|Antique ceramic pieces require relatively little care, since they are not as sensitive to changes in temperature, humidity, and often light as many other collectibles are. Proper handling of the ceramic is probably the most critical method to follow, but in order to maintain antique ceramic pieces to pristine condition, it is important to follow a few basic guidelines.
As was indicated, proper handling of ceramics is possibly the best way to preserve them and avoid chips, cracks and breaks. Ceramics should be handled with clean, bare hands, free from rings, bracelets or other jewelry pieces that could cause scratches on the surface. The collector may consider the use of gloves to be advantageous, but gloves often can be clumsy and increase the risk of dropping.
Before picking up an antique piece, always remove any loose or unattached pieces, such as lids, stoppers, bases, etc. Some ceramic pieces occasionally have a lid attached to the base by a small chain, in this case, place the lid on the ceramic securing it with one hand, while supporting the base of the ceramic piece with the other hand.
When moving an ceramic piece or any other antique piece, support the base with one hand, while cradling the back of the object with the other hand. Do not pick antique ceramics up by the top or rim and never by the handles, spouts, stems or any other extended pieces. These may not be secured to the body, causing a weak join, and possible cracks or breaks.
It is advisable to never stack ceramic pieces for it can cause chipping and scratching, and applied decorations, such as gilding, can wear off.
If it absolutely becomes necessary to stack items because of space limitations, place a piece of flannel, muslin, polyester felt or acid-free paper between the pieces.
Never use tape on antique ceramics for it leaves a residue that is difficult to remove and glazing, gilding, or other applied decorations may be removed with it.
Ceramics can be very sensitive to water, especially when left in contact for long periods of time. The nitrates, chloride and other water soluble salts can easily cause stains. It is also advised not to drink often from highly decorative antique ceramic mugs or drinking vessels. Unglazed
ceramics should not be immersed in water, for the surface is extremely porous and the water will penetrate the surface, causing stains and discoloration.
The best way to display ceramics is in glass enclosed cabinets to lessen buildup of dust. Some collectors may use putties in an effort to secure the ceramics from slipping, but putties will harden and stain antique ceramic pieces. It is best to use an oil-free museum wax on the shelf. Do not set items to close together or reach over the pieces, increasing the chance for breakage and chips.
Although glazed ceramics are not particularly affected by light, unglazed pieces are especially sensitive to light and should not ever be placed in direct sunlight, causing colors to fade and ceramic pieces to crack.
Ceramics are not necessarily sensitive to temperature and humidity, but extreme changes in the environment should be avoided. Depending on the region you live in, placing
non-displayed ceramics in the attic may prove to be too harsh and damage pieces.
To clean antique ceramics, unglazed ceramic collectibles should simply be dusted - use of water should be avoided. Other glazed antique ceramics can briefly be immersed in water if the piece does not have surface painting or gilding or as long as the body does not have unglazed areas, cracks, scratches or crazing. Any of these areas can easily become stained. The best approach to cleaning is by frequent dusting to avoid buildup. For areas requiring a more thorough cleaning, use cotton tipped swabs dampened with water, and if necessary, mild detergent.