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

Source: Google News

Preserving Heirs and Airs
Harvard Magazine, December 15th

The first-floor rooms are framed in the same carved walnut woodwork; landscape paintings hang in gilded frames; the mahogany dining table is set with gold-rimmed Haviland Limoges china. Heading upstairs, Schinabeck points out the central heating system ...Read more

Treasures: Limoges vase painted by amateur is charming, one of a kind
The San Luis Obispo Tribune, December 15th

Most of those who are interested in Limoges china are most enamored with the pieces that were artistically decorated in the factory. Next, they like Limoges pieces that were embellished by professional decorating companies such as Pickard, which was ...Read more

Alfred Hitchcocks Fade to Black: The Great Directors Final Days
Daily Beast, December 13th

When they do dine, the Hitchcocks sometimes use Limoges china marked “Plaza Athénée.” They seem to have service for eight of these elegant blue-and-white plates. Alma had admired them during a stay in Paris some years ago. Hitchcock dropped a note ...Read more

After Torture Report, Our Moral Authority As a Nation Is Gone
Daily Beast, December 11th

When they do dine, the Hitchcocks sometimes use Limoges china marked “Plaza Athénée.” They seem to have service for eight of these elegant blue-and-white plates. Alma had admired them during a stay in Paris some years ago. Hitchcock dropped a note ...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 liveauctioneers.com for auction results and found more...Read more

In New Brothers Grimm 'Snow White', The Prince Doesn't Save Her
Daily Beast, November 30th

When they do dine, the Hitchcocks sometimes use Limoges china marked “Plaza Athénée.” They seem to have service for eight of these elegant blue-and-white plates. Alma had admired them during a stay in Paris some years ago. Hitchcock dropped a note ...Read more

Why We Wont Stop Fighting Corruption
Daily Beast, November 11th

When they do dine, the Hitchcocks sometimes use Limoges china marked “Plaza Athénée.” They seem to have service for eight of these elegant blue-and-white plates. Alma had admired them during a stay in Paris some years ago. Hitchcock dropped a note ...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