Wedgwood was founded by Josiah Wedgwood, the ‘Father of English Potters’, in 1759. His first big success - and perhaps the greatest contribution to the British pottery industry - was the production of the first cream-colored earthenware. Later called Queen’s Ware by the Royal assent of Queen Charlotte in 1765, this inexpensive earthenware put fine, beautiful tableware within reach of a much wider range of consumers. Wedgwood’s most famous commission in Queen’s Ware was a 952 piece dinner and dessert service for Empress Catherine II of Russia in 1773/74, which featured free-hand paintings of 1,244 different English Scenes.
Wedgwood also produced a wide variety of ornamental ware and in 1768 developed Black Basalt, a fine black stoneware that has remained popular through three centuries and is used on vases, busts, cameos and teaware.
After years of searching for the right ingredients and thousands of experiments, Wedgwood perfected Jasperware - a very fine-grained stoneware, colored throughout the body. Jasper was prized by Wedgwood above all his creations and, until his death in 1795, he devoted much of his energy to producing a wide range of pieces from cameos to portrait medallions to chessmen and candlesticks in many different colors.
Jasperware is synonymous with the Wedgwood name and has been produced continually for more than 200 years. Although today it is produced using more streamlined production techniques, in essence the methods used are the same as those used by Josiah Wedgwood in the 18th century, with every bas-relief decoration applied by hand.
The Wedgwood factory first produced bone china in the early years of the 19th century. Fine bone china contains 51% calcined animal bone plus china stone and china clay and it is the bone, reduced to a fine ash, which gives bone china its whiteness, it translucency and, above all, its incredible strength. Fact; it is so strong that four coffee cups will support a Rolls-Royce car, and a 15.5 ton JCB earth mover can stand on eight coffee cups!
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, fine bone china has become Wedgwood’s main product and in the past thirty years its design and manufacture has been considerably enhanced, and combines the latest in ceramic technology with traditional craft skills.
In 1986, Josiah Wedgwood & Sons Limited merged with the Irish crystal producer Waterford and has attracted an ever-growing number of customers from overseas with its wider range of products. In 1995, the Group acquired English crystal manufacturer, Stuart Crystal and in 1997 acquired a majority holding in the premium German porcelain brand, Rosenthal.
Today, Wedgwood supplies premium formal tableware, casual tabletop products including crystal, ceramic giftware and home accessories, collectables and figurines. The strength of the Wedgwood, Waterford and Rosenthal brands, both at home and abroad, has enabled the Company to pursue development in product sectors outside the core crystal and ceramics business as it moves towards luxury brand status.
For example, the Waterford brand name has now been extended to Waterford writing instruments, crystal lamps, table linen and even a range of crystal ware created by the internationally renowned Irish fashion designer John Rocha. The Wedgwood name, meanwhile, has been applied by licensed manufactures to table linen, silk handkerchiefs and gourmet foods as the Company leverages the brands from its traditional business to the broader luxury gift business – particularly in our all-important market Japan.
However, the heart of the Wedgwood business remains fine bone china tableware.
Wedgwood is quintessentially English. It has a tradition of innovation, quality and craftsmanship and its designs are widely acknowledged as timeless, elegant, classic and understated. The design teams also work with external product designs for cross-pollination of ideas, experience and work methods. The Company philosophy is that its products are not only a pleasure to be enjoyed today, but are also a treasure for the future - many consumers buy only Wedgwood to be handed down as a family heirloom.