It’s something I hear often, and it goes like this:
     “Oh, what pretty china you have,”
     “Why thank you, it’s Limoges.”
                                    …….Except it’s not….
     “What kind of china is that?”
     “Oh that?, it’s Limoges.”
                                     ……Except it’s not….

So what then, is Limoges?

What: Limoges is a town/area of France located approximately 200 miles south of Paris. Unfortunately in today’s era many people talk about “Limoges” as if it were a brand name, the product of just one company. In reality dozens of companies worked in the area of Limoges. It’s like saying a Tiffany lamp is “New York,” which sounds very silly but it’s exactly the same thing.

Signed Limoges piece

When: The first porcelain factory was established in the area of Limoges in the early 1770s but the industry didn’t become well-established until the 1830s. It reached its peak of popularity approx. 1890 until WWI (1919) and some would argue that is when their best work was produced. Many collectors feel that after 1930 cost cutting measures changed the porcelain formulas and the resulting products were not as fine a quality as the earlier ones. There are still porcelain factories in the Limoges area producing wares today.

The rest of the story: In 1768 the wife of a local chemist discovered deposits of kaolin & feldspar in the region. Both are critical ingredients in the making of Chinese-style white “hard paste” porcelain. The Kaolin clay produced a superior product allowing the industry situated in/around Limoges to flourish. In its heyday the area had 1,800 workers in this field alone. Over time “Limoges” became synonymous with high quality porcelain and thus the confusion between brand and area began because to say “it’s Limoges” was to say it was quality.

Identification: Most Limoges manufacturers marked their wares, these marks can usually be used to date the item with a little online research. Some companies, such as Bawo & Dotter, decorated the blank pieces in France as well.  Many more, such as Haviland, exported blank pieces which were then decorated in other countries, the US being a common destination. Therefore most pieces will also have a decorators mark. In addition some pieces were exported for distribution and sale by other companies and these pieces may also have a store or distributors mark. Finally, and this is most usually the case only with finer pieces, the piece may also be signed by the artist.

Here is a sample with a manufacturers and a decorator’s mark which tells you:
1. Where it was made – Limoges.
2. Who made it – Elite Works, a French company owned by Bawo & Dotter.
3. Who owned the factory – Bawo & Dotter, a US company.
4. Where it was decorated – in France.
5. When it was made – 1900 – 1914.

High Value examples:

By famous artist Franz Bischoff, sold for almost $30,000 in 2016

Set of c. 1880 Haviland Limoges sold for almost $9000

Limoges Portrait of a French Woman brooch sold for almost $10000 in 2013

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