The Chinese discovered kaolin clay and figured out how to shape and fire it into porcelain by the 8th century, but they guarded the secrets of making fine china from the West. As a result, Europeans fumbled around for centuries making soft-paste or “artificial” porcelain out of white clay, crystalline quartz, and sand. It wasn’t until the early 18th century that kaolin was discovered in Germany outside Colditz and Aue, and European potteries set about experimenting with making their own true hard-paste porcelain dinnerware.

Following in the footsteps of German potteries like Meissen, Danish chemist Franz Henrich Mueller founded the Royal Copenhagen porcelain factory in 1775 under the protection of Queen Juliane Marie. The company adopted three waved lines—which represent Denmark’s three straits, Øresund, Store Bælt and Lille Bælt—as its trademark.

Royal Copenhagen struggled financially as it experimented with porcelain making until the absolute monarch King Christian VII took over the company in 1779 to guarantee its survival. Most of the porcelain at the time was painted with cobalt blue, as that was the only underglaze color that could tolerate the 1400-degree Celsius firing.

The first dinnerware pattern produced by Royal Copenhagen in 1775 was called Blue Fluted, which is still produced and hand-painted today. It features a floral pattern similar to those of Chinese porcelain sets, but it eventually became a pattern synonymous with Danish porcelain. Another 1770s pattern known as the Bird Service was produced for the Queen. In 1779, the Blue Flower pattern debuted, flaunting a more distinctive European style, with naturalistic flowers.

It wasn’t long before porcelain dinnerware became a status symbol among the royal family and other aristocrats, who would commission coffee and tea services, as well as enormous detailed vases, for prices that would be the equivalent of millions today. The royals gave them as gifts to enhance their country’s reputation and used them to serve on when entertaining prestigious foreign visitors. Royal Copenhagen and other porcelain potteries would decorate these wares with a rich multicolored overglaze and hand-molded embellishments.

The most famous and ambitious of these commissions was the Flora Danica dinner service. It is believed that the Danish king, Christian VII, ordered it in 1790 as a gift for Catherine the Great of Russia, requesting a service beautiful and delicate enough to be worthy of a spot in her prized porcelain collection. However, the Empress died in 1796, years before the service was complete, and, instead, it stayed in the Danish royal family, now belonging to Queen Margrethe II.

The service is based on “Flora Danica,” a 51-volume taxonomy of Danish flowers that is heralded as one of the great works of the Age of Enlightenment. The color copperplate print...

Production of Flora Danica was revived in 1863 as a gift honoring the marriage of Princess Alexandra of Denmark to Edward VII, the future king of England, and this dinnerware pattern has been made ever since. One of its most unique items is the 28-centimeter “ice dome,” which requires 16 different processes over the course of one month to produce.

Surviving the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Copenhagen factory flourished again in the mid-19th century, thanks to artistic director G.F. Hetsch. He brought flower painter J.L. Jensen, known for his gorgeous colorful overglaze paintings inspired by foreign styles, to the firm.

Around the same time, Royal Copenhagen lost one of its top creative minds, artist Frederick Wilhelm Grøndahl, who joined retailers Harald and Jacob Bing to form Bing & Grøndahl. Unfortunately, Grøndahl died in 1855, just two years after the company was established. However, another former Royal Copenhagen employee, F.A. Hallin, joined Bing & Grøndahl and developed a revolutionary way of painting plates known as relief painting.

Relief painting involves carving the artwork into a mold, which is then used as a model for other molds. The production of the plates requires more than one mold because each mold can only be used to make 20 to 30 plates before it absorbs too much water from the drying porcelain. This new method allowed for subtle shadings in the traditional cobalt blue.

In 1867, the state sold Royal Copenhagen to A. Falch, as well as the rights to the “royal” name. In 1882, Philip Schou, owner of faience factory Alumina, bought Royal Copenhagen and ran both companies.

Royal Copenhagen released its first collectible commemorative plate for the 1888 Scandinavian Fair in Copenhagen. At the time, the only way to make multiples was through stenciling, a process in which an artisan puts a stencil on a white plate and dabs it with paint using a sponge.

The Scandinavian Fair plate, featuring a crown with three wavy lines underneath it, was displayed on each corner of the Royal Copenhagen Factory booth. Queen Louise let it be known that she would like one of her own, and these plates soon become all the rage with the Danish aristocracy.

From then on, the factory made plates to honor royal events, anniversaries, and all sorts of special occasions. For example, in 1906, the company introduced the Flora Danica Silhouette Portrait plates, designed by Arnold Krog. These 4.5-inch-by-3.5-inch plates are decorated with the shadow profile of a royal family member in the center and his or her national flag and colors on the border. Each of the 15 is topped with a gilded crown.

Meanwhile, the designers at Bing & Grøndahl had not been idle. Using their relief-painting technique, they produced the world’s first Christmas plate in 1895. Royal Copenhagen quickly jumped on this idea, making its own Christmas plate every year employing this new relief-painting technology.

In the early days, collecting commemorative plates was a hobby exclusive to Danish royalty and aristocrats. However, the trend spread to the rest of Europe with industrialization, and Royal Copenhagen produced Christmas plates in the French, English, German, and Czechoslovakian languages.

Royal Copenhagen’s Christmas plates are 7 inches in diameter, and those from 1908 to 1952 are usually inscribed with the year and “JUL” or “Julen,” which is “Christmas” in Danish. The Royal Copenhagen Christmas plates made after 1953 feature only the year. Rarer plates are inscribed with the word “Christmas” in other languages: “Weihnachten” (German, 1908-1944), “Noel” (French, 1909-1944), “Vanoce” (Czechoslovakian, 1909-1943), and “Kerstmis” (Dutch, 1931 and perhaps 1932).

A smaller Christmas plate from 1911, called the “thief plate,” was found in Aarhus, and rumor has it that it was never meant to be sold. Another small Christmas plate featuring ducks was produced in small quantities in 1927 in various languages. For three years during World War II, the general of the German Air Force in Denmark requested a special Christmas plate with the words “General der luffwaffe in Denmark” inscribed on it. Possibly only two of these were made each year between 1941 and 1943. Perhaps the rarest Christmas plate finds, though, are the trial and proof plates for each year.

It wasn’t until after World War II that Christmas plates hit the United States, as soldiers returning from the war brought home the holiday keepsakes marked with the year. The oldest dealer’s price list known to be distributed in the U.S. is from 1952. In the ’60s and ’70s, the popularity Christmas plates skyrocketed, and Royal Copenhagen churned them out. However, in the late ’70s, the market became saturated with cheaply made “limited edition” commemorative plates that diminished the value of such items.

Other famous commemorative Royal Copenhagen plates include those to honor Children’s Help Day in Denmark. A doctor named Johan Carlsen founded the organization, the Danish equivalent of the Help the Children Foundation, in 1904 to raise funds for needy kids—Royal Copenhagen put out a series of plates showing happy kids at play from 1910 to 1940.

Over the last 100 years, Royal Copenhagen has attempted many different commemorative series, including Mother’s Day plates and Portraits of Old Copenhagen (1970s) by the famous illustrator Mads Stage. In the 1950s and ’60s, Royal Copenhagen produced the Plaquette series picturing iconic buildings, antique cars, and U.S. Presidents including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy. In the ’70s, the Compass Series, featuring old-world Danish compasses, was produced in limited numbers.

The newest series include Nature’s Children, Young Adventurers, and the Millennium series. The 1990s’ Christmas in Denmark series, also known as the “Dear Family,” was the company’s only full-color plate series. Aside from plates, Royal Copenhagen also made mugs to commemorate each year, starting in 1967.

Some Royal Copenhagen items have been sold as “seconds,” identified by a single perpendicular scratch in the trademark’s waves, which is sometimes easier to feel than see. Plates might have been marked as second-quality thanks to holes in the glaze or cracks in the porcelain under the glaze. Sometimes the seconds are “out-of-round,” meaning the plate does not lie perfectly flat when placed face down on a table.

If a dinnerware item has two or more scratches in the trademark waves, these are considered third or fourth quality. Sometimes, they are actually flawless pieces that employees purchased from the factory, but they were marked as low quality to discourage the workers from selling them. If the plate is truly third or fourth quality, it will be obviously flawed.

Outside of dinnerware, Royal Copenhagen became known in the Art Nouveau period for its naturalistic art pottery, featuring figurines and animals painted with delicately colored glazes.

The company also produced a number of antique porcelain signs, which exploded in popularity in the late 19th century. Older signs were hand-painted using over- and underglaze, while newer signs were usually produced using transferware techniques.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

This gallery showcases highlights from the 5,000 items in the museum's ceramics collection dating from 1500-1900. I… [read review or visit site]

Ceramics at The V&A

Ceramics at The V&A

A great reference on ceramics from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Learn about different ceramics techniques and st… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

6 Royal Copenhagen "blue Fluted-half Lace" Cups & Saucers ~ 1/525Royal Copenhagen "blue Fluted-full Lace" Rectangular Cake Plate ~ 1/11436 Royal Copenhagen "blue Fluted-half Lace" Salad Plates ~ 1/5735 Royal Copenhagen "blue Fluted-half Lace" Dinner Plates ~ 1/5715 Royal Copenhagen "blue Fluted-half Lace" Luncheon Plates ~ 1/572Vtg Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Half Lace Square Serving Bowl Blue White 1/7084 Royal Copenhagen "blue Fluted-half Lace" Rim Soup Bowls ~ 1/566Royal Copenhagen "blue Fluted-half Lace" Handled Cake Plate ~ 1/666Royal Copenhagen "blue Fluted-plain" Square Vegetable Bowl ~ 1/26Antique Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Oval Teapot Half Lace, 1889 - 1922 MarkRoyal Copenhagen Half Lace Fluted Round Serving Bowl Blue 1/1020 Mint6 Royal Copenhagen "blue Fluted-half Lace" Bread & Butter Plates ~ 1/575Royal Copenhagen "blue Fluted-half Lace" Pickle Dish ~ 1/552Royal Copenhagen Blue And White Oil And Vinegar SetSet 2 Vintage Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Half Lace Demitasse Cup & Saucer 719Royal Copenhagen Tea Pot Blue Fluted PlainRoyal Copenhagen Half Lace Fluted Oval Serving Dish Blue 1/552 Mint 1970s3 Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted #1035, Coffee Cups, Set Of ThreeRoyal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Half Lace Oval Dish 9 5/8" X 4 6/8"- 1944 1/1115Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Full Lace Tray 1195Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Plain Mega Cup And SaucerRoyal Copenhagen Faun/pan Playing With A Bear #648 Nils Thorsson Tile #1, Royal Copenhagen Denmark Baca Danish ModernRoyal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Sauce Boat - 1/661Royal Copenhagen "blue Fluted-plain" Round Vegetable Bowl ~ 1/198 Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Full Lace Butter Pat Dishes 2 7/8" - 1944 1/10044 Royal Copenhagen Blue And White Salt Bowls Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Napkin Rings Set Of 2Vintage Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Plain Kidney Shape Side Plate #154 DenmarkCreamer Blue Fluted Full "open" Lace Royal Copenhagen # 1032 Mint Condition!Royal Copenhagen Denmark Porcelain Blue Art Pottery Vase Dogwood 10"Vtg 40 Ounce Royal Copenhagen 6 3/4" Pitcher Blue Fluted Plain Denmark Water Jug4 Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted #719, Coffee Cups, Set Of FourRoyal Copenhagen Blue-fluted Plain Vase - 1/384Vintage Royal Copenhagen Goose Girl In Poly-chrome #528 Nr Royal Copenhagen Tall Pillow Cats Eyes Vase Inge Lise Koefoed Mid-century ModernVtg Royal Copenhagen 5 Bread Butter Plates 6 1/2" Blue Fluted Half Lace DenmarkNils Thorsson Tile #3, Royal Copenhagen Denmark Mid Century Modern2 Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Plain Candlestick Holders - 1/3334Royal Copenhagen Blue And White Full-lace Oval Covered Vegetable Tureen - 1/6222 Royal Copenhagen Half Lace Fluted Dessert Salad Plates Blue 1/ 574 MintRare Vintage Royal Copenhagen Lamp W/ Butterfly & Flower Pattern On Teak BaseRoyal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Full Lace #1031 & #1112, Creamer & Sugar BowlRoyal Copenhagen Blue And White Full-lace Round Covered Serving Bowl - 1/620Royal Copenhagen Blue Flower Girl With Trumpet & Mfg. Sign10 Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Half Lace Butter Pat Dishes 2 7/8" - 1944 1/504Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Plain 14" PlatterRoyal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Half-lace Gravy Bowl - 1/5871 Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Full Lace #1087, Dessert PlatesLeaf Shaped Dish No. 1 - 143. Blue Fluted Half Lace Royal CopenhagenRoyal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Half Lace Cup And Saucer - Vintage 1950sRoyal Copenhagen Blue Flower Square Bowl 8 1/4"Royal Copenhagen Antique Vase 5". 1905 Year Mark. Pristine. Truly Piece Of Art.Set Of 5 Royal Copenhagen Tea Cups And Saucers Blue Flowers 8500 Royal Copenhagen Braided Blue Flower 3 Cups & Saucers -plusFooted Bowl 1023 Blue Fluted Full Lace Royal Copenhagen Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Plain Candlestick / Candle Holder #3303 *excellent*Royal Copenhagen Denmark Blue Flowers Angular Bowl #10 8556 Ex. Condition Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Demitasse Espresso Cups (3 Total) Circa 1940Royal Copenhagen Triton Teapot Coffee Pot. He Needs A New Home!!!

Recent News: Royal Copenhagen China

Source: Google News

Evansville gift shop returns to its roots
Courier & Press, August 12th

Rose Marie's will display collectibles and gifts from Fontanini, Dept 56, Locally designed, Maggie's Memories by Margaret Haire, Biedermann, Royal Copenhagen B & G, Hadley Potter, Evansville Landmark ornaments, Waterford and Swarovski. Local vendors ...Read more

Discount to Hong Kong; dish giveaway; new Jetstar route
The Japan Times, August 4th

Scandinavian Airlines is giving out Royal Copenhagen products to passengers who purchase SAS business class tickets through the company's official website (www.flysas.co.jp ) until Sept. 30. In addition to offering spacious seats with massage functions...Read more

Nya kunder till Trendgruppen
Dagens Media, August 4th

På Trendgruppen PR:s kundlista finns sedan tidigare bland andra Hackman, Royal Copenhagen och Rörstrand. Nu sällar sig det svenska textilföretaget Gyllstad samt danska Design Letters till byråns kunder. Under 2013 omsatte Trendgruppen PR 6,5 ...Read more

Brugte tips: Tajmer fik en håndbygget guitar
Fyens Stiftstidende, July 31st

Både fordi man på den måde kan gøre nogle gode handler, men også fordi der er nogle gode principper i, at købe ting, der har været brugt før, ligesom chancen for, at de er lokalt producerede - og ikke som f.eks. porcelæn fra Royal Copenhagen der...Read more

El arte de la mesa se llama Pia
Telva, July 23rd

Algunas de sus grandes marcas son: Alberto Pinto, Herend, Marie Daâge, Raynaud, Royal Copenhagen, entre otras muchas. Su constante búsqueda de la calidad se refleja en una escogida oferta de marcas y me siento orgullosa de que haya seleccionado ...Read more

I Ate Myself Horny at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark
Munchies_ Food by VICE, July 21st

La Grande Bouffe is the greatest movie ever made about food. Nowhere else has food looked so glorious as in this bacchanal orgy of gastronomy, sex, bourgeois angst, and gluttony. I mean, who wouldn't want to end their days being force-fed pâté while ...Read more

Las calles más importantes para ir de compras
20minutos.es, July 19th

Avenidas espectaculares donde están las mejores marcas del mundo, donde van los diseñadores y la ropa de alta costura. fuente:http://www.ucityguides.com/cities/10-best-shopping-streets-in-the-world.html y Wikipedia ocurrencia:mia. Imagenes:Google...Read more