In today’s world of function and design, we tend to forget about our grandmothers’ fine china set although a genuine, hand-painted porcelain represents elegance as well as centuries of culture and it’s still very much considered a luxury item. Hungary produces one of the world’s most sought-after ceramics and has its biggest porcelain manufactory in Herend. The Herend porcelain is beautiful, handmade and unique, and could be the perfect souvenir for you to take home from your trip to Budapest.
What Is Porcelain?
Porcelain is the noblest material of the ceramic industry. What makes it stand out from other ceramic products is its hard surface, translucency and special whiteness. These properties are mainly due to its content of mullite. This mineral is formed above 1100 ° C from one of the porcelain’s main raw materials, kaolin. Porcelain used to be called “white gold”. It was a privilege to own it and it was an object of value for anyone who longed for rank and prestige.
Did you know? Porcelain was invented in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The first Chinese porcelain items were brought to Europe by medieval crusaders, where they soon became widely popular for their unique beauty. By the 18th century, most of the Chinese porcelain manufacturing secrets were revealed throughout Europe. The three most popular European porcelain manufactories are in Meissen (Germany), Vienna (Austria) and Venice (Italy).
Porcelain production in Hungary started in the 19th century. Among the first forms were Hungarian folk figures. The glaze was initially greenish white, which was later changed to white. Hungary’s most important porcelain factory was founded by Vince Stingl in Herend.
What’s so Special about the Herend Porcelain?
Herend products are made from hard-paste porcelain using a mixture of kaolin, feldspar and quartz. After cleaning, decorating and drying, the porcelain is first fired at 830 degrees Celsius. The fired pieces are then immersed in a glaze and fired again, this time at 1410 degrees Celsius. This results in white, translucent porcelain. At this stage the porcelain is ready for being painted by hand and, depending whether it has been painted with colors or with 24-carat gold, it’s finished off with one or two more firings.
During the 19th century, the Herend Porcelain Manufactory was a regular supplier of the Habsburg Dynasty and the aristocracy both in Hungary and abroad. The factory continues to manufacture porcelain according to traditional methods in order to produce a consistent quality.
Herend porcelain has won 24 grand and gold prizes in world exhibitions between 1851 and 1937. One of the best known Herend patterns – Chinese-style butterflies and flowery branches painted in lively colors – was presented at the London World Exhibition in 1851 and received a gold medal. The British Queen Victoria fell in love with the award-winning pattern, so she ordered a dinner set for Windsor Castle. Since then, that pattern is named “Viktória”.
Herend porcelain ware, dinner, coffee and tea sets are still very popular today and not just among everyday people but celebrities and royal families as well. Lady Diana, the princes off Wales chose a set with Rotschield décor for her wedding while the famous actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is a big collector of the Herend VH Animal Collection.
Herend Porcelain: The History
The Herend Porcelain Manufactory looks back on a history of almost two centuries. It was founded in 1826 in the small village of Herend near Lake Balaton. In the following years the manufactory produced mainly traditional stone pots and has done research in the field of porcelain development. The latter, however, required so much money that the original owner was forced to sell the factory to Mór Fischer in 1839 who – from here on – focused on producing high quality porcelain ware only. This was the year when the real journey of Herend started.
Within a short time, the manufactory gained a reputation for selling various porcelain items to the imperial and royal courts. At that time, fine china was considered to be just as prestigious as gold or gemstone jewelry and Herend porcelain was soon treated as a true status symbol. In 1872, Emperor Franz Joseph awarded the title of Supplier to the Imperial and Royal Court to the Herend Manufactory. This was the highest recognition for a small business from the imperial court at the time. During the last almost two hundred years, nearly 64 million hand-crafted porcelain left the gates of the factory, featuring 16,000 unique shapes and nearly 4,000 different painted patterns. The Herend Manufactory also became world-famous and now exports to over 60 countries worldwide – including Russia, Italy, the United States and Japan. Today, the factory in Herend is the largest manufacturer of its kind, where every work phase – from throwing to painting – is still performed by attentive hands manually.
Where to Buy Herend Porcelain?
It’s best to buy the porcelain in Herend at the factory shop, but if you don’t have time to visit Herend, there are several places where you can buy Herend porcelain in Budapest. To make sure you get the originals, we suggest you to buy Herend porcelain at one of the show rooms (márkabolt in Hungarian) of the manufactory. These are:
Herendi Márkabolt – 1051 Budapest, 19 Váci Street
Belvedere Márkabolt – 1061 Budapest, 16 Andrássy Ave
Hadik Márkabolt – 1014 Budapest, 5 Szentháromság Street
Herendi Porcelán Palota – 1051 Budapest, 10-11 József Nádor Square
For a list of all official Herend porcelain retail stores around the world, visit their website.
The small village of Herend is located in Veszprém and has about 3300 inhabitants. The town is mainly known for its porcelain manufactory which is well worth a visit. It takes about two hours to get there from Budapest. It can be an ideal day trip, combined with a visit to Lake Balaton, the largest lake in central Europe. Herend is about 40 kilometers from Tihany, one of the most charming villages at the northern shore of the lake.
Since the products made in Herend are not just household items but also ornaments which are nice to look at, Mór Fischer opened the first small museum in his family home already in 1852. The current porcelain museum operates in Herend since 1896. It has been renewed and expanded several times over the years. To this day, new and unique Herend products are being made and placed into the museum, giving visitors the chance to see an amazing porcelain collection of nearly two centuries. Apart from the permanent exhibition, the porcelain museum also features temporary shows.
In 1999, an attractive visitor center named Porcelanium was also opened to the public. The building complex in Herend includes a Minimanufactory, where the visitors can join various workshops and get an insight into the secrets of porcelain-making, and a brand shop featuring a wide variety of tableware, coffee sets, ornaments and other goods. The visitor center also has a restaurant and café where visitors are served on authentic Herend porcelain plates.