Royal Copenhagen: Stunning Porcelain Pieces That Bring a Royal Feel to the Table
If you're anything like me, you've always dreamt of a set of Royal Copenhagen blue and white plates decorating your dining table on Christmas Eve. That beautiful Danish dinnerware used to be only found on the world's most opulent dining tables. It used to be a symbol of status, and as the name suggests, of royalty.
Fortunately, the lovely designs are now just a few blocks (or clicks) away from me thanks to more and more stores bringing the famous Royal Copenhagen collectibles to the UK. And at prices that regular people, not just the aristocracy, can afford. Needless to say, I'm already picturing blue and white dinner parties this Christmas season in my mind.
But the company is more than just the recognisable Christmas plates – there are other whimsical Christmas ornaments and mugs and dinnerware in all sorts of cute designs to choose from, usually depicting the Danish flora. If you too consider yourself a fan or are just a bit curious, continue reading for some fascinating facts about the iconic Royal Copenhagen china.
Representing Danish Royal Heritage
Founded by the Queen herself, R. Copenhagen has been making delicate porcelain dinnerware for the Danish royal family since 1775. That's almost two and a half centuries! Talk about heritage!
The Royal Porcelain Factory was the company's initial name. It was Denmark's first porcelain production and its most well-known one, for that matter.
When Queen Juliane Marie founded the company, she requested that the porcelain's insignia be three waves which are to be painted on the back of each piece. The three Danish waterways are represented by the waves: the Oresund, the Great Belt, and the Little Belt.
Today, the waves are still being hand-painted on every porcelain object that leaves the factory, along with the royal crown symbol stamp and the craftsman's mark. The crown has evolved over time, so each piece of the royal Danish porcelain can be dated using it as a reference.
The Blue Fluted Plain was the factory's very first design. It depicts a motif of a Chinese chrysanthemum that was brought to Denmark. Today, Pattern No. 1, as it's also called, has something of a cult following. There are even folks who have the motif tattooed on their bodies.
Each plate, mug and any other piece is still hand-painted to this day. There are even variations of the famous pattern. The Blue Fluted Half Lace and Full Lace, Blue Fluted Mega, Blue Palmette, and Blue Elements are just a few of the many reinventions you can come across. And they're just as complicated to paint. A single Blue Fluted Half Lace dinner plate requires exactly 1,197 brush strokes. Unbelievable!
Another iconic design is the Flora Danica, which is currently housed in Denmark's Rosenborg Castle. It's considered Royal Copenhagen's most famous and expensive porcelain service. Catherine II of Russia was to receive the magnificent service as a gift, but she died while the 1,802 pieces were being made.
Everything from small eggcups to enormous tureens is included in the set, all of which are painted with wild plants native to the Danish country. Johann Christoph Bayer, the artist, was inspired by illustrations from a book of Danish flora to paint each item.
The Flora Danica design was reintroduced to the market in 1863. Today, there are over 3,000 Flora patterns to choose from, so you can own your own little piece of history in your kitchen cupboards. Complete sets are known to bring in thousands of pounds in auction.
Why Are Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Pieces Considered Collectibles?
There are two reasons why the historic Danish porcelain goods are considered collectible items. For one thing, the porcelain sets were frequently passed down from generation to generation in Danish houses. Royal Copenhagen has produced almost 2,000 different designs of hand-painted cups, bowls, and plates over the course of its history, and Danish people love to compare the designs they have with each other.
The second reason is that each piece is one-of-a-kind. The company's painters have to study their craft for four years, using brushes made from reindeer bellies or cows' ears. So obviously, no motif painted is ever exactly the same.
Despite the fact that the designs appear to be identical at first glance, each painter can quickly identify their unique work. The painter's signature is also seen on the back of each work. And while some of the painters have become known to the public, many of them are anonymous, lending the pieces an aura of mystery.
Is Royal Copenhagen Good Quality?
This Royal Copenhagen porcelain collection is known as one of the most long-lasting in the world (the decades and even centuries-old heirlooms are perfect examples of this). This is due to the unique firing process the company uses.
After the beautiful glaze has been applied, the porcelain is fired at approximately 1375 degrees Celsius and undergoes a shrinking process, losing up to 14% of its original size. During the final fire, some pieces may get destroyed; one out of every five pieces may end up discarded. This leaves behind only the most robust pieces.
But what about the colourful patterns? The characteristic blue pigment used by R. Copenhagen can survive extremely high temperatures and is added prior to the porcelain's final glazing and firing. The blue fluted pieces are also microwave-safe, despite their delicate-looking colour. The same goes for most of their other collections as well.
Firsts vs. Seconds
But if you're considering spending a lot of money on a piece, it's crucial to know if it's a factory 1st or factory 2nd, as the piece's appearance can often conceal the fact that it's a second. Any pieces from the R. Copenhagen (and Alumina) manufacturers that do not meet the excellence requirement are labelled as "seconds."
A diamond cutter is used to etch a very fine small line through the three lines. Because seconds were sold at a discount at the factory shop, those pieces are usually worth less. But still, it depends on how rare and popular the piece is. The pieces from the Tenera and Baca series from the 1950s and 1960s are most often identified as seconds.
Can I Put My Danish Porcelain in the Dishwasher?
Many products by the company are safe to be used in the dishwasher, but not all of them. There are certain series of traditional porcelain that's been decorated with underglaze and is high-fired so it can be safely put in the dishwasher, like the following ones:
On the other hand, if you own a Flora Danica or a Star Rifle Christmas piece, try to wash it by hand most of the time and use a dishwasher only on rare occasions. If you're unsure whether or not your R. Copenhagen goods will tolerate a trip through the dishwasher, carefully check the directions for each item before proceeding.