If not for a shell, the beauty of porcelain would be known by a completely different name. In fact, it was Marco Polo who forever linked the two together. In his book Il Milione, also known as The Travels of Marco Polo, the famous Venetian trader compared the fascinating lustrous sheen of the Chinese ceramic he discovered in the Far East to that of the mother-of-pearl surface of a cowrie shell. At the time, the cowrie shell was well-known since it was used as currency in many parts of Asia, Africa and India and in the old Italian language it went by the term “porcellana”. Marco Polo’s book was a huge best seller by 14th century standards and was widely distributed in Europe and, as result, the word porcellana became synonymous with this intriguing new discovery from China.
How fitting, therefore, that seven centuries later, the Herend manufactory is paying homage to the link between shells and porcelain by immortalizing the world’s largest bivalve mollusk. A native of the south pacific and Indian Ocean, the giant clam can grow to be 4 feet long and over 500lbs. Their size is attributed to a steady diet of the sugars and proteins produced by the millions of algae living in the clam’s tissue. While Herend’s interpretation is not quite that healthy, it does highlight the pearlized surface that first drove Marco Polo’s comparison. Below the shiny core is a base of blue fishnet with 24K gold highlights.