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    

Haviland Limoges Pink Drop Rose Schleiger 55 Set Of 3 Cups & SaucersAntique Haviland Limoges Presidential Drop Rose Porcelain Oyster Plate ExcellentFrench Limoges Cup Saucer Haviland France Hand Painted RosesFrench Limoges Cup Saucer Jpl France Hand Painted RosesHaviland Limoges France 330 Cup And Saucer Roses Bows Wreaths Double Gold DT&v Limoges Cider Set, Pitcher & 12 Cups, Hand Painted CherriesRedon / Ahrenfeldt Limoges Cup Saucer Madame Elisabeth De France Portrait 1893Antique Haviland Limoges Chrysanthemum Cup And Saucer Factory Hand PaintedHaviland Limoges France 330 Cup And Saucer Roses Bows Wreaths Double Gold CLimoges France Austrian Circa 1909 Marked Dresser Set- Hair Pin, Receiver, Ring Limoges France Rose Vase & Matching Plate Signed Koenig & Vanes Respectively NrHaviland Limoges France 330 Fruit/ Dessert Bowl Roses Bows Wreaths Double Gold AHaviland Limoges Schleiger 844 Cup & Saucer Pink Roses Double Gold - Saucer ChipHaviland Limoges France 330 Cup And Saucer Roses Bows Wreaths Double Gold APickard T&v Limoges Handled Bowl, Hand Painted Flowers, Lavish GoldAntique T&v Limoges Footed Jardiniere Violets Victorian Embossed And GildedRedon / Ahrenfeldt Limoges Cup Saucer Duchess De Dourgogne Portrait 1893Haviland Limoges France 330 Bone Dish Roses Bows Wreaths Double Gold BHaviland Limoges France 330 Bone Dish Roses Bows Wreaths Double Gold DHaviland Limoges France 330 Bone Dish Roses Bows Wreaths Double Gold CSet Of 12 Haviland Limoges Bone Dish Pretty Pink Floral Pattern Limoges Miniatures X 10 Pieces ~ Green ~ VgucLarge Antique Jp Limoges Porcelain 12" Tankard Pitcher - Berries & FlowersAntique 66 Piece Set Limoges Bernardaud Ber5 Green Greek Key PatternRare Haviland Limoges Schleiger 330 Roses Bows Wreaths Swags Double Gold Tea PotPair Of Haviland Limoges Pink Drop Rose Schleiger 55 Gold Trim Soup Bowls 4of5Antique French Paris Sevres Limoges Gorgeous Victorian Girl Bisque Bust FigurineVintage Charles Ahrenfeldt Limoges 99-pc Porcelain China SetBeautiful Rare Raspberry10" T&v Limoges Hand Painted Pickard Bowl Signed Yeschek13" Charger Hand Painted Plate Scalloped Gold Rim Limoges Signed Wine DrinkersExqusite Antique Limoges 11 Pc. Gilt Chocolate Set Dated 1906. *rare Custom Set*Authentic Vintage Limoges Set Of 6 French Bird Pot De Creme With Serving PlatterHuge Limoges Dresser Box; Red Roses; Fancy Gold BorderHaviland Limoges France 330 Cup And Saucer Roses Bows Wreaths Double Gold BLimoges France Fancy Handled Charger/cake Plate; Victorian Courting Scene9 Haviland Limoges Plates Pink Yellow Roses Bailey B&b Drop Rose Schleiger #497Beautiful Limoges Wall Plaque! Hand Painted In A Gorgeous Floral MotifJean Pouyat Limoges VaseLovely Haviland Limoges Oyster Plate Schleiger 842 Rose Swags Bows Double GoldSet 6 Antique Theodore Haviland Limoges Pink Rose Gold Trim Fruit Dessert Bowl PHaviland Limoges China Green And Gold Trim Wild Rose Scalloped PlatterHaviland Limoges Schleiger 270a Bon Bon Set Double Gold Excellent Star Blank Antg Haviland Limoges France Gold Pink Roses Set 12 Fruit Dessert Bowls Tv Limoges Lemon Dish With Bunny Rabbits Eating Cabbage Artist Signed Rare Haviland Limoges France Christmas Ivy Holly Berry Platter Double Gold TrimStunning Gold Encrusted Red Poppies Pickard Limoges Charger 12.5" Signed YeschekElite Limoges Hand Painted Holly BowlAntique Theodore Haviland Limoges France Oval Serving Bowl Double Gold!!!!Antique 1896 Hand Painted Flowers T&v Limoges 11" Round Platter Double HandleSet Of Seven Vintage Hand Painted Limoges China Dinner Plates (8th Available)P L Limoges Vase - Hand Painted - Lilac Design - 10 Inch, Bee FeetAntique Limoges Porcelain 10" Cake Plate Wreath Of Pink Roses Lush Gilt Accents4 Gold Encrusted 8.5" Plates ~ J Pouyat 1906 ~ Limoges France ~ JplLimoges China Six Piece 4 Place Settings Mint Condition France 1920s4 Haviland Limoges Schleiger 270a Luncheon Plates, 8.5" Diameter Star Blank DoubLimoges France Flat Charger Plate Landscape Piece Round Solid Wood Frame Antg Haviland Limoges France Gold Pink Roses Set 13 Dip Small Bowl Plates 3" Limoges France Pitcher Hand Painted Kiwi Berries Wg & Co William Guerin Pitcher8 Haviland Limoges Salad Plates Meissen Reproduction Metropolitan Museum Of Art6 Haviland Limoges Dinner Plates Meissen Reproduction Metropolitan Museum Of Art