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Many people love to collect French china, searching through antique shops and attics looking for the perfect piece to add to their collection. Seeing a fine Limoges porcelain piece it’s easy to understand why. The fine china is a work of art, that even the least artistic soul can see the beauty of. When you add in the practical uses for many of the Paris art pieces who wouldn’t want a beautiful piece of history?
Limoges Porcelain is the finest French china. First made in 1771, in the small city of Limoges, these pieces were the first successful copies of Chinese porcelain made in Europe. The Limoges clay used to make the porcelain contained the right minerals for a resilient porcelain, unlike the majority of other porcelain pieces made in Europe which were brittle bone china.
This lucky coincidence is good news for collectors, as there is a small abundance of porcelain from Limoges stretching back over 200 years. Obviously the farther back you go the more expensive the pieces become. An artistic porcelain snuff box from the 1770′s, once sold for 1 million francs. Fortunately these works of art were created until the 1930′s, and some are even made today in the same style as the old antiques. If you want true quality Paris art, you should expect to pay between 100-2000 US dollars, which puts them into most peoples reach.
There are some things that collectors, especially beginning collectors, should be wary of.
First, most later 19th century Limoges porcelain has marks, showing which company made them, who painted them, if imported who imported them, and often who sold them. If a Limoges does not have a mark or only a single vague mark that gives no information, it is often a fake, or more rarely a very old piece.
If it’s an old piece it was probably made before the 1850′s. Before then only the Alluand Factory, Haviland Factory, and a few smaller porcelain makers used marks. During and after the 1850′s all the other factories began marking their porcelain art pieces as Limoges. So if there is no mark look it over very closely it may be a very valuable piece.
There is also a chance it could be a fake. Fortunately there are not many reproductions of Limoges porcelain, so it is not as risky taking a chance on a beautiful porcelain art piece, as it is with other antiques.
The second thing to look for is the quality of the artwork.
Is the artwork finely detailed. A true piece of Paris art, will have fine, hand painted details and lines, the name of the artist will be signed close to the companies mark. If the lines are mechanical, sloppy, or obvious decals it will detract from the price. Even the prettiest mechanical paint job is inferior to true hand painted works of art.
There is a problem here, many china pieces from Limoges, were sold as blanks. This allowed the buyer to paint the pieces themselves, allowing them to create unique art pieces. During the 1850′s in the United States, painting blanks was a popular hobby amongst middle and upper class women. So many fine pieces of porcelain may have an inferior paintjob, and inferior pieces may be painted beautifully, depending on the skills of the amateur painter. This makes judging the price of a piece difficult. You have to judge the art, the porcelain itself, and the mark. Remember, beautifully painted French china on slightly inferior porcelain is superior to a poorly painted, but well made porcelain piece.
The third thing to look for is the quality of the porcelain. A true piece of art will be translucent and bright white under the glaze. The glaze should be smooth and hard. If the Limoges porcelain is unbalanced, discolored, has a chip, or suffers from dips in the surface, this will significantly reduce its value, except as an attractive art piece.
There has been a growing influx of cheaply made china pieces claiming to be Limoges. If the item is under $100 US, it is likely a fake and should be ignored. It is of low quality and not worth your money or time. If you want true Paris quality art, look for an original piece, either in the antiques market, or from a company producing original artwork on Limoges China.