What Is A Limoges Box? – Collecting Limoges Boxes 101
If you mention the term “Limoges Box”, most people will immediately know what you are referring to. However, for those who are not yet familiar with Limoges boxes, here is a quick description as well as some tips as to the following:
1. What is a Limoges Box;
2. Where and How Limoges Boxes are made;
3. Why Limoges Boxes are collected;
4. Do Limoges Boxes serve a purpose?
What Is A Limoges Box?
A Limoges box is a hand-crafted and hand-painted hinged box that is made from fine French porcelain.
The history of the Limoges box goes back to the mid-1700s. As the Europeans were enamored with the Chinese hand-painted potteries, they endeavored not only to recreate similar items but, to far surpass the quality and craftsmanship of the East. When Keolin was first discovered in the Limoges region of France in the early 1700s, the French were able to create that highly-coveted pure white porcelain. The white porcelain was then made in various shapes and masterfully decorated by the local artisans. Only the nobility could afford the precious Limoges porcelain decorative items as well as the small hinged boxes to carry as snuff boxes and, at times, to exchange love notes. Today, the Limoges box is a well-known and sought-after collectible and gift item worldwide, especially in the United States. For more detail about the history of Limoges boxes, see
About Limoges Boxes.
Limoges Boxes are decorative and collectible works of art as well as luxury gift items for any taste and occasion.
Where And How Are Limoges Boxes Made?
In order for a Limoges box to be considered authentic, it must be made entirely in the Limousine region of central France.
Contrary to a common misconception, there is no single
factory called Limoges! There are many
small factories, workshops and ateliers in the city of Limoges and its vicinity
that produce the white porcelain. Some
workshops have their own artists who paint the porcelain boxes. There are also other master artists in
Limoges who only do the painting decoration of boxes. If you would like to know more about city of Limoges and the Limousine region of France, our
About Limoges France page is a great resource with detailed information and many photos.
Limoges is considered the porcelain capital of France. There are numerous small factories and workshops in the Limousine region of France that produce Limoges tableware and decorative Limoges boxes.
Every Limoges box is made in two or more parts. Each part is
made of porcelain paste in a separate mold. After allowing time for the porcelain to set,
the pieces are removed from the mold, hand-sponged to smooth and remove any extra
particles. The pieces then receive their first firing in a special kiln. During
this firing, each piece may shrink about 15%. The shrinkage causes each piece to take on a
slightly variant shape from any others from the same mold. After the pieces cool, they are glazed and
fired in the kiln again at a very high temperature. Now the shiny white
porcelain pieces are ready to receive decorative artwork. Each piece is exquisitely hand-painted by a
Limoges artist, one color at-a-time! With each additional color, the Limoges
receives another round of firing as each color must be fired at a different temperature – so the more colors used mean more firings (3-4
or even up to 7-8 firings or more).
Kaolin, Feldspar and Quarts are the main ingredients of the porcelain paste. When processed and fired, this combination creates a sparkling pure white porcelain.
The various stages of the Limoges box creation process: the kaolin powder, mold, unfired, fired, glazed and hand-painted Limoges box.
The colors used for painting Limoges boxes are natural minerals and come in a powder form. They are mixed with special oils so that they can be applied to the porcelain. Among numerous colors used, some boxes are decorated with 24K gold and/or chrome, which gives the Limoges box a beautiful gold or silver shine. Once the Limoges box parts have been fully painted and have gone through numerous rounds of firings in the kiln at various temperatures, they are ready to be hinged. The hinging process is an art form in itself and is performed by highly skilled craftsmen. As each piece is unique, the brass hinge must be individually hand-cut and hand-fitted to the porcelain. To achieve an antique patina, once the hinges are fitted and braised, some hinge styles are submerged into acid for a few hours to develop an antique gold patina. They are then adhered to each piece of porcelain by hand. A decorative clasp is also added and the Limoges box is ready to be debuted to be admired and cherished by a collector!
Why Are Limoges Boxes Collected?
There are many reasons why Limoges boxes are among the most coveted
collectibles today. Many collectors
collect Limoges boxes for their magnificent artistry. Each Limoges box is considered a work of
art. Those that are crafted and
hand-painted by master artists truly parallel the masterpieces displayed in
palaces and museums. As Limoges boxes are
made in a vast variety of shapes and themes, collectors can find Limoges boxes
for theme-specific or topic of their personal interest. Many collectors collect the classic style
Limoges boxes. Others choose a theme of
interest such as animals, travel, sports, professions, childhood, music,
flowers, cuisine, etc. for the perfect keepsake and memorabilia. There are also collectors who only collect
rare and retired boxes, such as Disney and Peanuts characters. Thankfully, the list of subjects for
collecting is endless so any collector can find a wide selection of Limoges
boxes to collect in their area of interest.
Limoges boxes are not only decorative items to admire, they signify a point of interest for the collector. From travel keepsakes, to culinary arts, animals, sports, baby keepsakes and so on, Limoges boxes express our love for what we do and love.
Do Limoges Boxes Serve A Purpose?
Limoges boxes are generally collected and displayed as
decorative items. As Limoges boxes are
made in a vast variety of themes and shapes, they make highly coveted luxury gifts
for special occasions such as birthday, anniversary, new baby, Christmas,
travel, and so much more. Originally,
Limoges boxes were used as snuff boxes. As
the use of snuff became unfashionable around the time of the French Revolution,
Limoges boxes continued to be used as pill boxes – as many still know them as ‘Limoges
Pill Boxes’ and use them for that purpose.
Many Limoges boxes are collected as keepsake boxes to hold precious memorabilia,
such as a lock of hair, a first tooth, a ring or other jewelry. A very popular use for a Limoges box is to
hold that special ring as a surprise for popping the question. Of course, there are many more ways a Limoges
box can be used and that is left to the imagination and creativity of the
Limoges boxes are mainly collected as decorative items but can be used for a variety of purposes. They are commonly used as Pill Boxes or as a ring or jewelry box. Limoges boxes can also hold precious memorabilia such as a lock of hair or a first tooth.
For information about how to care for and clean Limoges boxes, see How To Clean A Porcelain Limoges Box.
Limoges boxes are valuable and quite fragile. To learn how to handle and safely open and close a Limoges box, see Special Limoges Tips.
LimogesCollector.com is proud to offer one of the largest selections of French Limoges boxes imported directly from Limoges, France. Collectors and gift buyers can find a large variety of any style of Limoges box from over 2,200 styles offered at special savings.
Do you collect Limoges boxes? We would love to hear your comments and what your favorite Limoges styles are.