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    

Royal Copenhagen Very Rare Model Of A Dachshund Looking Into A Bowl No 693. 2 Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Blue Fluted Bowls4 Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted #1038, Coffee Cups, Set Of FourRoyal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Half Lace Teapot #611 1st QualityRoyal Copenhagen Blue Fluted #1062, Cake Platter / Serving PlateRoyal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Full Lace #1031 & #1112, Creamer & Sugar BowlPp 12 Coffee Cups 1035 Candlestics Tblue Fluted Full Lace Royal Copenhagen2 Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Half Lace Cream Soups, Lids & Saucers2 Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Half Lace Cream Soups, Lids & SaucersRare Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Plain Teapot # 258 1st QualityOld Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Full Lace 7" Teapot W/masks #1118Vtg Fine Royal Copenhagen Blue Half Lace Fluted Large Teapot & Lid Denmark # 6112 Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Blue Fluted Breakfast CupsPp 11 Plates 1087, 7 " 17,5 Cm Blue Fluted Full Lace Royal CopenhagenFlora Danica Royal Copenhagen Handled Dish (damages)Exquisite Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Dinner Plate 26 Cm. 10" No Reserve !!!Lovely Royal Copenhagen Milk Maid And Calf #779 Dated 1959 - SignedRoyal Copenhagen China - 6 Beautiful Colorful Floral Demitasse Cup & Saucer SetsExquisite Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Dinner Plate 26 Cm. 10" No Reserve !!4 Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Full Lace Tea Cups With Saucers And Side PlatesRoyal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Half Lace Dinner Plate 1/571 Beautiful Royal Copenhagen Fluted Full Lace Serving Dish/platter 1/1195 Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Full Lace Finger Bowl # 1177 1st QualityExquisite Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Dinner Plate 26 Cm 10" No Reserve Roayl Copenhagen Blue Fluted Plain Cake Plate Second Mark # 319Exquisite Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Dinner Plate 26 Cm. 10" No Reserve !Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Half Lace Mustard With Lid And Full Lace UnderplateRoyal Copenhagen Denmark Blue Flowers 8500 - Lot Of 3 Tea Cups And Saucers(8) Blue Fluted Full Lace Royal Copenhagen Demitasse Cup & Saucers, No. 1038Exquisite Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Dinner Plate 26 Cm. 10" No Reserve Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Cups And Saucers Antique Royal Copenhagen Blue Floral Fluted Plain Teacup And Saucer 1/76  1930Exquisite Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Dinner Plate 26 Cm. 10" No Reserve Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Lace Full Lace 2 Dinner Plates #1084Pp Two Footed Bowl 511 Blue Fluted Half Lace Royal CopenhagenRoyal Copenhagen Denmark Blue Flowers 8554 - Lot Of 6 Dinner Plates - 10 InchRoyal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Plain # 26 Square Serving Bowl 6 Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Plain Butter Plates 3 €Exquisite Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Dinner Plate 26 Cm. 10" No Reserve Exquisite Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Dinner Plate 26 Cm. 10" No Reserve Amazing Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Lunch Plate 22.5 Cm. 9". NrRoyal Copenhagen Porcelain Blue Fluted Plate Plus A LidAmazing Royal Copenhagen Antique Flora Danica Lunch Plate 22.5 Cm. 9". NrRoyal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Full Lace 2 Pieces 1015 And 1113Amazing Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Lunch Plate 22.5 Cm. 9". NrPp Six Plates 504 3 " 7,5 Cm Wide Blue Fluted Half Lace Royal CopenhagenPp Serv Bowl 552, 21,5 Cm 9 " Wide Blue Fluted Half Lace Royal CopenhagenRoyal Copenhagen 5" Blue Half Lace Fluted Trivet Mint!Royal Copenhagen Baca Fajance Vase By Johanna Gerber (19cm)Pp 12 Twelve Coffee Cups Saucers 719 Blue Fluted Half Lace Royal CopenhagenAmazing Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Lunch Plate 22.5 Cm. 9". NrAmazing Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Lunch Plate 22.5 Cm. 9". NrRoyal Copenhagen Flora Danica "potentilla Retusa Mull" Plate 1st Quality2 Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Blue Fluted PlatesMatched Pair Vintage Royal Copenhagen Danish Porcelain Floral Blue White VasesAmazing Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Lunch Plate 22.5 Cm. 9". Nr Royal Copenhagen Denmark Blue Flowers 8550 - Lot Of 4 Lunch Plates Or Salad 8.75Royal Copenhagen Baca Fajance Vase By Nils Thorsson (22cm)Beautiful Vintage 1954 Royal Copenhagen Christmas Plate: "amalienborg Palace"Amazing Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Lunch Plate 22.5 Cm. 9". Nr

Recent News: Royal Copenhagen China

Source: Google News

J's Crush Class & Fleet Honors- Valeur-Jensen Denmark Race
J/Sailing News (blog), September 17th

JBoats sailing denmark race (Stamford, CT)- On Sunday September 7, J/Boats had a great showing at a key fall event on the CT/ NY Long Island Sound race circuit: The 49th Annual Valeur-Jensen Stamford Denmark Race. The event is sponsored by the ...Read more

Cooper Hewitt's reopening is fêted with a new book from illustrator Maira Kalman
Architectural Digest (blog), September 16th

The fun continues with a Royal Copenhagen rabbit figurine, a Porca Miseria! chandelier, and a Parisian dessert fork from the turn of the 20th century, among other special objects. Gerrit Rietveld's Zig-Zag chair rounds out the alphabet, with a bit of...Read more

Fiskars to reorganize its businesses in Europe and Asia-Pacific
GlobeNewswire (press release), September 11th

Business unit Living Products, headed by Päivi Paltola-Pekkola, would continue to focus on leading Scandinavian design under the brands Iittala, Royal Copenhagen, Arabia and Rörstrand. In the organizational proposal, Fiskars plans to combine the ...Read more

Room Service by Gucci: The Fashion Designer-Hotel Collaborations of Our ...
Yahoo Travel, September 8th

Enter Prada, who could invent a print inspired by famous Scandinavian motifs—the crown-and-waves factory mark of porcelain maker Royal Copenhagen, say, or the classic artichoke shape of Poul Henningsen's celebrated lamp—and use it to punch up the ...Read more

Help! Reader can soon rock around the clock again
Florida Today, September 6th

I have the following three collections: 87 Sandwich & Pairpoint glass cup plates, all colors, 3½ inches wide (they held teacups); 35 Norman Rockwell 9-inch plates; and 14 Royal Copenhagen 8-inch plates. I would be very appreciative if you could direct...Read more

?BLUE by ROYAL COPENHAGEN?????????????LUMINE??? ??? ...
MSN??????, August 28th

???? ???? ??????? ???????? ????????????????????????????BLUE by ROYAL COPENHAGEN??9?2?(?) LUMINE??? ????????? ??????????????????? BLUE by ROYAL COPENHAGEN?? ...Read more

Austrian landscape renderings by Carl Hasch and others will be sold at auction ...
ArtfixDaily, August 22nd

Fulvio Bianconi (1915-1996), 14 ½ inches tall, produced for Venini by Bianconi, the most successful designer of the Golden Age of Italian Glass (1946-1969); and a set of eight Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica pattern soup bowls with gilt accented rums...Read more

Didriks Announces Third Annual September “Switch Up” Dinnerware Exchange
Virtual-Strategy Magazine (press release), August 21st

Didriks also offers dinnerware, glassware, fine pottery and cookware from Simon Pearce, iittala, Match Pewter, Jars Ceramics, Alessi, Royal Copenhagen, Libeco Home, Chilewich and other fine brands. Online at About Local Root Established in ...Read more