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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Recent News: Limoges China
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Fine art, French furniture, sterling silver and more will be sold May 25th by ...ArtfixDaily, May 11th
A set of eight Raynaud Limoges china dinner plates in the Scheherazade pattern, 10 ¾ inches in diameter, and a set of eight Raynaud Limoges china Scheherazade pattern cups and saucers, will be sold as separate lots (both est. $4,000-$5,000)...Read more
Lunch with MonetPalm Beach, May 3rd
vegetable garden on his estate at Giverny, and that he used the fruits of that garden to conjure meals for his friends---the leading writers and painters of the day---in his elaborate country kitchen, served on his own personalized pattern of...Read more
White House Staffers Dish on What the Obamas, Clintons, and Bushes Are ...Chicagomag.com, April 27th
And woe to the staffer who broke a piece of her extensive collection of Limoges china. The Clintons horrified staffers with angry, violent arguments after the Lewinsky story broke in January 1998. And, yes, Hillary swore at Bill—“Goddam bastard!”—and...Read more
Johnston: The joy of collectingMetroWest Daily News, April 14th
When I was a kid, I collected stuff. Initially, I collected stuff that was free, because I didn't have any money. My advantage in negotiating for stuff was that when I was very young, I had winning ways (I wonder where they went?), and I was very cute...Read more
@MissBigelow: Mid-Winter Gala's FAM glam in S.F.San Francisco Chronicle, April 9th
McCall's Catering served up a French-inspired meal atop flower-filled tables (aglow in a perfect pink hue) set with Dior's own Limoges china (engraved with a pattern created by the late Christian Dior himself) and Baccarat crystal flown in from Paris...Read more
Forty years of bargains: Bargain Box thrift shop celebrates anniversary, $2 ...Naples Daily News, March 4th
Carrie Peters found an entire set of Limoges china, and did some quick research and snapping of camera-phone pictures to help decide whether she would take it home. At 1 p.m., an announcement came over the intercom, and all those who could tear ...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
Helaine Fendelman & Joe Rosson: Treasures: Limoges china's value largely ...Deseret News, November 4th
Dear D. H.: We know that many of our more mature clients and readers value the Limoges china they have inherited. Unfortunately, this kind of dinnerware is not nearly as valuable as many suppose, and in these hard economic times, these sets have become ...Read more