Luxuries, Quirks and Extravagance at Court

Luxuries, Quirks and Extravagance at Court

Uniqueness, customisation, quality, reliability and above all there must be discretion, confidentiality and also a certain attention to cost. Suppliers to royal houses tell Homi about the values and styles sought after by their prestigious customers, the evolution of taste and... a few quirks

What are the most curious objects you have provided to a royal house? Any anecdotes to tell us?


When we were choosing linen for a 16,000 square metre villa in Saudi Arabia," says Giulia Scalvini of Maison Claire, "we noticed in the specifications, under the heading 'girl's room, age 6', in addition to all the bedding and bathroom linen also 'capes for the beauty salon'... it wasn't a toy for her dolls... the girl had her own beauty salon with her own hairdresser!


The most unusual request,"says Norberto Lisi of Royal Family, "was perhaps that of the Qatari royal family, who, after having ordered many items for hosting and others to decorate their home in Paris, requested a sceptre with a blue and sky-blue enamel handle and glitter, to be used as a cane during official ceremonies. Or of the Arab princess who, after finishing her shopping, noticed the interest of one of her staff's bridesmaids in an object and did not hesitate to give it to her.


Another example reported by Lisi is about the royals of Monte Carlo, who request large Champagne buckets and oyster dishes personalised with their coat of arms, engraved in metal for their social receptions. Or Queen Elizabeth's request - she likes Sheffield tea boxes - for a special box to add to her private collection on the occasion of her 90th birthday.


Marjanneke Grobben, Marketing Activation Specialist at Wedgwood, also reports on the British royals. In 2017 they donated for the 70th wedding anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen and His Majesty the Duke of Edinburgh a Jade Butterfly tea set, the third in a limited series of ten pieces. "They buy the crockery produced by us, with the EIIR emblem, and use it for hospitality at the Palace".


The point of view of Thomas Kettnaker of Robbe & Berking concerns a “sensitive” factor for royal houses: the economic factor. "Generally," he says, "requests are specific for customised and bespoke items such as engraving and gilding. We also received a request for a set of cutlery to be personalised. The process is expensive and, once the figures were known, they opted for a model from our assortment by adding engraving or gilding. We have, however, made some accessories specifically for royal houses such as trays, bowls, coffee sets".


More than unusual items, it is the the size of the events organised that is unusual, reports Fabio Cortese of Cattin Porcellane d’Arte, such as weddings with supplies for over 1000 guests.




What values do your prestigious customers seek and how have tastes and demands changed over time? 


The key component is reliability. Loredana Sandonà, General Manager of Gold Line, has no doubt about this: "this includes the seriousness of the relationships established, the competence with which product designs are created and their manufacturing, taking care of every detail from the choice of raw materials, to how they are processed, and right up to the packaging". Gold Line's market is mainly centred in the Middle East, where," says Sandonà , "customers are starting to demand innovative products in terms of both shapes and raw materials. "Above all, we have noticed a trend in these countries towards products made from environmentally sustainable materials."


Over the years, Royal Family has observed a new-found interest in more classic objects, not baroque or excessive, but those worked discreetly. "This means no longer gold but increasingly silver, which is more discreet and less opulent. We have also seen a move away from essential or overly linear outlines and excessive simplification of shapes: a return to slightly classic lines: classics but revisited and lightened, where simplicity is not combined with a lack of imagination and the work of some outlines that are too minimal".


Requests are for unique products, designed, engineered and made exclusively," emphasises Giulia Scalvini, owner of Maison Claire. "Over the past decade, our customers have been looking for a more contemporary, more understated, and more refined elegance shaped to their lifestyle".


"Demands actually change all the time, because customers' choices express their personal style, and highlight their personality. There is a desire to feel unique," explains Fabio Cortese of Cattin Porcellane d'Arte, emphasising that customers are mainly looking for hand-crafted value and uniqueness, and the possibility of being able to personalise the product.


These values are complemented by cost sensitivity, as Thomas Kettnaker - Export Manager at Robbe & Berking points out: "In recent years, royal houses have become much more price-sensitive. Whereas they used to often buy 925 sterling silver, they now also choose silver plated, which is half the price.” Of course, the demand for quality, and good service that meets their wishes, as well as reliability and honesty remains unchanged.


"A product given as a gift or purchased from the palace is highly valued especially by our Japanese and Pan Asian markets," says Marjanneke Grobben, Marketing Activation Specialist at Wedgwood referring to collectors and customers who know they are buying from a highly respected brand, known for its heritage and high quality and craftsmanship. Change is inevitable and constant,' he continues, 'but being a royal supplier gives customers the perception of a luxury purchase. This is more important for some countries than others.


It is also a question of preciousness and added value for Marco Costoli, Owner of Same Decorazione: "Our customers are looking for something special that they cannot find directly in stores. Each of them has ideas and tries to create their own glass and crystal object, and we have to be good at meeting those needs, always". The evolution of taste, albeit in the classical sphere, involves shapes, colours and finishes: "in particular the younger generation is looking for a more trendy and appealing product".


So while luxury, originality and after-sales service remain essential values, most current demand is for product types. If at the beginning," says Nuno Barra, Marketing Director of Vista Alegre Atlantis, "it was more about formal tableware, today, it is a mix of everything: formal dinner sets, solutions for the everyday table, decorations, and special editions.