Cataloging 101: Lead Glazed Redware vs. Jackfield

Following last week’s post, There’s Jackfield Afoot, I received the following question: How do you tell the difference between lead glazed redware and Jackfield? Since I asked this question when I was learning to catalog, I thought others may be wondering the same thing.


Redware refers to a coarse earthenware with a reddish body. When cataloging redware, there are a few common types you can expect to come across.

Plain/Unglazed Redware

Plain redware has a reddish body, similar to the color of a brick or a terracotta tile, and no glaze. Usually the walls are thick and the vessels have a utilitarian function. Flowerpots are often made from plain redware.

The exterior surface is unglazed redware. The interior is lead glazed (NPS Photo by Norm Eggert)

Lead Glazed Redware

Lead glazed redware has a glossy brown, reddish-brown, dark brown, black, or even green finish. The body is a red and, like plain redware, tends to be used for utilitarian vessels, like crocks and bowls.

Lead glazed redware bowl (NPS Photo by Norm Eggert)

Trailed Slipware

Trailed slipware is decorated with a white slip. A clear lead glaze is then applied over the slip, giving the slip a yellowish appearance. The designs are often simple and geometric. The body is red and often thick.  

Trailed slipware redware plate (NPS Photo by Norm Eggert)


Sgrafitto is the reverse of trailed slipware. A thin layer of white slip is applied to the surface and decorations are incised in the slip. A clear lead glaze is then applied to the object. This gives the surface a yellowish appearance. The incised decoration is often more complex than what is seen on trailed slipware vessels, with birds, floral patterns, and other similar motifs.

Sgraffito sherd (NPS Photo by Norm Eggert)


Jackfield differs from the above types in that the body appears purplish red as opposed to brownish red. The glaze is black and lustrous, often appearing almost metallic. The walls are often thinner than the more industrial lead glazed redwares.

Jackfield teapot foot (NPS Photo by Norm Eggert)

Differentiating between black lead glaze redware and Jackfield

Look at these two objects. Can you tell which one is Jackfield and which is lead glazed redware?

(NPS Photo by Norm Eggert)

(NPS Photo by Norm Eggert)

If you guessed that the one on the left is Jackfield, you are correct. Notice that the glaze on the Jackfield lid has a more lustrous sheen than the lead glazed redware. Also note the color of the bodies. The chipped part of the Jackfield lid reveals a dark purple body. The lead glazed redware has a reddish-brown body.

Do you feel that you can confidently identify the different types of redware? Let us know if you have any other cataloging questions.


About Megan L.

Megan graduated from Boston University in 2008 with an M.A. in Historical Archaeology. While in graduate school, she wrote her master's thesis on 18th-century glass drinkingware excavated during the Big Dig and interned with NMSC for 2 years. Megan has been a full-time employee since February 2010.
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4 Responses to Cataloging 101: Lead Glazed Redware vs. Jackfield

  1. Rick Hamelin says:

    Wonderful posting. One comment; A lustrous, metallic black glaze was produced in Salem/Peabody and several other New England towns in the 18th and 19th c with the red paste as you described. In Whately MA, The Thomas Crafts pottery produced a black metallic glazed teapot in great amounts during the the first quarter of the 19th c. that if found as shards, would be easily confused with the Jackfield. Another teapot manufacturer was located in Cambridge at Lechmere’s point and I am unaware of any known pieces for comparison.
    It is said that the Jackfield glaze is a combination of manganese (purple) and cobalt (blue) possibly with iron. Black glazes are made in several ways. A high amount of black iron does this. Another is a combination of black iron with black copper and/or manganese and/or cobalt. When redware is confronted with high heat and exposure to a smokey kiln atmosphere (or being located near the firebox) the iron will reduce and turn black.
    Best regards, Rick Hamelin;
    Facebook; Pied Potter Hamelin
    Friend me if you would like to attend one on my redware lectures or demonstrations

  2. Jenn Nodine says:

    Wonderful page w/ great information for collectors and historians alike. Thank you to both the author and the Pied Potter for such detailed, yet precise descriptions.

  3. Anytime and I am happy to share and discuss. To learn is a continual process and I am committed to redware research.. Please consider friending me on fb at Pied Potter Hamelin Redware, and I recommend you “like” Research of Earthenwares on FB. If you publish, I would enjoy reading anything that you have put together. Best,
    Rick Hamelin

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