How to Identify French Limoges

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French Limoges is the name for the delicate porcelain made in the Limousin region of France. It has been famous from the 18th century until present times. French Limoges includes dinnerware, centerpieces and the distinctive porcelain snuff and pill boxes that are valuable collectors' items. The kaolin found in the rich soil in the Limousin area of France is the vital element in the mix that makes up Limoges porcelain paste. When you see fine modern day porcelain, it may list "Limoges porcelain paste" as an element, even though the piece was not produced in France. Genuine Limoges porcelain bears many marks that help you verify its authenticity.

Look for the maker's mark on the bottom of the piece, identifying the factory in Limoges where the porcelain was cast and fired. The mark will have been impressed into the porcelain under the glaze at the point when the porcelain was still blank or “whiteware.” Sometimes the mark just says “Limoges France” and it may be in any of a number of scripts and colors, depending on the manufacturer. Some marks incorporate a symbol such as a bird, a butterfly or a star.

See the decorator's mark on top of the glaze. It could be handwritten, printed or stamped, and it will indicate how the piece was decorated. It may say "Peint Main" for hand painted, or "Rehaussee Main" if a decorative decal has been hand highlighted. It is very important for authentic French Limoges boxes to have “Peint Main” inscribed on the bottom with “Limoges France” next to it.

Locate the stamp showing the artist who did the hand painting. It may be a signature or initials.

Find the the importer's mark representing the brand name of the importer who also was involved in decoration of the piece. Sinclair Limoges, Chamart, La Gloriette, Rochard, Rose Décor are importer marks, but there are many more.

Note that the retailer's name may be on the piece too, such as Tiffany, or even Neiman Marcus, and that the retailer could also have been the importer.

Consult an appraiser to determine the value of French Limoges, especially in the unlikely case that you find valuable Limoges Royale dinnerware or plates with royal crests or initials. They would have been commissioned by the Royal Court of France in the 1700s and made at Sevres, the royal porcelain factory, before the French Revolution. Back then, Limoges was also stamped with the French fleur de lys.

Linda Johnson is a veteran writer and Photoshop and Illustrator aficionado. She is a TV-radio producer, ad agency owner and a winner of Addy Awards and the First Place Award for Best National Public Service Film. In addition to Johnson's online work, her writing has appeared in "Poetry Guide," the "Indianapolis Star" and Indianapolis Dine magazine.