The first commercially produced porcelain doll heads occurred around 1840. The earliest and best makers were KPM Meissen and KPM Berlin.

China dolls are made of a special clay which is glazed and fired which results in a glossy, smooth surface. Parian dolls are made of another type of clay which is so called because of the resemblance to fine Parian marble porcelain.

The majority of china head dolls were German and were exported in large numbers from the early 1800's up until World War I.

Colours of china head dolls

The most common china head dolls are white. Creamy white are finer and the rarest ones are made from a pink china, which is really a delicate flesh colour known as pink lustre.

The white and cream colour dolls often have homemade bodies as well as professionally made bodies of cloth or kid. Some have china arms and legs but some of the very fine ones have kid arms and legs, with the fingers and toes indicated by stitching. The larger ones may have kid hands with fingers which are separate and distinct.

China Doll Shoes

The shoes are an excellent way to help identify the age. Flat soled shoes are more likely to date before 1850 whereas shoes which have a definite heel would be after 1850.

Identifying age of doll from the head

Dolls heads which were made prior to 1860 were not marked and records are often lost. After 1860 it is possible to identify some heads even if they are unmarked by comparing them with later identical doll heads which do have marks. Hair styles are also an indication of age but it should be noted that old molds were often used.


China, Parian & Bisque German Dolls

The Complete Book of Doll Making and Collecting

Below are some china head and parian head dolls displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

  • Shoulder Head c1840-1850 Shoulder Head c1840-1850

    Shoulder Head c1840-1850

    pink glazed moulded white porcelain, glazed on the outside only hair in centre part style with braids in circle at back held by a large comb; hair and comb moulded, painted black and gold three chest holes at front and back rough patches at front and back on shoulder base end moulded in two halves and visible

    Given by H M Queen Mary

  • Shoulder Head c1855 Shoulder Head c1855

    Shoulder Head c1855

    moulded white porcelain, very pale pink glaze on the outside and white glaze on the inside hair is waved at front, caught up in braids with knot at back two chest holes, front and back. The doll was played with by HM Queen Mary as a child and may have been her mother's, The Duchess of Teck.

  • Coachman; Bonnet Head Coachman; Bonnet Head

    Coachman; Bonnet Head c1860

    moulded bisque shoulder head modelled to represent a man's head figure dressed as a coachman

  • Bonnet Head Doll, German, about 1868 Bonnet Head Doll, German, about 1868

    Bonnet Head Doll, German, about 1868

    moulded bisque shoulder head and lower limbs with a sawdust filled cloth body, painted facial features and moulded hair*; legs painted to show pink ribbons around the calves and black flat heeled lace up boots *blond hair covered with snood, trimmed with lustre clothing: dress and cape, red wool with black velvet and ribbon trim petticoat, drawers and chemise, white cotton flannel with bodice of heavy cotton

  • Dressed doll Dressed doll

    Dressed doll c1870

    moulded glazed china shoulder head and lower limbs, with a cotton body and upper limbs, stuffed with sawdust; moulded hair in a curls style painted black; feet and ankles painted black to represent boots; a thin red line is painted just below the knee to represent a garter attached to the body as a later addition is a pair of pink satin drawers

  • Doll with moulded hair, probably Simon & Halbig Doll with moulded hair, probably Simon & Halbig

    Doll with moulded hair, probably Simon & Halbig

    Bisque swivel neck head and lower limbs, stuffed cloth body, glass inset eyes and moulded and painted hair; feet moulded and painted to represent boots clothing:- bodice and silk, silk undergarments, cotton

    Although not marked, this doll head has all the properties and characterisitics of one made by Simon & Halbig.

  • Doll with moulded hair Doll with moulded hair

    Doll with moulded hair

    The doll may have been made by Dernheim, Koch & Fischer of Grafenroda, Germany, a porcelain factory in operation from 1860 to about 1900 which specialized in bisque figures with Dresden type flowers (particularly popular in the 1890s). The mark was the letter X and V intwined above the letters DKF. Alt, Beck & Gottschalck of Nauendorf, near Ohrdruf, Thüringia founded in 1854 as a water operated porcelain factory - Porzellanfabrik Von Alt

  • Suki, Japanese Doll with moulded hair c1914-1925 Suki, Japanese Doll with moulded hair c1914-1925

    Suki, Japanese Doll with moulded hair c1914-1925

    The doll has a moulded bisque shoulder head, with moulded blonde hair and blue bows, on a red cloth body. The outer limbs are also bisque, the feet moulded and painted blue to represent shoes