What is China Restoration and When it is Needed

China restoration is a form of repair that restores a damaged porcelain item to its fist perfection without evidence of repair having been made.  It relies mostly on adhesives and compositions to accomplish its goal,  and is confined to ornamental porcelain and ceramic items.

Although the restoration processes mainly deal with the chemical aspects of china restoration, the mechanical part of it – pins, rivets, dowels – is often required in order for gluing and fusing to be successfully applied.  Modern technology now allows the metal reinforcements to be on the inside of the item instead of the surface of the repair.

Restoration is not necessarily the mending of only valuable china. Many people have heirloom items and sentimental pieces that they want to restore no matter the cost, since the items can’t be replaced.  Many of the “sentimental” pieces are very cheap and poorly made. A figurine could be missing a leg, an angel a wing,  enamel or glaze could be peeling off a plate or vase. There’s tableware with broken handles, damaged spouts, chip, etc.

Unlike mechanical repair, which is standard for all clients across the board, chemical china restoration can be adjusted to various clients’ needs.  A private collector may want invisible repair, while a museum curator may request partial restoration,  so the mending process doesn’t mask the repair process.  An ordinary customer who wants to fix the handle on his tea pot, may not care whether or not the restoration is visible. He just wants to save his money and have his item in one piece. An antique collector, on the other hand, would probably want an invisible, flawless restoration and doesn’t mind paying for a professional, expert job.  In the world of antiques, metal rivets are not tolerated. The entire emphasis of restoration on is on the invisibility of it. If done correctly, the restoration process will render the repairs invisible even under the “black” or ultra-violet light.  Museum restoration is a highly specialized technique that instead of concealing itself sets out to emphasize which part of the job is the original and which has been restored.

It  should be clear now that the process known as china restoration, whether it’s the restoration of a plate, a vase, or a figure,  covers a wide range of processes: the joining and bonding of the broken pieces; the filling of missing chips and sculpting of additional fragments, and finally recreating and painting the coating of the surface to match the original (we’ll discuss this in future posts).  The modern advance in technology and materials has taken invisible china restoration techniques to a higher level.  But the perfect job still depends on the mastery of the restorer and how he/she applies the techniques.

And what does a restorer requires?  First of all, he needs an array of powerful adhesives that can be easily applied and that are water-proof and heat-proof.  He also needs a build-up composition that can be modeled and turned into a durable substance that will give china restoration its finish.  And finally, he must have a solution with a mild curing temperature, which can be poured around a form or pattern to create a strong yet flexible mold.

A restorer has to be an artist and a craftsman. He has to have a mechanical or engineering instinct and the eye of a sculptor.  Because of his skills and talent, and due to the fact that he handles collectible and often very expensive pieces, the restorer has to be compensated appropriately. The work requires great concentration and patience, when the smallest mistakes can entail hours, sometimes days of extra work.

Finally, an experienced restorer should know to examine all work that comes to him to see if it has been restored in any other place. If he finds that the item has been previously restored, he should discuss it first with the owner of the item before rushing to repair it.  If he gets an “okay” from the client, he should put the item in boiling water filled with mild detergent to “un-cook” the old repair before proceeding with the restoration.

A good restorer should always suggest to the client that if an item is not sentimental and can be replaced then it should be replaced rather than restored.  Professional, invisible restoration can be pricey and time consuming.


  1. Laura Cummings says:

    You’re restored several pieces for me over the years. Your mastery is beyond words. Thank you!

    Laura Cummings
    Boston, MA

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