Pots and Patina

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

One of the really cool things I get to see here at Aichien are the very old pots and the patina they’ve developed over time.  Good patina on a pot is very desirable because they give the pot such an aged look.  If you have two pots that are identical where one has patina and the other doesn’t, the one with patina will always be more valuable.  We all want our bonsai to look old and ancient, so why wouldn’t we want the same for the pots.  In this post, I will be talk about what patina is, the different patinas that I’ve seen on different types of pots (i.e. porcelain, glazes, clay), and about the differences between real patina and fake patina.  Let’s get started!

What is patina?

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines patina as:

1. (a): a usually green film formed naturally on copper and bronze by long exposure or artificially (as by acids) and often valued aesthetically for it color, (b): a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use

2. an appearance or aura that is derived from association, habit, or established character

3. a superficial covering or exterior

In Bonsai pottery terms, it’s pretty much dirt that starts to stick onto pots over long periods of use or exposure.

Patina on pots doesn’t happen over night or over  the course of a year.  Pots sometimes take decades of use before they develop good patina.  The key word there is, “use.”  If you store a pot in a box inside the house, it will never develop patina.

Some characteristics of good real patina