Antique wash basins and pitchers mounted on stands were a staple in bathrooms and bedrooms for centuries. These decorative and functional pieces were used for washing up in the morning or before bed and were often found in upper-class homes during the Victorian era.
There have been a great range of wash sets combining different materials such as ornately carved wood and fretwork, fine porcelain, marble, and wrought iron. Today, these items are highly sought after by collectors and those looking to add a touch of antique charm to their homes.
Today, we’ll explore the history of antique wash basins and pitchers with stands, how to identify genuine antique pieces, the value of wash sets with some examples, and a brief guide to buying and selling these fascinating pieces. Whether you have inherited or come across a beautiful antique was set, or are interested in getting your hands on one, you have come to the right place!
Antique Wash Basins: Brief History
Wash basins have been used for centuries as a quick way for people to wash up and keep themselves clean clean. In the early days, wash basins were typically made from metal or wood and were used by soldiers to clean up before and after battle. By the 18th century, porcelain wash basins had become more popular in homes.
Using wash basins with stands remained popular throughout the 19th century. At this time, indoor plumbing was not yet common in households, and people needed a way to wash their faces and hands in a hygienic manner. A wash basin with a stand provided a convenient and elevated surface for washing, and the basin itself was often removable for easy cleaning.
The use of pitchers with wash basins became common in the mid-19th century. These pitchers were often made of the same material as the wash basin. The addition of a pitcher with a spout made it possible for people to wash their faces and hands without having to leave the room to refill the basin. One could simply refill the basin from the receptacle in which water was collected.
The widespread popularity of wash basins with stands and pitchers can also be linked to changing social attitudes toward hygiene and cleanliness during the 19th century. With the rise of the middle class and an increased focus on personal hygiene, the use of wash basins and pitchers became more widespread. The development of germ theory in the late 19th century further emphasized the importance of cleanliness and contributed to the popularity of these items.
Identifying Antique Wash Basins And Pitchers With Stands
Identifying a genuine antique wash basin and pitcher with stand can be difficult, as there are many reproductions and vintage wash basins on the market. Also note that antiques are technically items made more than 100 years ago. Here are a few important factors to look for when identifying a genuine antique…
1. Materials And Design
Genuine antique wash basins were typically made from porcelain or ceramic, stands were made from wood or metal, and pitchers were made from porcelain, ceramic or metal. The stand may be simple wooden or metal tripods, or more elaborate wooden chests of drawers with the wash basin mounted on the top surface.
Other stand may feature mirrors set behind the basin, a shelf below the basin for the pitcher, drawers, or even fold-out flaps.
In the Victorian era, marble tabletops with the basin set on top also became popular. The addition of brass or bronze figures incorporated into the stand is also typically Victorian.
In the 19th century, Japanese porcelain wash basins and pitchers were also popular. These sets were often decorated with traditional designs including cherry blossoms and dragons. They were often used in traditional Japanese homes and the stands may feature ornate fretwork and painted features.
If any parts of the piece are made from plastic or another modern material, it is not an antique. More modern materials may have been used to repair antique items. If this is the case, the value will be lowered significantly (depending on the quality of the repair work). Alternatively, if the repair work has been done professionally and aimed to save the antique item from falling apart, it may still be very valuable as long as it is recognizable as an antique and especially if it is a rare piece.
2. Signs Of Age
Look for typical signs of wear and aging on all parts of the piece. Genuine antiques will show signs of use and wear, and the glaze of the wash basin and pitcher may be cracked or crazed. If the wash basin is installed on a flat tabletop surface, you may find evidence of water damage around the basin. Wear and tear on the stand may also be present through use. Finding markings on the underside will help you identify the era of production too.
3. Maker Or Manufacturer Mark
Look for any markings on the bottom of the wash basin that indicate the manufacturer or origin. You may be able to find words, letters, numbers, symbols, or even images. These markings can help you determine the age and authenticity of the piece.
There were many manufacturers of antique wash basins and pitchers with stands from around the world. Some of the most popular and common makers in Europe and the US include those famed for their ceramics:
- Mason’s Ironstone China – Founded in 1813 in Staffordshire, England. Mason’s Ironstone China produced a wide range of ceramics including wash basins and pitchers. They were known for their high-quality products and intricate designs.
- Wedgwood – Founded in 1759 by Josiah Wedgwood, Wedgwood is one of the most famous and highly-regarded ceramic manufacturers in the world. They produced a variety of ceramic items and their products were known for their high quality and durability. Wedgwood are still in production today.
- Royal Doulton – Founded in 1815 in Lambeth, England, Royal Doulton is known for its high-quality ceramics, including wash basins and pitchers. They were also one of the first companies to incorporate art into their designs, and many of their products feature hand-painted patterns. Royal Doulton are also still in production today.
- & G. Meakin – Founded in 1851 in Hanley, Staffordshire, England. J. & G. Meakin produced a range of ceramics and were known for their high-quality products and innovative designs.
- Copeland & Garrett – Founded in 1833 in Stoke-on-Trent, England. Copeland & Garrett produced a variety of ceramics and their pieces are highly sought after by collectors today.
Other notable makers include Royal Worcester, Spode, and Limoges, among many others.
Antique Wash Basins And Pitchers With Stands: Value
The value of antique wash basins and pitchers with stands varies widely depending on a number of factors including the age, condition, rarity, and manufacturer of the piece. In general, antique wash basins complete with their original pitchers and stands will fetch the highest price. Those in top condition without repair work, featuring limited edition patterns and designs are the most valuable. Here are just a few examples to give you an idea of value.
Georgian & Victorian Wash Sets
Complete Georgian and Victorian wash basins with stands and pitchers usually combine detailed wooden stands with ceramic basins and pitchers. These can fetch anywhere between hundreds and thousands of dollars, with the best examples going for tens of thousands of dollars.
This William IV mahogany wash stand with an ironstone washbasin and pitcher, made by Brownhead, Moore & Co. in the late 19th century was sold for $500 in 2016! This impressive 7 piece Victorian chinoiserie wash set with a simple wooden stand and profusely decorated ceramics made by Masons Ironstone China sold for $500 in 2021! Meanwhile this wood and porcelain wash stand and basin decorated with cherubs fetched $2,000 in 2022!
Chinese Wash Sets
Wash stands made from painted wood, and ceramic or metal wash basins and pitchers typify Chinese origin was sets. These tend to fetch hundreds to thousands of dollars, while the rarest and best condition examples may fetch tens of thousands of dollars.
For instance, a red lacquered wash stand with a metal wash basin from 19th century China sold for over $400 in 2013! This Chinese wash stand complete with glazed blue ceramic wash basin from the late 19th century fetched $1,300 in 2023! And this incredible Chinese washbasin with carved and gilded red lacquer details was sold for over $2,700 in 2019! While this stunning wash basin carved from jade and set on a wooden stand sold for a whopping $8,500 in 2016!
Antique Wash Basins And Pitchers With Stands: Buying & Selling Guide
If you’re interested in buying or selling antique wash basins and pitchers with stands, there are a few things to keep in mind.
When buying an antique wash basin and pitcher with stand, be sure to do your research by looking for the exact wash set you are looking for to get a gauge of the current value. Make sure to buy from a reputable seller with detailed listings. Look for trustworthy dealers who specialize in antiques. You can also attend antique fairs or auctions to find unique pieces.
When inspecting a potential purchase, be sure to examine the piece carefully for signs of wear, damage, or repairs. If possible, ask to see the bottom of the piece to look for manufacturer markings or other identifying features.
When selling an antique wash basins and pitchers with stands, it’s important to get an accurate appraisal of the piece to determine its value. You can do this by working with an experienced antique dealer or appraiser who specializes in these types of items. Be advised, this service will cost. You can also try asking around on antiques forums for help from experts and enthusiasts. We recommend:
- TreasureNet What’s It Worth?
- This active Subreddit forum called WhatsThisWorth.
When selling, be sure to advertise the piece in places where antique collectors are likely to see it. You can list the item on online auction sites, post on social media, or attend antique fairs and shows. Try to be transparent about its origin and condition, and include plenty of detail for potential buyers.
Some excellent online marketplaces for buying and selling include:
- eBay – having a careful look around the Antiques section of eBay is advised. Simply searching for “antique wash stands” or “antique was basins” through eBay can return some great results. A range of are being sold here, and results can be filtered by color, shape, region of manufacture, size, condition, price, and more.
- Etsy – a whole range of private sellers are assembled here, and astonishing unique pieces can be found through Etsy. You may have to search carefully to find complete sets of wash basins, stands and pitchers.
- 1st Dibs – this is a great site for valuable antique furniture such as wash stands and basins. You can filter by style, period, manufacturer, material, and much more.
- LiveAuctioneers – this site features a wide range of antique furniture and wash basin sets. You can filter results to look at sold lots to get an idea of the kind of price you item might sell for. Alternatively you can filter by origin, material, creator and style/period to find your perfect wash stand.