Nippon porcelain is one of the most highly collected and sought after antique china. The word “Nippon” means “Japan”. Nippon china was produced solely for export to the US and the designs were inspired by European styles. This trade under this mark began in 1865 and ended in 1921. At that point the US enforced the McKinley Tariff Act which required that goods imported be “plainly marked, stamped, branded or labeled in legible English words.” Since Nippon was considered a Japanese word, the manufacturers switch to “Japan”.
Much of the antique Nippon china available has been hand-painted with ornate decorations that, ironically, the Japanese of the era considered excessive and distasteful. During the Meiji period (1868-1912) much of the Nippon porcelain pieces were decorated with gold. Much of this decoration was not very durable and wore away over the years, so it is common today to find Nippon china pieces with the gold rubbed off.