What you always wanted to know about French Limoges boxes

You may have heard of the exceptional artistry of French Limoges boxes and how popular they are with collectors and gift buyers. You are now considering purchasing a Limoges box as a worthy gift for a dear friend or relative, or tempted to start your own collection. But, like any savvy shopper, you’d like to learn more about this line of luxury gifts and collectibles before taking the next step.

Below you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions by buyers and those new to collecting Limoges porcelain boxes.

Where are Limoges boxes made?

For a Limoges box to be authentic, it must be made in the Limoges region of central France, which includes the city of Limoges as well as surrounding cities and towns. There are several porcelain factories and workshops in the Limoges region where these miniature works of art are made. Some factories cover all stages of Limoges porcelain production, which is quite a long and laborious process. The creation of white porcelain itself is a multi-tiered process that begins with mixing kaolin clay (in powdered form) with other elements, which after various stages of mixing and firing presents itself as a pure white porcelain. , ready to paint. Some independent workshops and artisans carry out only the painting stage of this process, sourcing the white porcelain and creating spectacular hand-painted pieces of art. The final stage in the creation of a French Limoges case is the metalwork, which is shaped and fitted by hand by a Limoges metal artist. The piece is then available for purchase, ready to be enjoyed and proudly displayed.

Was there an original Limoges factory?

Contrary to what some may think, there is not and never has been a “Limoges” factory. Since its beginnings in the early 18th century, when kaolin was discovered in the Limoges region, various factories and workshops began to produce these precious objects. There are now many small factories and artisan workshops throughout the region producing Limoges porcelain.

Spelling and Pronunciation

Many unfamiliar with Limoges can look it up online with a variety of spellings such as lamoge, lamouge, limoge, lemoje, etc. The correct spelling is “Limoges” with an “s” at the end, which is not pronounced. The name Limoges is pronounced: “lee-wet”.

Marks, seals and badges

All authentic hand-painted Limoges boxes must bear the corresponding insignia on the base or inside. “Limoges, France” as the manufacturing origin, as well as “Peint Main”, “Peint a la Main” or “Decor Main” which means the piece was hand painted, are the most basic necessary insignia.

Various factories and artists have their own method of marking their Limoges creations. Some mark their Limoges boxes with a stamp that includes all the proper designations, some use a combination of stamp and handwritten markings, and others just hand-sign their creations. As mentioned above, it is quite common and sufficient for artists to simply sign their piece “Peint Main, Limoges, France”. Others may add their initials to the badge and/or a limited edition number.

Is Limoges a brand?

The title Limoges is not a brand. All porcelain tableware, boxes and giftware produced in the Limoges region are considered “Limoges”.

Some factories in Limoges produce their products under their own brand, such as Artoria and Royal Limoges. Others produce under the brands of importers such as Rochard, Beauchamp, Chamart and others. Many Limoges boxes bear the branding of brands that are now retired and no longer in production, such as PV, Chanille, Dubarry, La Gloriette, La Reine, Eximius, French Home, French Accents, and others.

limited production

Unlike some porcelain and earthenware giftware produced in the Far East, Limoges boxes are not mass-produced. They are mostly made to order by importers and created in small quantities. All Limoges boxes are made in limited editions, whether marked as such or not. If a box bears the limited edition numbers…/500 or…/750, it does not mean that the maximum number of pieces has ever been produced in full. Many boxes are manufactured in a very low number of parts.

Purpose and uses

In the 18th century, when the use of snuff was common among the nobility, Limoges boxes were a favorite for storing and carrying snuff in your pocket. Limoges boxes were also used to store tiny items such as pills, makeup powder, sewing pins, and jewelry. They also served as a means to discreetly transport small love notes.

Today, Limoges boxes are mostly collected and given away for display purposes. However, if the shape is such that it provides enough space, they can still be used as pill boxes or to store small pieces of jewelry, such as earrings or rings. They are commonly used to help precious memories of the baby, such as the first tooth or a lock of hair. Many bride and groom-to-be buy a Limoges box as an impressive gift to keep a surprise diamond ring inside when they pop the question!

high end prices

As Limoges boxes are made by a very small group of artisans in Limoges, France, and imported into the United States, these labor-intensive pieces of art can be quite expensive. By learning more about the various stages and the artisan process and the number of times each piece must be fired, one comes to a much deeper appreciation of the level of effort and artistic excellence that goes into making a Limoges box. The expertise and artistry behind each Limoges box is certainly worth the high-end price of these luxury pieces of art.

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