Exploring the History of Porcelain Dolls

Now considered a valuable collectible by many passionate doll lovers, porcelain dolls have an interesting history. Unlike many children’s toys made today, porcelain dolls are much more delicate and require extra care. But how did we go from porcelain to plastic, and what exactly is a porcelain doll?

Bisque porcelain – the material used to make porcelain dolls – is a type of porcelain that is unglazed and matte. According to HistoryofDolls.com, although china dolls, which do have a glazed texture and painted hair, were manufactured first in Europe around 1840, Germany decided to begin manufacturing a white, matte porcelain doll known as a parian doll instead. This led to the trend of bisque porcelain dolls in the 1860s.

Porcelain DollEven though we call these dolls “bisque,” they are usually formed from a combination of materials to keep them from being too heavy and fragile. While the head of the doll is made from bisque and the eyes of glass, the body can be made of cloth, leather, wood, composition or papier-mâché. The bisque makes the face look more skin-like and is painted in several layers to create facial expressions and skin tone. To further the likeness to the human form, manufacturers often used wigs made from human or goat hair to make the porcelain dolls seem more natural.

Initially sold as a fashion doll for wealthy children, the porcelain doll quickly grew popular near the end of the 19th century and became accessible to a wider range of families. French Bébés porcelain dolls were first made as a higher quality doll, while Germany’s dolly-faced dolls were less expensive – forcing the French to lower their standards. By the early 20th century, the United States and Japan began manufacturing porcelain dolls, as well, but as the century progressed the creation of porcelain dolls became more of a hobby as the market demanded more realistic and expressive dolls.

Due to the quick rise and fall of the popularity of the porcelain doll, older varieties have become cherished and hard to find. Fortunately, doll collectors can find a wide array of porcelain doll collectibles at Gigi’s Dolls and Sherry’s Teddy Bears. We take pride in catering to different collectors at different price ranges, and can often help find hard-to-locate and rare items through our connections with other doll experts and retailers nationwide. Find the next unique treasure to add to your collection by visiting our store on Chicago’s Northwest side or call us today at 800-442-3655.