Gien China – French Faience Dinnerware
French tableware with the air of South of France vacation homes: Gien embodies French joie de vivre with vivid faience dinnerware. For centuries, faience was the most popular alternative to porcelain imports from China for European royalty. Gien keeps its centuries-old artform alive with premium quality faience that embodies elegance, luxury and authenticity.
Faience is a traditional tin-glazed earthenware. It is best known for its fine, off-white glaze and decorations with vibrant colours. Gien's organic shapes and natural motifs combine classic French elegance with the rural charm of southern France. The traditionally handmade plates, cups and bowls are all unique; human traces from the handwork bring each piece of faience to life.
Gien is 100% Made in France. The manufactory controls every step of production, from the selection of raw materials to the mixing of colours. Even the casting and printing moulds are created exclusively in the in-house ateliers.
Gien's excellence in craftsmanship is recognised by the French State: The manufactory is listed as a cultural heritage company that embodies French excellence.
200 Years of Gien – Europe's Most Important Faience Manufactory
Since 1821, the "Faïencerie de Gien" has stood on the banks of the river Loire in the town of the same name, Gien. The town is located about 150 kilometres or 93 miles south of Paris in the Centre-Val de Loire region, right in the heart of France.
Gien's founder was the Englishman Thomas Hall. He moved to France to set up a faience manufactory based on the successful English model for earthenware production. Dinnerware by Gien combined English know-how with French aesthetics – a recipe for success.
The craftsmen of the Gien manufactory quickly found their own artistic style. They developed new techniques and combined influences from all over the world. A popular Gien speciality has survived to this day: On request, plates and cups can be personalised with monograms or coats of arms.
Today, Gien has specialised in tableware and select decorative objects like vases. World-famous and yet forgotten are Gien's painted tiles from the early 20th century. From 1906 to 1980, Gien produced the brilliant white wall tiles that adorned the Métro stations in Paris – an image that still belongs to Paris like the Eiffel Tower.
As a member of the renowned Comité Colbert, Gien embodies French excellence more than ever. Gien dinnerware and Prestige collections can be found in famous department stores in many countries, including the "Kaufhaus des Westens" in Berlin, "Bergdorf Goodman" in New York or "Isetan" in Tokyo. In its private museum "Musée de la faïencerie", Gien cultivates its legacy of thousands of shapes and designs from over 200 years of history.
Gien works with in-house designers as well as famous artists on designs that combine modernity and tradition. These include Paco Rabanne, Andrée Putman, Patrick Jouin, Isabelle de Borchgrave, Garouste and Bonetti.
What is faience?
Faience is tin-glazed earthenware with colourful decorations. Earthenware is a type of ceramic that is made of slightly different raw materials and fired at lower temperatures than porcelain. The fired clay, the so-called "body", remains porous and opaque. The thick, white tin glaze of faience protects the body and serves as a canvas for painting.
The special feature of faience by Gien: both the clay mixture and the glaze are of unique quality. The complex composition of the clay enables thin and light shapes. The robust tin glaze is fired at over 1000 °C (1832 °F) and makes faience more resistant than other types of earthenware crockery, whose wafer-thin glazes are cold-fired at just 100 °C (212 °F).
The most important feature of faience remains its aesthetics. The organic, off-white tableware with luminous paintings is a style icon full of history and charm. Faience is not only visually enchanting: its flawless glaze has a warm feel that other types of ceramics do not offer.
Is faience by Gien china?
In many English speaking countries, "china" is a general term for dinnerware for special occasions. It stems from the fact that the most prestigious dinnerware used to be imported to Europe and North America from China.
Since virtually all ceramics imported from China were made of porcelain, "china" also became a synonym for porcelain. This can be seen in the term "fine bone china", which is a kind of porcelain.
In the first sense, faience dinnerware by Gien is a perfect candidate to be both your everyday crockery or your next set of china. However, faience is a different kind of ceramic than porcelain.
The most important difference: Porcelain is non-porous after firing and hardly absorbs any water, even without a glaze. The clay body of faience, on the other hand, remains porous and can draw water. That is why faience has a thick white glaze that protects the body from scratches and moisture.
Where does faience come from?
The history of French faience begins in the Italian city of Faenza in the 14th century. The ceramics produced there on the Moorish model were a sought-after alternative to porcelain from China. The French court was enthused and named the brilliant white and painted ceramics after their apparent place of origin – "faïence".
Over the centuries, many faience manufactories developed independently in all of Europe. Each cultivated its local style, from Italian maiolica to Dutch Delftware. When the secret of porcelain production became known in Europe, the manufactories switched either to prestigious porcelain or to cheap, mass-produced earthenware. Only a few faience manufactories remained true to their art - with Gien being one of the most important in the world.
French excellence – The craftsmanship of Gien
Whether it's a limited edition vase or a simple plate, every piece from Gien incorporates the knowledge of two hundred years of craftsmanship. Traditional techniques guarantee excellent premium quality. From a heap of earth to fine crockery – a magical transformation lovingly crafted by hand.
Gien's top-secret clay mixture contains over 14 different earths, including porcelain earth, known as kaolin. The complex composition gives the faience its organic, warm colour. Flat objects such as plates are pressed, hollow bodies such as jugs are cast. Gien produces the necessary plaster moulds in-house.
After a first firing at 1145 °C (2093 °F), the clay objects are coated with a tin-based glaze. In a second firing at 1045 °C (1913 °F), the glaze melts into the clay. Then, depending on the decoration, the faiences are painted by hand or by chromolithography and fired a third time at 1045 °C (1913 °F). The colours fuse with the glaze forever. The triple firing process is an enormous effort that makes the Gien china more resistant.
The limited masterpieces of the Prestige series are painted by hand. The painters have to study Gien's elaborate painting techniques for at least three years. By the time a piece is finished, it has passed through the hands of 30 expert artisans.
Every production step has strict quality controls. The art of faience making is so precise that the clay and colours react to even weather fluctuations during production. The artisans have to pay attention to the smallest differences in size and colour and adapt anew with each piece - because faience is alive.
Cottage Chic – the Enchanting Style of Gien
Warm, authentic, inviting - Gien's style combines classic elegance with Mediterranean romance. A subtle blend of historical heritage and modern trends gives Gien's collections a strong personality. Become familiar with French china from Gien once and you will forever recognise it immediately.
Gien dinnerware breaks away from the everyday with diverse shapes, rich colours and imaginative storytelling. Its French joie de vivre is infectious - take a break and enjoy your time at the table with friends and family.
The decors by Gien can be creatively combined - check for new items regularly.
Popular Classics by Gien
Filet Bleu is the ultimate classic by Gien. Hand-painted banding in blue glows on the scalloped borders of the ecru-coloured dinnerware. Combine different colours from the Filet collection for a table dressing with a charming touch of colour.
Millefleurs by Gien takes you to a sunny vacation home in the South of France. The simple and functional shapes let the rich floral decorations take the limelight. A poetic tableware that brings the family together for breakfast, lunch or teatime.
The Oiseau Bleu collection has been in Gien's catalogue since the 19th century. It perfectly embodies how Gien combines classic elegance with an inviting vintage charm. The monochrome patterns feature blue flowers and birds reminiscent of antique china. The classic Oiseau Bleu tableware is complemented by versions with cheeky full-colour fruit motifs on top of the classic blue patterns.