Introduction to Top Brands of Fine China
For centuries, fine china has captivated collectors with its delicate beauty and refined craftsmanship. Produced from premium materials like porcelain and bone china using specialized techniques, fine china represents the pinnacle of ceramic artistry.
The leading fine china brands each have a rich history of creating stunning tableware and decorative objects prized by royalty, celebrities and discerning collectors worldwide.
In this article, we will explore the storied histories, notable patterns and unparalleled artistry of the top five fine china brands across the globe. Understanding the hallmarks of these luxury manufacturers provides invaluable insight for new and seasoned collectors alike.
History of Fine China
To appreciate the beauty of fine china, it helps to understand its origins and evolution over time. Fine china is a type of ceramic dinnerware that is characterized by its delicate and intricate designs. It has been an integral part of dining culture in many countries for centuries.
To truly appreciate the beauty of fine china, it is important to understand its origins and how it has evolved over time.
Origin in China
Porcelain first emerged in China over a thousand years ago during the Tang dynasty. Early porcelain combined kaolin clay with ground petuntse stone and fired at ultra-high temperatures to create a delicate, translucent ceramic ideal for artistry.
Emperors commissioned stunning blue and white porcelain items as symbols of power and taste. China zealously guarded the secrets of porcelain-making for centuries.
Arrival in Europe
Eventually, porcelain production spread to Europe as traders brought coveted ceramic wares from China via the Silk Road and, later, by sea. Germany was the first European region to unlock the formula for hard-paste “true porcelain” in the early 1700s. From there, fine china manufacturing blossomed across Europe.
Popularity in America
By the 1800s, fine china was in high demand among America’s emerging affluent class. Collecting and displaying porcelain tableware and tea sets became synonymous with old world sophistication and refinement.
What Makes Fine China Brands Special
While fine china encompasses vases, figurines and decorative wares, tableware remains its most recognized form. So what transforms ordinary dining sets into coveted fine china?
True fine china consists of porcelain, created from kaolin clay and petuntse stone. Porcelain’s delicate translucency comes from firing at extremely high temperatures above 2,200°F. The resulting pieces are thin, light and nearly white.
Fine china can also utilize bone china, made by adding bone ash to porcelain for added strength and whiteness.
Creating fine china requires tremendous skill from master artisans. Complex decorative techniques like hand-painting, gilding, etching and buhl work (marquetry) transform blank canvases into ornate works of art. Signatures and stamps mark pieces made by exceptional artisans.
Fine china possesses intrinsic artistic merit from exquisite craftsmanship and decorating styles. Patterns span Rococo, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and modern influences. Collectors appreciate both traditional and boundary-pushing motifs.
Most Sought-After Fine Porcelain China Brands
Certain elite brands reign supreme in the world of fine china collecting. These manufacturers consistently produce museum-quality porcelain of exceptional beauty and value. Here are five of the most coveted:
Founded: 1775 in Copenhagen, Denmark
Royal Copenhagen embodies the pinnacle of Danish fine china. Under royal patronage since its founding, Royal Copenhagen pioneered underglaze painting techniques still used today. Their blue-fluted and white-fluted patterns date back centuries while still feeling fresh and modern. Key highlights include:
- Notable Patterns: Blue Fluted, White Fluted, Blue Mega, Grand Cru
- Craftsmanship: Delicate hand-painted details, masterful underglaze painting
- Over 240 years of continuous production in Denmark
With a focus on minimalist Scandinavian style, Royal Copenhagen remains a top choice for collectors and brides today.
Founded: 1759 in England by Josiah Wedgwood
Thanks to Josiah Wedgwood’s innovations in mass production, Wedgwood brought fine china to the masses while retaining stellar quality. They masterfully blend classic and contemporary style. Notable attributes include:
– Notable Patterns: Jasperware, Queensware, Black Basalt
– Craftsmanship: Skilled use of jasperware, basalt and matte finishes
– Close ties to the British royal family since the 1700s
With partnerships spanning fashion houses like Vera Wang, Wedgwood stays ahead of porcelain design trends.
Founded: 1826 in Herend, Hungary
Herend’s hand-painted luxury china has graced the tables of royalty for generations. Using secret techniques, Herend’s artisans create impossibly delicate, artistic motifs in porcelain. Herend Key features include:
– Notable Patterns: Rothschild Bird, Queen Victoria, Chinese Bouquet
– Craftsmanship: Museum-quality hand-painting using ground platinum
– Hungary’s premier porcelain manufacturer for almost 200 years
Herend‘s ornate, hand-painted designs make them a top pick for opulent formal dining.
Founded: 1710 in Germany
As the first European porcelain manufacturer, Meissen holds an important place in fine china history. Skilled artisans decorate blanks shipped from Asia, creating quintessentially European motifs. Signatures include:
– Notable Patterns: Purple Rose, Blue Onion, Crossed Swords in Red
– Craftsmanship: Figurines, vases and plates decorated with intricate scenes
– Innovations like hard-paste porcelain and underglaze painting
Meissen Porcelain remains coveted for its hand-decoration and exquisite craftsmanship.
Founded: 1863 in Limoges, France
France’s design dominance extends to fine china with Bernardaud. They fuse French artistry with modern sensibilities across tableware, home décor and lighting. Noteworthy characteristics include:
– Notable collections: Sarah Lavoine, Christian Lacroix, Valentino
– Craftsmanship: Thin porcelain with delicate details and platinum accents
– Generations of family ownership and leadership
Bernardaud energizes fine china with forward-looking creative partnerships.
Factors To Consider When Collecting Best Luxury China
For newcomers, fine china collecting can feel daunting. Keeping these key factors in mind helps ensure wise investments:
Limited edition sets or items from a short production era fetch premium prices. Small flaws that mark early production phases also increase value. Research a brand’s history to understand rarity.
Heavily used sets or items with damage like chipping or cracking have less worth. Perfect condition and original packaging indicates fine china was properly stored and handled.
Sets gifted to historical figures or used at landmark events hold added significance. Provenance detailing an item’s past owners boosts collectability.
While monetary value matters, your own tastes should ultimately guide acquisitions. Find patterns and decorative styles that speak to you.
Caring For Your Fine China Dinnerware Collection
To retain their value and beauty, fine china collections require careful maintenance:
Always store fine china safely apart, well padded and immobilized. Avoid overcrowding pieces to prevent damage. Control temperature and humidity.
Hand wash with warm water and non-abrasive cloth. Avoid harsh chemicals. Dry thoroughly with soft towel. Never microwave or run through dishwasher.
Pick up pieces with both hands by the sides/base. Avoid handles and rims. Set down gently. Move one piece at a time when rearranging displays.
Displaying Your Bone China & Porcelain Brand Collections
A curated presentation showcases fine china while protecting it. Recommended display options:
Glass-front cabinets showcase ornate pieces without exposing them to dust or light damage. Interior lighting highlights details.
Traditional or modern china cabinets feature open shelves for easy day-to-day access. Place finest pieces out of reach in top cabinets.
Custom-installed or freestanding shelving provides flexible display space. Follow museum standards for appropriate lighting and earthquake-safe restraints.
For design aficionados, fine china offers the ultimate collecting experience. Tracing the artistry of renowned brands reveals porcelain’s evolution from ancient China to modern tables worldwide.
By understanding Chinese porcelain table setting and its rich history, hallmarks, and proper care, you can build a collection to cherish for generations.