By Patrick Christensen
There is no shortage of “china” manufacturing across the globe, but there are a few companies and production techniques that stand out as being the best of the best. Porcelain, Limoges, and bone china have always represented the finest in both creativity and age-old techniques. Here is a brief tutorial on the true meaning of each category:
PORCELAIN: Fine and soft-paste porcelain is definitely considered to be the most elegant and best worldwide. Porcelain is delicate, thin, and translucent from the formation of glass silicate in the firing process, and it has surprising strength. This is most exemplified with the Flora Danica pattern by Royal Copenhagen. Even when the pattern was first created in the 1700s, it was recognized as the finest and costliest porcelain china in the world. All pieces are hand-painted with striking gold gilt and a botanical motif, and entire services of this pattern are found in royal households around the globe (some larger serving pieces are priced well past $20,000 each).
Curiously, Alfred Hitchcock loved the Flora Danica pattern so much that he filmed part of a dinner plate being painted in his 1969 spy film Topaz.
The Meissen factory of Germany also produces fine porcelain wares, with their Ming Dragon pattern setting a stunning table. Other notable porcelain manufacturers are: Sèvres, Royal Crown Derby, and Vincennes. A detail from a vintage, 49-piece set from 1955 by Noritake of Japan is pictured above right; it has a cinnamon ground and white daisies ($175; Booth B-2024). The Noritake mark from these plates is in the photo below.
French companies, such as Raynaud and Puiforcat, also make exceptional porcelain wares. Anna Weatherly and Lenox are two excellent American porcelain manufacturers, with the former hand painting every piece of china with botanicals and gold trim.
LIMOGES: A common misconception about china with a “Limoges” mark is that Limoges is a company name. This is not so. Limoges refers to Limoges, France, the location where the fine sand is found that is favorable in the process of making hard-paste china. French companies, such as Bernardaud, Phillipe Deshouliere, Jean Louis Coquet, and Haviland & Co. sport the “Limoges” mark on their china, but, again, it is just a reference to the region where the china is made.
BONE: Primarily an English product, with companies such as Ansley, Mintons, Coalport, Spode, and Wedgwood make this versatile china. Mintons made the turquoise and gold plate for Tiffany & Co. seen in the photo, left. Bone china is primarily composed of bone ash (from cattle bones), and kaolin. As a general rule, if you hold a bone china plate up to a bright light, you should be able to see the gray silhouette of your fingers. This is due, in part, to the bone ash content in the china, which also adds to its durability.
Once you understand the various categories of collectible china, it makes it more interesting to decide from which category you would like to collect. And what beautiful collections these can make.