Any individual or collector who takes an interest in porcelain knows the name Meissen well. But why are items made by the Meissen Porcelain Manufactory so well known and valuable? It is because Meissen has continually produced high quality hand-crafted work since their founding as the first hard-paste porcelain manufactory in Europe.
Meissen porcelain is made in Meissen, Germany, just outside Dresden. The manufactory was founded by the Prince-Elector of Saxony, Friedrich August I in 1710. However, the foundations of the manufactory began much earlier, when the Prince-Elector of Saxony took a young alchemist, Johann Friedrich Böttger, under his protection. Böttger was meant to chemically produce gold for the prince, but instead, in 1708, he discovered the secret to making porcelain, and the first hard-paste European porcelain manufactory soon followed.
Once the manufactory was established it began producing hand-made porcelain pieces, which continued to develop in quality and detail. Particularly, the pieces created under model master Johann Joachim Kändler, who joined the company in 1731, are exemplary. A prime example of Meissen quality and importance is the porcelain hunt goblet produced in 1739 for the Prince-Elector of Cologne, Clemens August. The piece is highly detailed and was created using several individually molded pieces. The original that belonged to Clemens August has long been lost, but three other goblets pulled from the molds at the same time (backups in case the original cracked in the kiln) were uncovered in the 20th Century. These goblets fetched high prices when sold and are now all in museums and prominent collections.
Meissen pieces have such a strong reputation because of their historical significance and quality. Due to this, they have long been fodder for imitators and forgers. Furthermore, there are often official Meissen pulls from old molds causing confusion in regards to the age of particular pieces. So, how do you, as a new collector of Meissen, determine the authenticity, value and age of your porcelain items?The easiest way would be to look for a mark and compare it to official Meissen marks from all periods. However, sometimes items go unmarked or the fake mark is so good that it passes as valid by the untrained eye. This is where taking your items to a professional appraiser will prove invaluable.