Appreciated by kings and presidents, gaining awards in international exhibits in London, Paris and New York, Russian Imperial porcelain is a prestigious brand, proud of its imperial heritage and valued for its solid quality.
The enterprise established by the order of Peter the Great’s daughter, Empress Elizabeth, was created to “serve native trade and native art”, and it has been doing so brilliantly for more than two and a half centuries.
The Imperial Porcelain Factory (or Manufactory) was established by Russian chemist Dmitry Vinogradov in 1744 in the town of Oranienbaum, currently Lomonosov, 40 kilometers west of the northern capital St. Petersburg. The talented mining engineer studied metallurgy in Freiberg and invented the formula of the Russian porcelain, though the first attempts to reveal the secret of porcelain making were made back in 1718 by Peter the Great during his visit to Saxony.
From the very beginning the factory produced wares exclusively for the ruling Romanov family and the Russian Imperial Court. But it is the Golden age of Catherine the Great that is considered the age of prosperity for its production, as it was obliged to produce fine porcelain and to bring profit.
After half a century of tough times, the beginning of a new 19th century marked a revival for the factory as by that time it had become one of the leading porcelain factories in Europe.
In the 1990s the enterprise started exporting its production to countries unfamiliar with its wares, particularly the US and Japan. In 1999 an American investing firm bought a controlling interest in the factory, which resulted in a long legal battle in Russia and eventually in a legal victory for the American investors. However, three years later they sold it to Nikolai Tsvetkov, president of oil firm Nikoil.
Recently the factory started producing hand-made copies of porcelain exhibited in the State Hermitage Museum collection. The pieces are stamped "Imperial Porcelain, 1744, St. Petersburg," along with the double-headed imperial eagle. The pieces made after 2002 held the back stamp with a red or a blue monogram along with the words "Hand Decorated, 1744, St. Petersburg, Russia", while the first post-Soviet export back stamp was a red monogram, saying "Made in Russia".
© Voice of Russia. 25 October, 2013