Creamware is a relatively lightweight English pottery introduced in the 1740s to compete with Delft and salt glazed wares.

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Dear Helaine and Joe:

I have a set of 12 beautiful plates in perfect, like-new condition. I think these are service plates, and to my knowledge they have never been used but were always on display in our home. Are these valuable, or just pretty?

Thank you,

S.B.S., Palatine, Ill.

Dear S.B.S.:

There was a lot of interesting information in the letter, but one vital piece was missing.

We do not know the size of these plates, and this would have helped us determine if they are indeed service plates or just dinner plates. There is a significant monetary difference between the two.

Think of it this way: Dinner plates are one of the most common components of a dinnerware set, but service plates, which are purely decorative and only used to adorn the table before the meal is served, are relatively rare.

We did some checking and found that the George Jones & Sons “Birbeck Rose”dinner plates are rather large at 10 ¾ inches in diameter, and we could find no listing of service plates having been made. If they had been, they would have been at least 12 inches in diameter — or thereabouts.

George Jones (& Sons) was founded in 1864 in Stoke, Staffordshire, England. The name of the pottery facility was “Crescent Pottery,” which is why the pieces in today’s question have the word “Crescent” above the mark.

This company is most famous for its majolica wares (earthenware covered with colorful glazes), china (made after 1872) and other earthenwares.

The company added “England” to its marks in 1891, and “Made in England” around the time of World War I. With this information, it is easy to deduce that S.B.S.’s pieces were made sometime between about 1910 and 1924 — but we can get closer than that. The “Birbeck Rose” pattern was registered with the British patent office in the early 1920s (registry No. 790003), so it is likely that this set of plates was made sometime between 1922 and 1924.

Looking at the photographs, these pieces seem to have a coloration that might classify them as being “creamware.” Creamware is a relatively lightweight English pottery introduced in the 1740s to compete with Delft and salt glazed wares. It is whitish or cream-colored, and was perfected by Josiah Wedgwood, who renamed it “Queensware” in 1767 in honor of the wife of King George III, Queen Charlotte.

George Jones and Sons’ “Birbeck Rose” came in two varieties — those with a pink rose and those with a yellow rose. Looking at the available prices, it would seem that collectors prefer the yellow-rose variety, which is a bit harder to find than the pink.

At this point, valuing these plates becomes a little tricky. If they are 10 ¾-inch dinner plates, the insurance-replacement value is somewhere in the $25-$30 range each, and a set of 12 should be valued in the $400-$450 range (in most cases, value is added for having a set).

If, however, these turn out to be service plates, the value would rise to between $75 and $100 each, with a set value in the $1,200-$1,500 range.

(Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of “Price It Yourself”(HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, PO Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928. Email them at treasures@knology.net.)