Legend says that in 1768, just a few kilometers from the French city Limoges, a woman discovered a surprisingly white and soft clay that bleached clothes, eliminating all stains.
The substance was pure kaolin, which is one of the components required to create the finest porcelain, similar to the Chinese and the secret ingredient that Europeans had been seeking for numerous years.
That's how the famous porcelain from Limoges started, and has been admired by the whole world since its beginning in the 18th century.
What Distinguishes Limoges Porcelain?
Limoges porcelain is distinguished by its whiteness, translucency, as well as excellent hardness. Real Limoges porcelain is produced with incomparable quality and a light bluish tin, skillfully hand-painted. Fine details create a striking design and part of the porcelain typically remains uncovered by colored figures to show the bright whiteness and translucency.
To give you an idea, an example of a great Limoges porcelain piece would be this charming French tête-à-tête Empire tea set, dated late 19th century.
Limoges is a generic name that doesn’t refer to a specific manufacturer, but to the high quality porcelain that is produced in and around the city of Limoges, France. Its properties and recipe are unique, with the usage of Kaolin (white clay) for the plasticity and fineness of the porcelain, and feldspar (for shiny luster and quartz) for the strength of the products. To this day, the label "Limoges" is used to define porcelain produced and decorated exclusively in factories in Limoges; The Limoges Porcelain
Manufacturers Association includes more than ten companies. The most famous of these are Artoria, Bernardo, Laplan, Merigolus, Haviland, Royal Limoges and Reynaud. That is the reason Limoges porcelain does not have only one hallmark.
The Industrialization of Limoges Porcelain
In the 19th century, the factories around Limoges took a decisive turn by modernizing their production processes and a new era began thanks to the industrial revolution and to David Haviland; the famous American merchant who arrived to Limoges in 1844 and founded his own factory in which he installed the first porcelain oven capable of producing more than 2,000 plates. Through this way, he discovered the first steps in the industrialization of Limoges porcelain.
Starting the second half of the 19th century, exhibitions in London, Paris, Vienna, and Chicago brought international recognition and honors to Limoges and in 1925, the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts awarded Limoges the prestigious title of "International Porcelain Capital". The following Limoges porcelain Art Deco Tea Set from Chabrol & Poirier was awarded the Grand Prize International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in 1925 (Paris).
Porcelain Jewelry From Limoges
Due to its unique qualities, finesse and plasticity, Limoges porcelain began to be used for the production of tableware as well as the creation of vases, snuff boxes, small boxes, and the custom porcelain quickly inspired manufacturers to create more sophisticated jewelry such as brooches with miniature portraits and floral motifs.
An example of a charming Limoges porcelain box would be this cobalt blue candy box polished with agate and finely decorated with a scene from the Hellenistic period.
The flexibility and plasticity of Limoges porcelain made it possible to create products in exquisite shapes, allowing the imagination and fantasies of the masters and the clients to roam free.
A beautiful Limoges porcelain item that reflects talent would be this candy bowl, painted and gilded with 24 karat gold. Its center portrays a finely painted Rubens and a title at the bottom: ‘Le voyage de la reine au pont de Cé’.
Another Limoges porcelain piece that is quite special is this hand-painted Camille Le Tallec Egg Trinket Box.
Whether it is an antique or modern product, a tea set, vase, or a brooch, Limoges porcelain is always a work of art of the highest quality.
Until today, the city of Limoges still holds the position of the top porcelain manufacturing city in France.