The delicate beauty of antique Limoges china dinnerware makes it highly sought after by antique china collectors. The first step in determining if you have a piece of this beautiful work is looking at the Limoges china marks for verification.
What Is Limoges China?
Many people new to collecting antique china do not realize that the word Limoges does not refer to a specific manufacturer. Limoges actually refers to the area in France where the fine porcelain pieces were produced.
History of Limoges China
The history of Limoges china begins in the late 1700s when kaolin was found at St. Yreix, near the city of Limoges in the region of France known as Limousin. Kaolin, also known as China clay, is a pale-colored clay that looks almost white. This clay was first found in China and used to make porcelain centuries ago in the 800s and 900s. The discovery of the kaolin in France meant French manufacturers could produce the fine white porcelain similar to the fine porcelain of China. One of the distinctive traits of Limoges china is that no two pieces will be alike due to the firing and production process.
Limoges China Production
The first pieces of Limoges dinnerware were made in the Sèvres porcelain factory and were marked with royal crests. The king bought the factory soon after it was built in order to produce royal porcelain dinnerware which continued until it was nationalized after the French Revolution. There were about 27 other Limoges china factories in France, including:
- Bernardaud and Company
- Charles Tharaud
- Guerin-Pouyat-Elite LTD
- A. Lanternier & Co.
- Martial Reardon
- Martin Freres and Brothers
- Paroutaud Freres
- The Elite Works
- Tressemann & Vogt (T&V)
How to Identify Limoges China Marks
You can determine whether a piece of china is a true Limoges antique by looking for marks on the bottom of the piece. This includes not only dinnerware and vases but keepsake boxes as well. The marks you need to find are:
French Government Mark
An official mark from the government of France may be on some pieces. This will most often be a round circle that says "Limoges Goût de Ville." If there's no official mark, you may see a "L" for Limoges.
- Louis XIV's factory used the royal monogram, or cypher, with a crown image as their mark.
- "AE" was the mark of the Allund factory (1797 to 1868).
- CHF, CHF/GDM or CH Field Haviland, Limoges were the marks of Haviland factories from 1868 to 1898.
- Porcelaine, Haviland & Co. Limoges, GDA, H&CO/Depose, H&CO/L, or Theodore Haviland, Limoges, France were the marks of the Haviland factories after 1898.
- Some smaller factory marks were simply names such as "M. Redon" (1853), "A. Lanternier" (1885), and "C. Ahrenfeldt" or "France C.A. Depose" (1886).
- "Elite France" or "Elite Works France" was the mark for Elite Works. Beginning in 1892 it was in black. Note that from 1900 to 1914, this mark went from black to red and from 1920 to 1932, it was green.
- Latrille Freres' mark was a star with a circle that said L I M O G E S and "France."
- Martin Freres and Brothers also did not use their name. Their mark was a bird with a ribbon with "France" printed on an area of the ribbon.
- R. Laporte's mark was the "RL/L" with the symbol of a butterfly.
- Coronet's mark was a crown with the name "Coronet" in either blue or green.
You may also see the artist's name who hand painted the piece which may include a stamp that says it was hand painted. A notation of how it was designed might appear such as:
- Paint main means the piece was hand painted.
- Decor main means it was partially hand painted.
- Rehausse main meant only highlights were added by hand.
Limoges Reproduction Marks
There are reproductions of Limoges porcelain that may appear to the untrained eye to be genuine antiques, but they are not. The marks on these pieces can be deceiving if you are not aware of Limoges porcelain history. Common reproduction marks will say:
- T&V Limoges France
- Limoges China, ROC
- ROC LIMOGES China
Limoges China Pattern Identification
In addition to the marks on the bottom of the porcelain pieces, you can also use the patterns of the design to determine if it's a genuine Limoges antique. Different studios and manufacturers used their own patterns that they became known for. These patterns had names and many times a number that you could use to look up in a china pattern book. Some examples are:
A. Lanternier Patterns
A. Lanternier used scrolling floral patterns on a white background along with gold or silver trim on the edges of the pieces. Pattern names were often included next to the company's mark such as "Empress," "Brabant" or "Fougere Idienne." They were also known for some war motifs related to World War I called the La Grande Guerre Dessins de Job.
Coronet Limoges Patterns
Common Coronet Limoges patterns were nature and hunt scenes featuring waterfowl and other game birds, fish and game animals. They also often featured flowers, especially roses, and fruit such as grapes. Gold trim on the rims and scalloped edges were a frequent design.
Haviland China Patterns
There are approximately 60,000 Haviland china patterns and many are not named, especially prior to 1926. You can find examples of Haviland patterns in collectors books available through dealers and collectors, as well as the Haviland Collectors International Foundation. A Schleiger number is a number that was assigned to each pattern by the Schleiger family, Haviland dealers who catalogued all the Haviland designs. Haviland patterns often featured floral designs with a gold trim, but the variation in colors with even the same pattern was extensive.
Identifying Authentic Limoges China Marks
Limoges china is known as the finest hard-paste china in the world, and the artistry in these pieces is world renowned. While you can bring your piece to an antiques appraiser for verification, the first step in identifying it is to look at the marks on the bottom or back of the piece. If you can find a Limoges china mark, this is a good sign that you may own one of these valuable antiques.