Porcelain has been a highly coveted item from as early as the 13th century. First made during the Tang dynasty in China, porcelain was not popularised in the West until the Yuan dynasty. Henceforth, it has been imported to the West from China at extravagant prices. The three main types of porcelain are true, or hard-paste, porcelain; artificial, or soft-paste, porcelain; and bone china. The first European soft-paste porcelain was made in Florence around 1575, however, it was not until the late 17th and 18th centuries that it was produced in large quantities. True porcelain was first reproduced in Europe around 1707 by Johann Friedrich Böttger at the Meissen factory.
Limoges porcelain – the famous “white gold” from France
Limoges porcelain – the gold standard of porcelain – is one of the best and most sought-after fine chinas that Europe has to offer. Bright white, delicate, transparent, and yet extremely robust, this porcelain offers both practicality and rich porcelain art. Renowned for its diversity of designs and versatile pairings, Limoges porcelain is some of the most coveted decorative art to emerge from France.
What makes Limoges porcelain so special?
The quality of Limoges porcelain begins with the ingredients: kaolin, feldspar and quartz. These essential ingredients are all-natural and found locally. Only the purest kaolin is mixed with quartz and feldspar to produce the famously radiant “white gold”.
True, or hard-paste, has a slightly greyish white colour that transmits light. Comprised of around 50% kaolin, 25% quartz, and feldspar, hard-paste porcelain can withstand boiling water – which is why this type of porcelain is commonly used in gastronomy and households.
Faience is a fine, porous and tin-glazed earthenware made in France, Germany, Spain and Scandinavia. The tin glaze used in faience is a lead glaze that has been rendered white and opaque through the addition of tin oxide. Faience is fired several times, resulting in a fineness and sophisticated that differs from other ceramics.
FINE BONE CHINA
Fine Bone China is a particularly translucent and white form of bone porcelain, which is not only considered to be of particularly high quality but is also very break-resistant. The use of bone ash in its production allows for thin, walled pieces to be made with a more delicate appearance and translucency compared to other types of porcelain. Thus, despite being seemingly the most fragile, it is actually the strongest porcelain.
There are numerous luxury brands around the world producing porcelain. The selections were chosen on experience, media listings, client reviews and our own knowledge.
Described as the greatest silversmith working in England in the 18th century. Paul de Lamerie began his eponymous career as an apprentice to a London goldsmith of Huguenot origin. By 1713 he had opened his own workshop and in 1716 was appointed goldsmith to King George I, so beginning a career that was to produce some of the greatest pieces of silver craftmanship the world would ever see. By the 1730s his individual ideas and innovations led to the development of many exceptional pieces, complete with the bold scrollwork, flowers and shells which have become widely recognized as his own distinctive style.
With a focus on traditional hand craftmanship as its ethos and with an emphasis on attention to detail and quality of finish, De Lamerie Ltd has built upon the foundations of this traditional design style developing a full range of tableware items in china, crystal, cutlery, and silverware. Manufacturing in the heart of the Stoke on Trent potteries in England, each traditionally handcrafted piece emulates the unique characteristics of Paul de Lamerie’s designs and strives to maintain the essence of his past creations.
Since 1863, Bernardaud has showcased fashions, influences and styles that span centuries, presenting an unrivalled diversity of table settings. Léonard Bernardaud began his titular career as the talented apprentice of a Limoges workshop, expanding the company’s market into the US after his appointment as a company partner 20 years post-establishment. For centuries now, the company has remained under the Bernardaud family name, with artisan techniques being passed down over 5 generations.
Driven by creativity, Bernardaud seeks to preserve valuable technical skills while encouraging a taste for innovation and emphasising rare and traditional techniques such as incrustation. Each of Bernardaud’s expertly crafted pieces carries a rich heritage that illustrates the French art of living, combining art and the table.
Charles Christofle began his eponymous career as a goldsmith in 1830, transforming ceremonial items and everyday objects. Specialising in the manufacturing of metallic fabric since 1837, Christofle acquired patents for silver and gold metal electroplating – making him the only patent holder in France for 15 years. It is no surprise then, that one of his first clients was the French King Louis-Philippe I, who ordered a full service from him for the Chateau d’Eu in Normandy. By 1855, Christofle was recognised twice by the Universal Exhibition for Paris, for his technical and artistic expertise. Christofle died in 1863, leaving a prosperous and fast-growing business to his son, Paul, and his nephew, Henri Bouilhet.
Christofle’s generational know-how shines through in the brand’s fine collections of porcelain and crystals, which harmonise beautifully with stunning silverware decoration. The metal bending expertise of Christofle’s craftsmen demonstrates how a delicate balancing of crystal, porcelain and silverware can complement the grandest of tables.
In 1838, David Haviland established a company to import earthenware and porcelain to New York. 4 years later, fascinated by the French “white gold”, Haviland crossed the Atlantic to settle in Limoges. There, he founded his own factory, becoming world-renowned for his innovative eye.
Haviland porcelain is a true vector for the French art of living, with exceptional prestige that has endeared royal families to the brand for 175 years. Their collections are distinguished by the elegance of the decorations, with an iconic delicacy to their gold or platinum finishes that is surely the result of the company’s rich heritage and know-how.
Settling in 1824 in Saint Léonard de Noblat, on the banks of the river Vienne and just a few miles away from Limoges, J.L Coquet exists at the heart of a generational community of great French porcelain manufacturers. Founded in 1963, this ancestral and community know-how has been used in conjunction with semi-industrial tools to create Limoges porcelain that is world-renowned for its elegant shapes and extreme whiteness. They are recognised worldwide as the producers of some of the most translucent and delicate porcelain in the world.
Dating from 1849, Raynaud is one of the oldest manufacturers of porcelain in Limoges. The only remaining of the original Limoges houses, Raynaud has been recognised as the finest in porcelain for centuries. Raynaud’s fine collection of dinnerware sets itself apart with magnificent colours and gilded decorations adorning delicate Limoges porcelain. Handmade in France, Raynaud uses enamelling techniques dating back to the 15th century, developing designs with world-renowned artists such as Dali and Cocteau. Thus, this is a brand that blends a respect for tradition with bold, modern creations. It is no surprise then, that Raynaud – recognisable by its inimitable ‘R’ and a laurel branch – is a dinnerware brand that is synonymous with quality.
Created in 1821 by Englishman Thomas Hall, the Faïencerie de Gien specialises in faience earthenware. Accredited with the Living Heritage Company label – a mark of the brand’s excellence and creativity – Gien is recognised in France and abroad for its richly diverse collection of earthenware. In the first half of the 19th century, the brand was known for its white, octagonal earthenware. By the second half of the century, Gien became more creative as the brand underwent a period of much collaboration. Inspired by a diversity of craftsmen – from painters to engravers – Gien’s wares transformed as they came to offer decorative pieces and exquisite table services.
Throughout the 20th century, Gien overcame strong competition from Italy and Portugal, emerging victorious in 1984 as the brand experienced a new lease of life. Today, hand painted and limited edition Gien pieces sit timelessly within the brand’s nominative museum – a homage to the brand’s exceptional heritage.
Established in Saint Petersburg in 1744 by the order of Empress Elizabeth, the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory (IPM) has at the centre of Russian porcelain art since its creation. It was the first porcelain works in Russia, and only the third in Europe. The Imperial Porcelain Manufactory provided almost all St. Petersburg palaces with its dinner sets during the reign of Alexander I and Nicholas I (1825-1855). The IPM is distinguished by propagandised art which tells the story of Russia’s layered history. From the revolution to the post-revolutionary years, the IPM’s diverse art has been at the heart of modern Russian history.
Home to the first true porcelain in Europe, Meissen has been producing porcelain of superb quality for over 300 years. To signify the exceptional quality of Meissen porcelain and ensure its authenticity, the signature Crossed Swords was introduced in 1722, making Meissen’s trademark one of the oldest in the world. During the 18th century, Meissen’s porcelain reflected the influence of Eastern Asian porcelain art, with famous chinoiseries depicting stylised plants and animal figures. Today, Meissen draws on a wealth of artistic inspiration – from classical mythology to nature – to craft unique pieces which embody the artisanal skill of their manufacturers.
Founded in 1993, Falkenporzellan has established itself worldwide for its fine dinnerware service sets. The brand’s golden and platinum-plated porcelain is distinguishable by its high-precision craftsmanship and filigree structures. Its unique relief art can be admired both in occidental/oriental Royal Houses and in seats of government – from St. Petersburg to Moscow and in the Orient. The Falkenporzellan manufactory epitomises high-quality porcelain art, combining tradition with unique innovation to create stunning chinaware.
Founded in 1826, Herend embodies 200 years of knowledge and experience in porcelain manufacturing. From the heart of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Herend has created sublime wares for Europe’s crowned heads. The factory’s owner, Mór Fischer, can be credited for the creation of the Victoria pattern – a butterfly and floral pattern ordered by Queen Victoria in 1851 at the Great Exhibition in London. Today, Herend’s meticulously hand-crafted, exquisitely hand-painted porcelain figures are still produced using traditional artisan techniques that produce stunning results.
Founded by Frederick the Great in 1763, KPM Berlin stands for hand-made luxury, stylish design and the highest standards in porcelain production. For 250 years, KPM has been renowned internationally by museums, collectors and connoisseurs of porcelain. It is no surprise why, when KPM porcelain is almost exclusively produced by hand. The manual production process and complex decoration techniques give each piece a truly unique character. Gilding, flowers, fruits, animals, landscapes and backgrounds are all painted in freehand by the manufactory’s skilled artists.
For over two centuries, the Ginori Manufactory has had an extraordinary obsession with the creation of beauty. Pursuing his passion for white gold, Marquis Carlo Andrea Ginori started a porcelain factory in 1735, with the aim of turning porcelain into pure beauty. Today, Ginori 1735 is an expression of excellence in Italy and in the world in the high artistic manufacture of porcelain, able to combine craftsmanship, creativity and attention to progress.
Founded by Queen Juliane Marie in 1775, the Royal Danish Porcelain Factory has been the home of excellent craftsmanship for over 200 years. Each piece is stamped with the Royal Copenhagen’s unique factory mark and a royal crown that highlights the factory’s royal association. Since the crown stamp has changed over time, it can be used to date the fine porcelain.
Founded by Josiah Wedgwood in 1759, Wedgwood started as independent pottery in Burslem, England. Having invented materials such as Jasper, Queen’s Ware and Black Basalt, it is no surprise that Josiah is dubbed the “Father of English Potters”. Over 260 years later, Wedgwood is renowned for its high-quality pieces and innovative British designs which bring a timeless elegance to even the most modern of homes.
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