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.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

This gallery showcases highlights from the 5,000 items in the museum's ceramics collection dating from 1500-1900. I… [read review or visit site]

Ceramics at The V&A

Ceramics at The V&A

A great reference on ceramics from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Learn about different ceramics techniques and st… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Fine Limoges Hand Painted Reticulated Rim Cabinet Plate Blue W/ Pink Roses GoldAntique Haviland Limoges Scleiger Punch Bowl Pink Flower Swags & Sprays6 Antique Limoges, Warren & Wood, Autumn Leaf & Flower Oyster Plates, NrAntique Old Vintage Limoges China Christmas Holly Relish Tray 1900sEarly Antique Victorian 1902 Jean Pouyat Limoges Gilded Porcelain Pitcher Nr Yqz(6) 11" Antique Wm. Guerin Limoges France Blue Gold Encrusted Dinner PlatesAlfred Lanternier Limoges Hand Painted Oyster Plates Set Of Two 2 Antique FranceAntique Art Nouveau Nippon? Porcelain Tankard Pitcher Hand Painted RosesJpl Limoges Framed Plate Hand Painted Ruby Red RosesStunning Hand Painted Pheasant Plate, LimogesSet 6 Antique Haviland Limoges Cups & Saucers Schleiger 72 Double Gold & RosesAntique Haviland Limoges Tea Cup Saucer Drop Rose Double Gold Schleiger 55Haviland France Limoges Demitasse Cup And Saucer SetAntique Victorian Hand Painted Limoges Fine China Porcelain Dresser Box Nr YqzFrance Limoges Hand Painted Parry Vieille * His Masters Voice * Dog Trinket BoxHaviland Limoges Schleiger Demitasse Cup & SaucerFrance Limoges Hand Painted Parry Vieille 2001 102/2500 Bunny & Momtrinket BoxFrance Limoges Hand Painted Parry Vieille Two 2 Bunnies In Basket Trinket Box12 Antique T&v Limoges Hand Painted Dessert Plates Assorted Flowers/gold Trim 6"France Limoges Cat Peint Main Signed Trinket Pill BoxFine Antique French Limoges ( Coiffe ) Floral Cup, Saucer And Plate. #2. C1890Striking Hand Painted Cabinet Plate, Pouyat Limoges, Purple & White PansiesFabulous Antique Game Bird Cabinet Plate, Coronet Limoges, Hand Painted(5) 11" Antique Wm. Guerin Limoges France Blue Gold Encrusted Dinner Plates3 Beautiful Antique Haviland Limoges Porcelain Oyster Plates ~ White ~ Gold GiltHaviland & Co Limoges Coffee Pot - Ranson Roses Lid Edge Chip H & Co L FranceFrance Limoges Hand Painted Parry Vieille Fisherman Frog Book Trinket BoxHaviland & Co Limoges Porcelain Set Of 4 Tea Cups & Saucers Art Nouveau FlowersHaviland Limoges Large Serving Platter Hand Painted Pink Roses Gold Leaf 1894Vintage Luxury Large "le Tallec" Of Paris Hand Painted Porcelain Box, SignedMartial Redon Limoges Shell Chocolate Coffee Pot W/ Hand Painted FloralsFrance Limoges Black Scottish Terrier * Scottie * Peint Main E. M. Trinket BookLimoges Raynaud Ceralene Morning Glory, Lot Of 6 Bowls, Flower Shaped, FrenchGorgeous Antique Haviland Limoges Cups & Saucers Double Gold & RosesHaviland Punch Cup Amstel #497 A Perfect Pink Roses Fancy Gold Limoges Fantastic Haviland Limoges Schleiger 261 CreamerStunning Haviland Limoges Deep Pink Drop Rose Double Gold 8.5 Plate Schleiger 55Pickard Decorating Company Limoges Art Nouveau Decorated Charger Very VibrantHutschenreuther Selb Limoges Porcelain Cherubs Figurines Candelabra 16" K TutterBeautiful Haviland Limoges Schleiger 72 Cup & SaucerFrench Limoges China Rose Floral Decorative Covered Soup TureenD&co Delinieres Limoges 4 Stunning Plates 9 1/2" Pink W/roses, Gold Beaded RimLimoges France 10" Holly - Thick Gold Border - Hand Painted Scalloped Plate NrHaviland Limoges Hand Painted 4 Piece Tea Cup Saucer Dinner Set Pink Roses 1894Gda Teapot & Sugar Bowl France Porcelain Roses Floral Gold Accents VintageAntique Wg & Co. Limoges France Rose Vase Haviland Limoges Hand Painted 4 Piece Tea Cup Saucer Dinner Set Pink Roses 1894Beautiful Floral Limoges Plate, Wild Roses Or Carnations Signed Franz BischoffAntique T & V Limoges 10" Punch Bowl Hand Painted Signed Yeschek1903 Limoges Pickard Signed Hess. Luster Grapes & Leaves Water PitcherAntique Haviland Limoges France Handpainted Chocolate Pot Pink Roses6 Antique Limoges Porcelain Pale Pink Demitasse Cups Saucers Plates W Pink BowsAntiq Elite Limoges France 2pc Figural Leaf Mayo Gravy Condiment Bowl Roses GoldHaviland, Limoges, Cups/saucers Napkin Fold, C 1870-80 (6) T&v Limoges France Floral Cake Plate Charger Pink And Yellow Roses Gold TrimAntique Hand Painted Hot Plate Wild Pink Roses 1900'sRaynaud Ceralene Limoges France "vieux Chine" Set Of 2 Soup Bowls 7 1/2"France Limoges Poodle Peint Main P.p.a. Trinket Pill Box Hand Painted Pink Roses Blue Flowers Split Handle Dish Scrolled Gold RimAntique Limoges Chocolate Pot With 4 Demi Cups And Saucers. 1894-1931. France