A Limoges box is a small, hinged, porcelain trinket box produced in or near the city of Limoges, France. They exhibit fantastic craftsmanship and are collected worldwide.
How Are Limoges Boxes Made?
First, you need to create the white porcelain. That is done by mixing the kaolin clay (in powder form) and firing it with other elements.
After repeated rounds, the porcelain is ready to be painted. Some artisans only perform the painting stage by acquiring the white porcelain.
The final stage is metalwork. It is formed and fitted by hand by another artisan.
Are There Special Stamps, Markings, and Insignia?
Authentic hand-painted boxes include insignia at the base or in the box interior. They mention “Limoges, France”, as well as “Peint a la Main,” “Peint Main,” or “Décor Main” – all mean that the piece was hand-painted.
Artists and factories have their own marking methods for their creations. Some mark their boxes with a stamp including all the designations. Others combine a stamp and hand-written markings. Others only hand-sign their creations. It is quite common to see a simple “Peint Main, Limoges, France.” Other artists add a limited edition number or their initials to the insignia.
Are These Boxes Mass-Produced?
By definition, Limoges boxes are manually crafted under order by importers and in small numbers. They are always made in limited editions, whether marked or not. When a box bears the limited edition numbers /500 or /750, it doesn’t even mean all these pieces were produced. Most boxes are made in very low numbers.
Purpose and Uses
When using snuff was common in the 1700s, among the gentry, Limoges boxes were the favorite for carrying snuff conveniently in their pocket. They have always been used for storing tiny objects such as makeup powder, pills, jewelry, and sewing pins. They have also discretely transported small love notes.
Nowadays, the boxes are mainly given as gifts and collected for display purposes. Sometimes the shape provides enough room for holding pills small jewelry such as rings or earrings. Moreover, they are used to hold baby keepsakes such as a lock of hair or a first tooth. Bridegrooms-to-be purchase Limoges boxes as a gift to conceal the diamond ring surprise when it comes time to pop the question!
How Much Do They Cost?
In short, it is high-end pricing levels because they are made by a very small group of artisans in France and exported from there. But the expertise and artistry supporting each Limoges box certainly merits the high prices of each of these luxury art pieces.