Hoorah! You have found my china manufacturers A - Z listings page. You will need to be prized away from here with a crow-bar by your family! Why? You are into fine china in a mysterious way you don't quite understand yet. Here I cover the history, the origins, the people, the wares of the most prominent and/or interesting European and American china manufacturers.
The mysterious Orient is currently covered in the forums (please use the in-house search box to locate) and I am working on new pages for this region too.
The famous potters firms are listed alphabetically and each has a story to tell. Scroll down this page for A - F. Follow the links to the rest.
What Are You Most Likely To Have In Your Homes?
These listings concentrate on those items you might actually have in your house.
Therefore, 18th Century soft-paste Bien Ritiro from Madrid is not given priority. I don't spend too much time on Yuan Dynasty vases either.
Older firms, long since gone, are covered elsewhere too. Think of Chelsea, for example.
Very old, very fine, very gone.
Again, just use the search box up top of the page (on the right) to find the posts on Chelsea porcelain.
Founded 1859 in Beleek, N. Ireland by John Caldwell Bloomfield. Bloomfield was the local landowner who owned the village of Belleek.
The history of this firm of china manufacturers is unique. Bloomfield was curious about the unusual luster of the finish that his tenants applied to the walls of their cottages. Rich in local clay, minerals and feldspar deposits, the peasants were just using the age old knowledge to weather-proof their homes against the Irish weather. This folk knowledge of ceramics was Belleek pottery in the raw - perhaps unique amongst china manufacturers.
He organized the community to begin to make Belleek pottery with the help of several key outsiders. Throughout its history, Belleek's survival was always a battle between the practical, inexpensive earthenware and the delicate, expensive china Belleek Parian ware.
The fine Beleek Parian baskets with delicate woven bases and flowing floral decorations are the Belleek classics for collectors. Their ware is said to be resistant to dust and cracks due to a secret glaze.
Founded in Berlin by Wilhelm Caspar Wegely in 1751 Germany. In 1763 the factory was bought by Frederick the Great and became K.P.M. (Royal Porcelain Manufactory). The history of Berlin KPM declined in the mid-19th century but revived again and is still in production today.
Berlin K.P.M. suffered a great deal during WW II - the most tragic history of all china manufacturers histories. Their current production concentrates on gift ware rather than figurines with a switch towards large vases and bowls. See also Dresden china manufacturers history (below).
Bernardaud porcelain is part of the Limoges history see Limoges (under "L" below)
If you look back to the true history, the porcelain is named after the place (a bit like 'Derby' or 'Worcester'). The first Capodimonte was produced in Naples, Italy from 1759 to 1780 at the ‘Royal Naples Factory’. The new factory was set in a Royal Wood named Capodimonte (translates literally as "the head of the mount" or "the top of the hill") from which the porcelain got its name. These original pieces are very rare and hard to find for collectors, mostly because they are housed in Museums.
As you might guess, there is a connection between Capodimonte and Meissen. King Charles of Naples married the granddaughter of Augustus II who, of course, founded Meissen.
The Neapolitan King inherited the throne of Spain becoming Charles III King of Spain (1759-1788). So he moved lock, stock, and porcelain factory to Spain.
His son created a new Royal Factory in Naples which was dispersed during various French invasions in the early 1800’s.
So what is genuine Capodimonte? After the disruption of the Napoleonic wars a few local business men were charged with keeping the tradition of Capodimonte alive.
From that point it all got a bit confusing.
After the end of the 18th century, Capodimonte wares cannot be attributed to the Royal Naples factory. The N mark was originally Royal Naples, of course, but later Ginori was the first maker to copy the N mark as ‘homage’ (first used by Ginori in 1835).
Today, the prolific number of Capodimonte style pieces marked with an N coronet mark are not the produce of one company in the 19th or 20th centuries, but a series of different studios all carrying on the tradition begun by Charles of Bourbon, the ruler of Naples mentioned above, when he began that porcelain manufactory at the place known locally as Capo di Monte (‘The Top of the Hill’).
There is a following for this modern N marked Capodimonte style wares, but there is no longer one recognizable factory, but a group independent factories all using the mark and claiming to be the original.
This situation must create a headache for collectors because using the name ‘Capodimonte’ on a backstamp is easy – verifying its authenticity is not.
Not everything marked Capodimonte is created equally. So just use your eyes and look for quality, not markings.
Right here is a tale of how difficult business is in general and how hard the Pottery business is in particular. If it was easy everyone would do it! Be sure to take your hat off to successful china companies still around today when you witness how not to do it, in the story of Cauldon Potteries.
Royal Cauldon has its roots way back with the Ridgway family and the ‘Cauldon’ works founded by Job Ridgway in 1802 (see Ridgway – antique bone china section). There were various different buy outs and partner firms too numerous to go into here.
Significantly, son John Ridgway was appointed potter to Her Majesty Queen Victoria and achieved numerous awards and commendations for quality. The important thing for me is I own a set of nice but ordinary earthenware dinner plates marked with Royal Cauldon est. 1652 – “Englands Oldest Pottery”. Being in the trade I was curious – so did some digging.
It turns out that the Bristol firm Pountney & Co. Ltd took over the name in 1962. Not satisfied with the Ridgway connections, they decided to plain lie. They had excavated and found pottery shards underneath their Bristol premises (unrelated to the Pountney Company) dating from c.1652 and decided to try to pull the wool over their customers’ eyes.
It didn’t work. The ‘creative’ back-stamp date only served to counteract the genuine historical associations of the Ridgway name and Pountney ceased trading in 1977, having served only to discredit a once great name.
Amongst the Cauldon works most famous patterns is 'chariot'.
Founded in Denby, Derbyshire, England 1809. The main factor in the birth of the company was the discovery of clay during the construction of a new road nearby. Denby's first products were salt-glaze stoneware bottles and jars. Denby still makes a wide range of tableware and cook ware. Many of the original hand methods (painting, glazing and turning) are still used.
see Limoges (below)
When the term "Dresden" was used in the U.K. before the l940’s, it historically referred to the Meissen factory products.
Meissen was the first ever European manufacturer of Chinese type hard-past porcelain in in history - 1710 to be precise (see Meissen section below).
“Dresden China” nowadays is more of a general term understood to be a reference to Germanic porcelain of that region or style. Historically, the second ever European ‘Dresden’ style porcelain factory was not located nearby, but in Vienna, Austria. The Du Pacquier factory was founded by Claude Du Pacquier in 1718.
Numerous factories were eventually established throughout the German speaking world, supported by the many Princes who wanted the prestige of a porcelain factory – the new white gold.
Notable makers were Nymphenburg, Berlin (KPM), Höchst, Ludwigsburg, Ansbach. Fürstenberg, situated about 200 miles to the west of Dresden, near Brunswick, began production in 1747 and, second to Meissen, claim to have the oldest uninterrupted production in Germany (see below for more details).
Oldest of the true Dresden Makers is Volkstedt founded in 1762 (see below). Hutschenreuther based to the south in Bavaria near Selb, was founded in 1814 (see below). Rosenthal of Selb was founded in 1879 (see below). Of the original factories only three big makers survived - Meissen, Nymphenburg (see below) and Berlin (see above).
Franz was founded 2002 by Francis Chen with its HQ in San Francisco, USA and its design and research center in Taipei, Taiwan. Production is in Mainland China.
Chen studied German Literature at university and acquired the nickname Franz.
Franz became the name of his brainchild – an idea that had to happen – an innovative new porcelain collection for today's market using ancient dynastic principles.
Franz’s secret weapon in his quest is art consultant and designer Chao Sun - an expert in the techniques of the Chinese dynasties. Sun worked with the National Palace Museum for 10 years, and his designs have been acquired by both London's British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum.
Franz appears to be thriving at a time when many porcelain makers are going backwards. Just goes to show what vision combined with expertise can achieve.
1747 On July 11, Duke Carl I. of Brunswick orders the foundation of a porcelain factory in Fürstenberg.
Furstenburg continues to make a small amount of manufactured hand painted figures - The most well known of these are 15 Italian comedy figures.
This china manufacturers claim to fame is to be second only to Meissen in uninterrupted production (see Dresden China above).