July 21 2011
Lucia van der Post
Meissen, as all lovers of porcelain know, was the first Western company to make the fine porcelain that had so astounded the merchant adventurers when they came upon it in China. Marco Polo bought it by the armful and it was imported into Europe from the 1500s, but it wasn’t until the early 1700s that a German alchemist, Johann Böttger, cracked the code of how to make it, and in 1710 the company of Meissen was founded.
Its trademark of two crossed swords, emblematic of Meissen’s fight to keep the secret to itself, is believed to be the oldest trademark in the world. But though the company is famous for its porcelain tableware, not too many know that it has been making porcelain-based jewellery since it first came into being.
This year, it took its jewellery for the first time to the Basel Watch and Jewellery Fair, where it created something of a sensation. It’s easy to see why. It is enchantingly pretty, and since the most desirable pieces are all centred around the very fine jasper porcelain, they have a particular look of their own.
There’s clearly a new energy behind the brand; the jewellery range is being expanded, drawing on Meissen’s heritage – primarily the crossed swords, and the pretty floral themes so often found on the china. I like best the rings and the pendants, many of which are based around ovals of porcelain – either plain, faceted or delicately hand-painted and then surrounded with gold and brilliant white or champagne-coloured diamonds, sometimes pavé, sometimes individually set.
The range includes rings, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, cuff links. Some of the pendants, what Meissen calls the Montgolfière collection, consist of adorable little painted porcelain “boules” encased in bands of white or rose gold and diamonds and topped with a small diamond and gold bow.
A ring such as the beautiful Mystery Leaves (top right in first picture), with its centrepiece of porcelain featuring an amethyst with delicately pretty flowers, surrounded by red gold and 60 champagne diamonds, costs around £5,560. The Mystery Swords ring (bottom right in first picture), an amethyst with porcelain base surrounded by red gold and 66 champagne diamonds, is £5,250, while the Mystery Butterflies ring (top left in first picture), with white gold and 54 white diamonds, is £6,980. Rings and pendants featuring gold and diamonds start at £900, while for some of the elaborate necklaces prices go up to around £34,400. (Second picture: Diamond Swords collier, £34,400.)
The jewellery hasn’t been on sale in the UK before; you can check into the website and buy online or from the special ordering telephone line.