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What You Always Wanted To Know About French Limoges Boxes
You may have heard about the exceptional artistry of French Limoges boxes and how greatly popular they are with collectors and gift shoppers. Now you are considering purchasing a Limoges box as a worthy gift for a dear friend or relative or are tempted to start your own collection. But, as with any wise shopper, you would like to know more about this line of luxury gifts and collectibles before taking the next step.
Below, you will find answers to the most common questions shoppers and those who are new to collecting Limoges porcelain boxes ask.
Where Are Limoges Boxes Made?
In order for a Limoges box to be authentic, it must be made in the Limousine region of central France, which includes the city of Limoges as well as the surrounding towns and villages. There are various porcelain factories and workshops in the Limoges region where these miniature works of art are crafted. Some factories cover all stages of producing Limoges porcelain, which is quite a lengthy and labor-intensive process. Creating the white porcelain in itself is a multi-level process which starts with mixing the kaolin clay (in powder form)with other elements, which after several stages of mixing and firing is presented as a pure white porcelain, ready to be painted. Some workshops and independent artisans perform only the painting stage of this process by acquiring the white porcelain and creating spectacular hand-painted art pieces. The final stage of creating a French Limoges box is metalwork, which is formed and fitted by hand by a Limoges metalwork artist. The piece is then made available for purchase, ready to be enjoyed and displayed with pride.
Was There An Original Limoges Factory?
Contrary to what some may think, there is not, nor has ever been a “Limoges” factory. From its start in the early 1700s when kaolin was first discovered in the Limoges region,various factories and workshops began producing these precious objects. There are now many small factories and artisan workshops throughout the region producing Limoges porcelain.
Spelling and Pronunciation
Many who are not familiar with Limoges, may search for it 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-moje.”
Markings,Stamps and Insignia
All authentic hand-painted Limoges boxes must include the proper insignia at the base or in the interior. “Limoges, France” as the origin of manufacture, as well as “Peint Main,” “Peint a la Main” or “Décor Main” which means the piece was painted by hand, 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 a stamp and hand-written markings and others only sign their creations by hand. 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 insignia and/or a limited edition number.
Is Limoges A Brand?
The title Limoges is not a brand name. All porcelain tableware, boxes and gift-ware produced in the Limoges region are considered “Limoges.”
Some Limoges factories produce their wares 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 mark 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.
Unlike some porcelain and china gift-ware produced in the Far East, Limoges boxes are not mass-produced. They are mainly crafted per order by importers and created in small numbers. 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 entire maximum number of pieces were ever produced. Many boxes are made in a very low number of pieces.
Purpose and Uses
In the 18th century when the use of snuff was common among the gentry, Limoges boxes were a favorite for storing and carrying snuff in the pocket. Limoges boxes were also used for storing tiny objects such as pills, makeup powder, sewing pins and jewelry. They also served as a means of discretely transporting small love notes.
Today, Limoges boxes are mainly collected and given as gifts for display purposes. However, if the shape is such that provides enough room, they can still be used as pill boxes or to hold small pieces of jewelry such as earrings or rings. They are commonly used to help precious baby keepsakes such as a first tooth or a lock of hair. Many bridegrooms-to-be purchase a Limoges box as an impressive gift to hold a diamond ring surprise inside when they pop the question!
As Limoges boxes are made by a very small group of artisans in Limoges, France and imported into the United States, these highly labor-intensive art pieces can be quite pricey. Learning more about the various stages and craftsmanship process and the number of times each piece needs to be fired, one gains a much deeper appreciation for the level of effort and artistic excellence that goes into crafting a Limoges box. The expertise and artistry behind each Limoges box certainly merits the high-end pricing of these luxury art pieces.
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