HEREND, Hungary — A slender, dark-haired Hungarian woman seated on a stool inside the Herend Porcelain Manufactory dipped her dainty brush in paint and raised its whisker-fine bristles to a translucent porcelain plate. Our tour group fell dead silent, fearing the slightest movement would break her concentration. But the artist’s hand held steady. Soon, an intricate motif of blue flowers entwined with leafy vines appeared on what would become a pricey piece of Herend porcelain.
Herend is the world’s largest manufacturer of hand-crafted luxury porcelain goods, which are sold in 60 countries. In an age of ubiquitous automation and digital wizardry, the world-famous enterprise in central Hungary has preserved a centuries-old tradition of molding, casting, and painting fine porcelain by hand. Herend’s most famous patterns are named for its illustrious clients, including Queen Victoria, the Esterhazy family, and the House of Rothschild. The porcelain manufacturer was a purveyor to the Hapsburg Dynasty and the aristocracy in Hungary and abroad. More recently, Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, received a set of Herend porcelain dishes decorated with a redesigned Victoria pattern as a wedding gift from the Hungarian government.