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The Blue Onion pattern was originally manufactured by Meissen in the late 1700’s and was originally named the bulb pattern. This design was so popular that many companies tried to copy it and sometimes this confuses novice collectors. Meissen Blue Onion pattern wares have a very crisp look and the blue glaze does not bleed into the white porcelain. The other thing that sets the original Meissen apart from others is that the cross swords not only appear on the back or bottom of the piece, but on the front art design as well.
The other thing that confuses a lot of collectors is the Meissen Blue Onion wares were themselves similarly copied from Chinese porcelain. The difference is in the actual artwork, which is much cleaner and symmetrical. A closer look at the artwork also shows that the Germans took more artistic license and the onions look less like onions and more like peaches and the center of the designs feature peony looking flowers. On a lot of the plates and compotes, the design also features a reticulated edge, which can have rough edges on a copy or fake.
Porcelain has been around since the Tang Dynasty in China, which lasted from 618-907 AD. It is the reason that porcelain settings at a dinner table are called China. However, some of the most beautiful porcelain in the world is produced in Europe, where porcelain kilns and factories started to spread in the 1500’s. One of the most famous porcelain names and collectors’ favorite is Meissen Porzellan of Germany.
In the early 1700’s artists flocked to the town of Meissen, after hard paste porcelain, made with kaolin clay, was discovered by Johann Friedrich Böttger. However, the discovery of the hard paste porcelain has something of an interesting story; as Böttger was somewhat of a conman. He had convinced King August II (August the Strong) who was the Elector of Saxony that he could produce gold from worthless material. This plan backfired on Böttger because Augustus II decided to keep him all to himself and Böttger became his prisoner. There are reports that at one time he tried to flee to Prague and was recaptured.
Fortunately for him, while experimenting with his ideas of producing gold, Böttger met another man by the name of Ehrenfried Walther von Tschinhaus, who was working on producing glass and porcelain. After the death of Tschinhaus, Böttger continued the experimentation and refined the recipes left behind and Meissen Porzellan was born. Fascinated by the process, the beauty and the potential to make money, Augustus II moved the production of porcelain into his castle. He employed many of the artists, painters and sculptures to create some of the most stunning and colorful pieces that quickly became the favorites of royalty and the rich around Europe.
Some of their most famous pieces use an underglaze called Meissen Blue which was first introduced by Friedrich August Köttig and Meissen not only has produced dinner place settings but some of the most beautiful vases, figurines and other knick knacks and tchotchkes. Collectors need to beware that many others tried to copy their success and many fakes exist. One thing to look for of course is the Meissen Porzellan mark, which is some version of cross swords. The cross swords is said to be part of the Augustus’ coat of arms.