How to know the value of a French Limoges box
“What is the value of my Limoges box?” is the question we are asked on a regular basis throughout the years by many visitors to our websites. Of course, those who collect Limoges boxes may be interested in knowing if their precious collectibles have increased in value. But the question is more commonly asked by those who have acquired a single piece from the secondary market or have inherited Limoges boxes and are interested in finding out the current value of their piece(s).
Although we do not offer an appraisal or valuation service, we can provide a guideline for Limoges collectors and enthusiasts as to the factors that contribute to the value of an authentic French Limoges box. For more details on the authenticity of a Limoges box, please read our post “How To Tell If A Limoges Box Is Authentic.”
Limoges boxes made today are crafted in the same manner that
is in keeping with the tradition of the artistry of porcelain painting of the
past several centuries. The process of
crafting a Limoges box is a very labor-intensive and lengthy one that is
performed by highly specialized artisans in the Limousine area of central
There are numerous stages and processes before a Limoges box is completed as a final product. Creating the white porcelain has a multi-level process of mixing the kaolin and other ingredients into a soupy paste, which is then poured into the mold by hand. After multiple firings and glazing, the porcelain pieces are ready to be hand-painted and assembled into a Limoges box. The artist then begins the painting process which is again a multi-level process of adding color and firings at a different temperature for each color, until the piece is fully painted. The Limoges is then assembled by a metalwork artist who creates hand-fitted metalwork for each piece individually, soldering the hinges and clasps and adhering the metalwork to the porcelain. The end result is a unique art piece to be admired and displayed with pride.
Various factors contribute to the value of a French porcelain Limoges box. Below are some of the more important contributing factors that are the basis of the value of a collectible Limoges box.
The complexity of the porcelain shape can contribute to the value of a Limoges box. A simple shaped box such as a rectangular or round box with simple painting would be of a lower value than one with multiple curves and angles or those with multiple separate parts that have been adhered to one another.
Hand-painting of the porcelain contributes the most value to
the collectible Limoges box. A Limoges box hand-painted by a master artisan
with elaborate designs and fine detailing has a much higher value compared to one
painted by a painter with less expertise.
Limoges boxes with detailed
designs and vibrant colors are more in demand by collectors and thus are more
valuable. Some Limoges boxes are simpler in design with
no painting or embellishments in the interior.
However, some of the top artisans in Limoges, complete their creations
with beautiful and elaborate paintings in the interior of the Limoges as
well. Some Limoges boxes are accompanied
by one or more hand-painted porcelain accessory pieces that complement the
subject matter of the piece. These
elements all factor in the value of the Limoges box.
Number of Colors Used
Another factor into the value of a Limoges box is the number of colors used. The colors for painting porcelain are natural figments mixed with special mineral oils. Various colors require being fired at different temperatures and, therefore, the more colors used in painting a Limoges box necessitate much more time and effort as well as requiring many separate firings.
Use of 24K Gold
Many Limoges boxes are embellished with 24K Gold. Genuine 24K Gold in powder form is blended
with special oils to create a paint consistency to be applied onto the surface
of the Limoges. Some Limoges boxes have
a small amount of gold used as lines and designs, and others have much more
gold used to embellish the piece. The
amount of gold used in a Limoges box can increase the value of the piece.
Limoges boxes are made in numerous shapes and designs and in countless themes. Some subject matters can be more popular by seasonality, holidays, or special events. As tastes vary, collectors and gift shoppers can develop different interests based on various criteria. Limoges boxes in certain shapes and designs can, therefore, be more valuable merely for the subject matter of the piece.
All Limoges boxes are made in limited editions, whether they are marked as such or not. The majority of Limoges boxes, especially the ones made in the second part of the 20 th century up to those currently made, are made to order by importers. Many styles of Limoges boxes were made in small quantities and have become hard-to-find or rare. Limoges styles by some manufacturers who are no longer producing or factories and workshops which have closed during the past decades, may have higher values depending on style and artistry. Certain retired styles of Limoges boxes that were created for famous corporations under license, such as Disney, CocaCola, etc. as well as iconic characters such as Betty Boop, Peanuts, Kermit the Frog, Star Wars and Barbie, have become rare and can merit higher values. Limoges boxes produced in limited numbers for special retailers such as Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus and Tiffany’s can also merit higher values, depending on the style and rarity of the piece.
Hand-Painted vs. Hand-Decorated
The majority of French Limoges boxes are completely painted by hand. However, some styles, such as cobalt blue boxes can have a simple decal image that is hand-applied to the porcelain. Other styles may be partially hand-painted with the major part of the image being a decal. Although applying a decal to the porcelain requires special expertise so that the image comes out crisp and clear and in the proper position after firing, such boxes are not as valuable as those completely hand-painted by an artist. Partially hand-painted Limoges boxes or those decorated only with a decal image are marked “Rehaussé Main” (which means hand-raised or finished by hand) instead of “Peint Main” (which means hand-painted). These boxes are genuine porcelain Limoges boxes but are not as valuable as those that are elaborately hand-painted.
The metalwork of a Limoges box do contribute to the value of
the Limoges. As described above, the
metalwork for each Limoges box is cut and fitted individually by hand for each
single piece. Certain shapes of boxes
make the metalwork more labor intensive.
For example, a round box is easier for making the metalwork as the metal
is bent around the perimeter of the opening, whereas a square or rectangular
box requires the metal to be notched to fit around each corner and thus, is
much more labor intensive. Some Limoges
boxes not only have the metalwork around the opening of the box but in other
sections as well, and some with special designs that require additional soldering
and fitting. Some boxes are double or
multi-hinged so that the box opens in more than one section. Some Limoges boxes have simpler clasps while
others are fitted with much more elaborately-designed and impressive
clasps. All of these factors can contribute
significantly to the value of a Limoges box.
Of course, the condition of Limoges box is a significant factor in the value of the piece. All new Limoges boxes must be in perfect condition and open and close properly. The same is expected with older and retired Limoges boxes, although some light wear is acceptable depending on the age of the piece. However, any chips, hairline cracks or missing pieces can considerably, if not completely, devoid a Limoges box of value.
The value of a Limoges box is based on numerous factors delineated above as well as the current market value of the piece. Other than seeking the services of an appraiser to find the current value of your collectible Limoges box(es), an estimate of the value can be determined by doing some research online. You can find the reasonable market value of your Limoges box(es) by comparing them against the same or similar styles offered on various sources on the internet.