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Limoges Porcelain is a Classic Collectible

While in high school, I worked an after-school job at King’s Jewelry Store in Wheeling. King’s was always busy and my main duty was wrapping gifts. I learned a lot while handling and wrapping fine china, jewelry and countless wedding gifts.

One of the first collectible treasures I ever bought was a Limoges porcelain box that I purchased on sale at King’s. A beautiful cobalt blue shade covered the creamy white porcelain and gold paint trimmed the classic trinket box that featured an 18th century couple in an idyllic pose.

The round box measured 5 by 3 inches and was perfect to display on a ladies’ desk. It remains on my desk today.

This timeless design was marked Limoges, France and that’s one of the most collectible porcelain marks across the globe

Limoges china (actually a hard paste porcelain) is known the world over for its elegance and beauty. Carefully painted by hand or trimmed with hand applied decals, antique lovers find the china lovely to display and addictive to seek.

Limoges refers to the French region where this porcelain was first produced (about 250 miles southwest of Paris in the Vienne valley). It was in the late 1700s that a clay was developed of kaolin, quartz and feldspar, that rivaled the strong yet delicate oriental china (collectorsweekly.com).

Antique lovers seek beautiful examples of Limoges with hand painting or finishing details like scalloped edges or other fancy designs. Bowls, baskets, bottles, chocolate pots, cups and saucers, plates, plaques and vases are just some of the lovely collectible examples. Many are decorated with flowers and roses are the most predominant theme.

Originally, there were over 40 companies that made porcelain in the Limoges region and various marks were used. After 1891, France was added to the mark. Signed pieces are the most valuable.

Haviland china is considered Limoges but this china company has its roots in New York, where the Haviland family began as an importer of china in 1838. David Haviland then went to the Limoges region of France, established a factory and produced vast amounts of Victorian dinnerware that was passed down and still available today. (haviland.com)

Limoges gathered new fans in recent times due to the modern production of tiny Limoges boxes of all types. These miniature designs have been produced in just about any theme to attract collectors and gift givers. Sports, travel, holidays, celebrations and fashion topics are just a few of the Limoges box types available.

Collectors can quickly build a collection of these tiny treasures and there is always one more to crave (I want the sweet little Easter egg music box with a bunny inside that I’ve seen in Gump’s catalogue). These are amazing in detail and most have little porcelain or glass accessories inside the box. For example, the fashionable leopard purse in the column today has a miniature crystal perfume bottle inside.

Be careful though to purchase true Limoges examples if you want the best. There are many fakes available and you get what you pay for with this product. The cheap inferior ones are poorly made and badly painted.

These modern porcelain boxes are the latest in a long history of small Limoges boxes.

The truly antique examples date to the 1700s, when snuff was used by the French aristocracy and carried in the tiny containers. Other boxes back then were used for beauty patches, an odd cosmetic-like item that covered smallpox scars.

Today there are roughly 20-30 porcelain factories in Limoges and most specialize in certain types of porcelain such as dinnerware, giftware, and industrial porcelain.

While researching this column, I discovered the interesting fact that due to the excellence of the hard paste Limoges porcelain, it doesn’t craze or crackle as it ages.

The simple truth is Limoges is easy to appreciate and includes everything from small pieces to complete sets of china, perfect for collectors to enjoy!

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