Even though the word Limoges is synonymous with fine bone china, it was not until the late 18th century that the chief ingredient for porcelain, a mineral called kaolin, was discovered in the nearby town of Saint-Yrieix. In 1771, the brothers Massié and Fourneira Grellet established the first Limoges porcelain factory. It was successful enough that the King of France purchased the plant in 1784 so it could exclusively make white porcelain to be decorated at the royal porcelain factory at Sèvres outside of Paris.
During the 19th century, particularly during the Victorian era, a number of famous porcelain factories established themselves, including Alluaud, Baignol, Gibus et Cie., Pouyat, and Tharaud. French ceramists and businessmen founded the majority of these factories, but it took an American to make Limoges an international household name.
In 1842, a New Yorker named David Haviland built a factory in Limoges that would become the most famous Limoges brand of them all. Haviland china was made in Limoges for the U.S. market, and over the years the various firms that have used the Haviland name produced more than 20,000 patterns of china and dinnerware. In 1880, one of those Haviland patterns led to a commission from the White House, which boosted the firm’s growing reputation.
By the 19th century, Limoges was so popular in Victorian England that so-called Limoges ware was being made in Worcester. But this sort of cross-fertilization was not the mere plagiarism that it might at first seem. Indeed, Limoges factories also borrowed freely from their influencers. In the 19th century, for example, Limoges potteries copied the styles and patterns produced by Japanese and Indian makers; much of this “Oriental” Limoges ware was made for the new U.S. market.
In the Edwardian era, when dainty gilded tea sets were a common Limoges product, a similar homage was paid to Meissen, Sèvres, and Viennese porcelain makers, whose 18th-century vases were routinely produced by Limoges factories for their high-end customers. Some Limoges pieces featured copies of famous paintings by J.M.W. Turner on their sides. Later, in the 20th century, the Japanese porcelain manufacturer Noritake would base many of its designs on those made by companies based in Limoges a century earlier.
One group of Limoges pieces that are more particular to Limoges are the blanks that, in the 1800s, were sent to the U.S. to be decorated by members of amateur china-painting guilds. Painters in these guilds would typically follow the instruction manuals and patterns that came with the unfinished plates and vases. These pieces are not especially collectible today, but many are lovely, which means a handsome collection can be put together rather inexpensively.
Finally there were the Limoges bonbonnières, or small porcelain boxes in which women would keep strong sweets eaten to disguise bad breath. Antique Limoges bonbonnières from the 19th century are quite collectible, and they made a reputation for Limoges firms. That’s probably one reason why in postwar France, just about every gift shop catering to tourists did a respectable business selling novelty Limoges miniatures. Today these dollhouse size porcelain pianos, beds, tables, and chairs make charming collectibles.
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Maison de Castelnau To Bring a Slice of Paris to Bryn MawrDNAinfo, February 3rd
"It's the kind of place where you bring your best friend for an excellent cup of coffee and a pastry" — served on Limoges china. An equivalent comparison, she said, would be a cocktail or wine bar, as opposed to a pub. Salons — historically...Read more
Got a Problem With Rich People? Here's How to Get Past That and Be Better at ...Inside Philanthropy, January 19th
When I start sharing what I know with philanthropists and we engage in a thoughtful, thought-provoking conversation, the Limoges china becomes "dishes," and the Van Gogh paintings become art I can ask them about. It is my job to manage whether I feel ...Read more
2 Georgia cookbook authors share entertaining adviceNews & Observer, December 8th
“We will serve you pimento cheese on a silver platter or fried catfish on Limoges china. It's a mix of high and low. … You don't have to apologize because you did it just the way your mama did it.” Last month, Farmer served shrimp and grits, ambrosia...Read more
The Man Who Would Be Emperor -- CAR's Jean BokassaHuffington Post, December 2nd
There is a most beautiful set of Limoges china with the imperial seal on it, of which I acquired a piece after the fall of the empire. It was all done by French artisans and businesses. I would guess the French taxpayers got a fair amount of money back...Read more
5 Creative Mix-and-Match Table Settings for ThanksgivingVogue.com, November 23rd
These days, few dream Thanksgiving tables consist of the perfect 62-piece set of Limoges china, matchy-matchy down to the gilded gravy boat. What about those whimsical turkey dinner dishes? Your beautiful lapis dessert plates? The gold cutout dahlia ...Read more
Want fries with that fill up?The Daily Advertiser, June 15th
It's 7:18 p.m. The office is deserted. My stomach is demanding food. But not grub from a grocery or restaurant. We — my stomach and me — have been there, done that. We want food from a gas station. You know, past the pumps, car fresheners and ...Read more
What's it Worth: Eastlake armchairs, Limoges chinaRichmond.com, January 31st
QUESTION: During the mid-1960s, my family lived in France. My family was picking up china services and was offered these, reportedly part of the china service ordered for the Kennedys but canceled when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I would like to ...Read more
Finest and best Limoges ware will always sell bigArizona Daily Star, December 6th
Handpainted Limoges china from around 1870 fluctuates in popularity, but remarkable pieces have always sold well and continue to do so. It boils down to artistry and aesthetic appeal. We checked liveauctioneers.com for auction results and found more...Read more