The Imperial Porcelain Manufactory (former Lomonosov Porcelain Factory), where the Imperial porcelain tea sets are produced, is one of the oldest in Europe. It was founded in St Petersburg by order of Empress Elizabeth in 1744 (20 years before the Hermitage Museum!). The famous Cobalt Net blue and white design was created much later, in the late 1940s, soon after the Siege of Leningrad, possibly inspired by a 18thcentury tea service belonging to the Empress.
One tea cup requires over 80 manufacturing operations. The liquid porcelain mix (including bone ash – which is why it is called bone china) is going through a solidification process in a plaster mould before the tea cup is placed into a kiln at a temperature of 900C for 24 hours.
The cobalt blue decor is painted on the unglazed surface of the tea cup. A fine paintbrush is used for the crossing lines of the net.
With a larger paintbrush, the 'drops' are painted at the intersections. Then the tea cup is glazed and fired at a temperature up to 1350C. After this process the decor becomes blue.
The cup is now ready for the final touches of gold.