Antique china dolls were generally made of glazed bisque which gave them a glossy appearance and because the antique bisques generally covered the scalp most of the dolls have painted eyes and moulded hair.
China dolls were historically produced from the late 1930s until the early part of the 19th century and by far the highest number were made between the 1850s and 1890s in Germany.
The major china dolls’ companies during the 19th century were Alt, Beck and Gotschalck, Kestner, Hertwig but there were also many more.
Some of the earlier china dolls were produced in France whilst Emma Clear, an American doll-maker created some during the 20th century.
The heads of the antique china dolls are the only parts that were normally brushed with glazed bisque and their bodies are usually covered with leather or cloth and they sometimes have unglazed legs.
The famous ‘Frozen Charlotte’ and her beau ‘Frozen Charlie’ are entirely made of a bisque that is unglazed and they are usually in one piece with no joins.
‘Low Brows’, are considered the most common antique china dolls and they were produced in the perhaps the millions during the 1890s. The hair is composed of hair bangs that lay low on the forehead and thus display a low brow and the prices vary according to the sizes.
The very rare antique china dolls that were made during the 1840s are very elaborate and also very difficult to find and they are now worth thousands of dollars.
Regrettably, most china dolls were unmarked which therefore makes it difficult to know which companies designed which dolls.
Sometimes however a doll was marked between the shoulder blades and shows the name of the company that manufactured it. Some companies also put a number on the reverse part of the shoulder blade and ‘Emma Clear’ china dolls are normally marked Clear/39.