When most people mention Limoges porcelain trinket boxes, they usually realize you are talking about high quality, upscale, and imported pricey porcelain that will be treasured for generations. But in spite of its expense, this type of porcelain is worth its hefty price as it has retained its value since they began producing porcelain trinket boxes from this region in the 1700s. The current trinket or pill boxes were thought to have originated from the snuff boxes of the aristocratic Frenchmen of the late 1700s.
It was the discovery of Kaolin clay near Limoges France in the 1700’s that created a new industry in France — hard paste porcelain. (Which up to that time was a highly secret manufacturing process and hard paste porcelain was only being manufactured in China .)
Although they were popular in France, these collectible boxes were not popular in the United States because no means of exporting to the American market had been attempted. At the time it took traveling to Europe to find and buy the pieces. In the 1960’s, porcelain importer Charles Martine contributed to the awareness and popularity of the Limoges boxes we see now.
A collector should expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $500 per piece. Since prices and reputable vendors vary, the following tips should help you in your hunt for these desirable collectibles.
- When trying to set a value on a piece, looking at the quality of the hand painted decoration can be more important than valuing its age or when it was produced. Keep in mind high quality hand painting adds more value than the work of an unskilled porcelain painter.
- Unlike other porcelain pieces, there are fewer reproductions of Limoges porcelain and therefore, a collector can shop with more confidence that the trinket box he or she is buying is likely to be authentic. It wouldn’t hurt however to invest in a few collector books to get as much information about the different styles and designs available during different time periods. Armed with this information a collector or shopper is more likely to select what he or she wants, pay closer to its estimated value and to be satisfied with this expensive purchase.
- Understand that Limoges does not come from a specific company or corporation by the name of Limoges, Inc.; but is a city and region in France. Therefore, porcelain that comes from this region can be defined as Limoges porcelain according to French law. As a result, this beautiful , delicate porcelain was produced by a number of factories in France from the late 1700s until around 1930 when ornate design styles changed to more basic and simple designs.
- Keep an eye out for the words Peint Main or Décor Main which means the trinket box has been “painted by hand” and check and see if the artist painted his or her initials on the box. Boxes that are marked Rehausse Main are a combination of a decal transfer and hand painted details. A decal transfer is a specialized design decal that is applied on the porcelain and permanently bonds with the porcelain during the firing process.
- Although many companies over the years have manufactured Limoges boxes there are a few which actually own their own Limoges companies and are known as high quality importers and manufacturers. The company names that are associated with exclusive Limoges designs and high quality porcelain are Artoria Limoges, Chamart Exclusives Inc. and Chanille to name a few.
Photo courtesy of Antique Helper