Limoges boxes are delightful hand painted porcelain trinket boxes made from the clay Kaolin in the French city of Limoges. Elegant, delicate, and distinct, one may choose a Limoges box suited to every for every occasion and give as a special gift to represent the theme you are expressing. These hand decorated boxes have a personal, unique quality following a tradition of quality and symbolize the highest distinction and fashion among Royalty for decades. Today Limoges boxes are collected all over the world and are more than just a collectible; they carry an important positive message. Limoges porcelain is famed not only for its beauty, but for its durability, as this hard paste porcelain’s process of manufacture originally came from China and had been a closely guarded secret. The key ingredient in Limoges porcelain is Kaolin; as kaolin is a type of clay. A deposit of very pure kaolin was found near Saint Yrieix-la-Perche France in 1766 and ever since this region has been a golden manufacturer of porcelain Limoges.
The hard-paste porcelain that this type of extra-fine clay was made with was first produced in France in the 1760’s, at the royal factory in Sèvres. Limoges, however, has produced enamels since the 12th century. Because of the established enamel works in France, it was easy to build a porcelain industry this this region, as the oak and chestnut woodlands and forests of the area guaranteed a ready supply of fuel. Porcelain is a laborious and time consuming process involving multiple firings and glazing. The final firing is at a temperature of 1400C and is unique to Limoges. This final firing is what gives French Limoges a very fine pure and strong white finish. The painting of Limoges boxes is a cottage industry and often accomplished by young French woman due to their small hands. These artisans are experts at the fine brush strokes required for such detailed work. After the intricate painting on a Limoges Box there are more firings and then metal mountings are meticulously fitted to the finished box. The entire work process is made by hand, thus small variations are normal, which make every piece unique. Each model of a Limoges Box run are made in limited numbers, & signed by the artists or Atelier. This is what makes them so rare, collectible, and desired.
Original Snuff Boxes
Limoges boxes were originally used as snuff boxes, or containers for sweets and scents. These fine pieces also served as cane heads and small carrying cases. They even originally made Limoges porcelain into the production of false teeth. Using Limoges boxes as snuff box became an immediate success, as in that time tobacco was snuffed (sniffed) not smoked. The snuff was wrapped in small linen bags and placed in leather pouches or silver, gold, wooden and ivory boxes. All of these supplies were expensive to decorate, but porcelain was so much easier to decorate and soon thousands of different shapes of Tabatieres were being fashioned. The Limoges boxes of this time were assembled with metal settings made of brass, gold or silver. During the French revolution soldiers began to smoke tobacco rather than to sniff it, and slowly the demand for Limoges boxes declined.
Limoges Boxes Today
In time these Limoges Boxes were often lost or destroyed, and so became rare and sought after. It was due to the high demand from antique collectors that interest in the manufacture of the boxes was reawakened. Some producers referred to historians in order to locate original molds. Some molds were reconstructed from documentary evidence. The original boxes that did survive carry a very high assessment, a can often be worth up to a million French Francs at auction.
Limoges Boxes Value
Valuing a Limoges Box encompasses looking meticulously at the quality of the decorative work. The quality of the decoration varies since these pieces were usually hand painted. The higher the quality of the work is, the higher the value of the piece. Typically, these pieces received two glazes. The decorative painting style may be placed beneath the glaze, in between two glazes, or above the finish. In many instances, the hand painting occurs both underneath and above glaze coatings. Likewise significant is formatting the assessment of a Limoges piece is by looking for the innumerable factory markings on your specific piece of porcelain. Each factory had a distinctive marking.
Inopportunely, a large amount of companies were only in business for a short time and their accounts in what they created have not endured. Consequently, no markings have been registered for them and their works cannot be accurately recognized for their original date. There are books on Limoges boxes that will sometimes include a list of the factory markings along with other relevant information. Most Limoges Box collectible hinged figurines are marked with the word “Limoges”, signifying their origin of creation. Many companies produced porcelain Limoges over time; hence, many pieces are marked with the factory mark. Many factories primarily produced plain white molds that are sent outside of the factory to studios in France nominated for decorating the porcelain.
What differentiates a ‘French Limoges Box’ from others?
•·The boxes are all miniature, some are as small as 1 inch by 1/2 inch however most are between 2 and three inches in dimension.
•·The base of the French Limoges box will have the artist or ateliers signature or initials and many a number signifying that they are of a limited edition line. When they are limited edition lines and numbered, the number 1 is the last piece made. Most molds can produce about 300-400 boxes before they are discarded. If the edition is limited run goes beyond that, that means more than 1 mold was probably used. This is what makes the Limoges Box so spectacular.