5" wide
  • Six Luncheon Plates, measuring 7.5" in diameter 
  • Six Saucers, measuring 5.5" in diameter
  • Six Tea Cups, measuring 3.5" tall x 4" wide (Please note: one of the teacups is slightly different than the rest, the primary difference is the lithophane and lack of gold rim inside the bottom of one cup).  

The set is very impressive having a 3-D effect with raised areas and gilded rims. NOTE: When the tea cups are empty, you can hold the cup up to the light and see the relief image of a woman's face. This is known as a Lithophane, a beautiful geisha's face in the bottom in the cup bottom. This entire set is in excellent condition having no chips, cracks or breaks.

Porcelain with 24Kt Gilt
Distinguishing marks: 
No Marks At All
Date Period: 
Size and dimensions of this item: 
I was told this was from the 1930's and brought back from Asia in the 1950's
For Sale?: 


Lovejoy's picture

Here you go:

"Dragonware is the term used to describe porcelain or pottery items with a raised decoration which depicts an oriental dragon. These items were produced in Japan from the end of the 1890’s until the mid 1950’s. Most Dragonware pieces are decorated with moriage, which is a type of slip clay that gives the piece a three dimensional appearance. Quality varies considerably for these sets, with the earlier examples generally being a better quality than the 1950’s examples.

Sets like yours generally sell for under $200.00 .



Steamboater's picture
Thank you. Does your mom's set have any marks on the bottom of the cups, plates or any of the other pieces? I was very curious about that especially and couldn't understand why there are no marks at all on this set. At first I thought that Japan, which was at odds with the west over Manchuria in the 30's wanted to export these items but didn't want Japanese markings on them so as to have an easier tme selling them abroad but that didn't make sense as these pieces are obviously Japanese, so I wonder?

kathyBeh's picture

I will ask her and let you know, I do not seem to recall a mark only the ladies face.

 In 1891 the McKinley Tariff Act required that imported items be marked in English with the country of origin. So I wonder if our sets are pre 1891 ??

"These items were produced in Japan from the end of the 1800's until the mid 1900's. Over that time period, styles and materials changed dramatically."

Lithopnes or Lithophanes (both are actually acceptable) are pictures that are created with the thickness of the porcelain. The pictures show when the porcelain (almost always in the bottom of tea cups) is held up to light. Lithophanes went out of style because of their cost to produce sometime in the late 50's or early sixties and were for the most part discontinued.

Almost all Lithophane tea sets have lustrious inside finishes that are truly beautiful but that finish was created with lead and therefore you should not drink from them.

There are some rules that you can use to determine the quality of the lithophanes:

Quality Level 1:  Highest quality. Clear and detailed, with highlights such as lighting effects and subtle strands of hair. A real contrast between the light and dark areas.
Quality Level 2:  Good quality. Detail to face and hair, somewhat less defined than level 1 but still distinguishable. Less contrast between light and dark.
Quality Level 3:  Low quality. Can hardly tell there is a lithophane present.Minimal detail and almost no contrast between light and dark.
Quality Level 4: Poor quality. Obvious flaws in stamp. (bug eyes or gouging around the rim."

I also found a piece in the exact shape as ours with a different color made by Nippon. It was marked.....I will get back to you.

Steamboater's picture

I don't think this set was made in 1890 as that's when a previous repsonse said these sets were first made. As another poster said, some of the sets were made for the GI trade so maybe this is one of them. I'm very satisfied with it though. I have another set that's brown, ornage, gold and green without dragons that I posted at this site too. It was made by Kutani--a Craftsmen China--set and the teapot and sugar and cream bowls are shapped exactly like this set but of course have human figures instead of dragons. I prefer this one because of the lustrous color of the blue.  As to the lithopne, I'd have to say the quality is somewhere between Quality Level 1 and 2.

Is the piece you found decorated with dragons or human figures?

kathyBeh's picture
HA.... read this:


Geisha girl Lithophane

Porcelain with a face of an oriental woman seemingly impressed in the bottom of what appears to be only their cups. The picture impressed in the porcelain is a "Lithophanes".

It was made in Japan between the late 1930's and into the late 1950's/early 1960's, mostly for export. Many pieces dates to the "Occupied Japan" period (1945-52) and could thus be dated from their marks. Many are not marked at all or marked with no western characters, which could point at that those were made for the GI trade within Japan why the US Customs "country of origin" rules would not apply.

Most of this porcelain appears to have been made by the Kutani factory in Japan and thereafter being decorated at lesser decorating firms from the multitude of different marks they can be found with.

Steamboater's picture
I thought it might have had a paper label at one time and come off but all the pieces, and this is 21 piece set, are missing labels. I'd think at least one or the remnant of one would have survived.  Often with older pieces, you see the residue of a paper label and there's nothing there. If there had been any damage to the set, even the slightest, I'd say, sure it was used and therefore paper labels must have come off but the set is too much in mint condition to even consider that.

Trobetas's picture


I would like you to kindly inform me on the price that could reach the Moriage porcelain dragon 21 piece tea set, wich i own. It is the same with the photos above.
The tea cups have the face of Lithophane at their bottom and there is a kind of signature under the plates. I searched the web and found that the mark is : Nichi Hon (Nippon)
The entire set is in excellent condition, having no chips, cracks or breaks.
Thank you

Search Appraisals