Antique Limoges China and Porcelain

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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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

Lunch with Monet
Naplesillustrated, 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 ..., 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

After rebuilding from a fire, Balto. Co. home has same roots, different look
Baltimore Sun, April 15th

Lisa Lockwood likes the view of the staircase to second floor, the foyer, and the grandfather clock, which she special ordered from Wisconsin. She rebuilt the house after a fire. Lisa Lockwood likes the view of the staircase to second floor, the foyer...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

What's it Worth: Eastlake armchairs, Limoges china, 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 big
Arizona 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 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