Collecting and Caring for Ironstone Dishware

Explore the history and style of beautiful, romantic ironstone.

White Ironstone dishes make for a useful and beautiful collection.
Whether clean or marked with character, ironstone is as useful as it is beautiful.

Are you an enthusiastic collector of ironstone? The simplicity and utilitarian quality of these gleaming white dishes makes it a favorite collectible. Sometimes known as “the little black dress” of pottery, white ironstone mixes beautifully with antique, traditional, farmhouse, French country or contemporary interiors.

Ironstone pieces are survivors; their resilience tells their story, and minor discoloration only seems to add to their patina and beauty.

Give clean white Ironstone a rustic feel by pairing pieces with antique cutting boards.
An antique breadboard gives this Ironstone vignette a rustic feel.

What Is Ironstone?

Ironstone is not porcelain; it’s porous earthenware, made of clay mixed with feldspar. Patented in 1813 by Charles James Mason in Staffordshire, England, it was an immediate success, and ironstone blanks were decorated with transfer patterns or hand painting to imitate Chinese porcelain. There is no iron in ironstone. Many believe Mason used this name to imply that iron and china created a durable and almost indestructible pottery.

Many Staffordshire potteries had similar products known by a variety of names: English porcelain, semi porcelain, new stone and stone china. Mason’s patent lapsed in 1827, and other Staffordshire factories adopted the name ironstone.

In the 1840s, undecorated white stoneware was shipped to the colonies. Durable and affordable, ironstone was popular with rural American families and settlers. Called graniteware, stoneware, pearl china or feldspar china, these pieces are all considered ironstone. In the 1870s and 1880s, American potters began to manufacture their own white ware, under the name graniteware.

Ironstone Maker's Marks
Look for maker’s marks on the bottom and details toppers on lids.

What to Look for

Weight. Ironstone is thick and heavy.

Maker’s Mark. Most, but not all, ironstone is marked with a stamp on the bottom that is printed, impressed or both.

Color. Early English pieces made for export will have a blue or gray tint. Pieces that remained in England are creamier white, as are American ironstone pieces.

Shape. Date early ironstone by looking at patterns and shapes.

  • 1830s and 1840s: Gothic early pieces are hexagonal or octagonal in shape.
  • 1850s: Leaves were popular embellishments.
  • 1860s and 1880s: More rounded forms, harvest patterns with fruit, berries, nuts, grain or sheaves of wheat.
  • 1880s: Return to simpler forms, plain designs with decoration only on the handles or finials.

Condition. Crackling or crazing in the clear overglaze is not uncommon in old pieces; it’s considered acceptable, even desirable to some collectors. Edges should be free of chips if possible.

An Ironstone cake plate works as a centerpiece, topped with roses.
This cake plate hosts a bouquet of roses for a sweet yet informal centerpiece.

Start a Collection

You can choose a pattern, or focus on a certain shape. Once very affordable, ironstone is now highly collectable and coveted by collectors. You can expect to pay $350 for a teapot, over $1,000 for a rare pedestal or cake stand, and $200 for a soap dish in exceptional condition.

Beautiful as well as practical, these dishes add personality to your romantic decor. Gather a grouping in your hutch, march a variety of pitchers down your dining table, or fill a tureen with flowers for an effortless centerpiece. Once you have bought one piece, you’ll want to join the rest of us in our white-on-white craze—collecting is highly addictive. Happy hunting!

Vignette with ironstone, linen and silverware
Create the look of rustic elegance by paring ironstone with natural linen and silverware that shows its age.

How to Care for Ironstone

  1. Hand wash ironstone and dry it with a soft towel.
  2. Never use bleach. Bleach penetrates the glaze, can dissolve the glaze and can eventually cause the clay to crumble and disintegrate.
  3. Remove silverware marks with a soft cloth and a gentle rubbing of toothpaste; then rinse and dry.

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Initial Attraction: Collect Monogrammed Linens

Connect the handiwork of the past with your present decor by collecting exquisite, hand-embroidered linen textiles before they become too rare to find.

These delicate textiles reflect the labor and love of skilled needlewomen from generations past.

The art of combining two or more letters together into one beautiful symbol or monogram is centuries old. Once upon a time, only royalty or nobility could afford linen adorned with their own initials. Household linens were painstakingly embroidered with white satin stitches and great finesse, each piece finely executed by hand.

These days, antique monogrammed linens are collected for their artistic beauty, and collectors don’t mind whose initials are emblazoned on them. Antique one-of-a-kind pieces with monograms have storied pasts and are one way to express your own personal style at home.

Exquisite antique damask napkins with a central triple monogram embroidered in an elegant, scrolling bourdon stitch encircled with a grape garland add the luxury of yesterday to a contemporary table.


Antique linens with hand-embroidered monograms took months of patient and devoted stitching. Household textiles comprised a large part of a family’s wealth, carefully preserved and handed down from generation to generation.

Throughout history, every bride took great pains in providing her trousseau. The French word trousseau stems from the verb trousser, which means to “wrap up as in a package.”  The package of linens that a young bride took with her as she left her home, the size of which was commensurate with the wealth of her family, consisted of linens embroidered with the monogram of the bride and future groom.

From early adolescence, the bride-to-be spent many years sewing and embroidering her household monogrammed linens. Often linens were only embroidered with the bride’s initials at first, but always leaving a space for her future groom’s initials, until his identity went from dreamy mystery to known.

A variety of monogram styles- simple embroidery paired with other pieces that are highly embellished- make for a lively collection.

Stitched with expert workmanship, each delicate satin stitch was carefully done. These linens embroidered with monograms of the future bride and groom were a true labor of love. Esteemed for their beauty and function, antique monogrammed linens bridge the past and the future. And there is a certain romance to weaving your own stories into their provenance.

Truly exceptional antique monogrammed linens are getting more difficult to source. As the old chateaus and family homes are being sold, fewer heirloom-quality linens are coming on the market. Buy the best antique monogrammed linens you can find for your collection.

Monogrammed linens are not just for the bed or table. You can repurpose large antique monogrammed sheets as upholstery or drapes. Use them everywhere—these treasures were meant to be seen, and pull on your heartstrings.

Heirloom quality point de venise lace napkins demonstrate the skills of Verona, Italy’s master needlewomen.

How to cherish linens forever

  1. Put them to use. Monogrammed linens were meant for daily use, for the lifetime of a husband and wife, and then they were passed on. Most have been used over 100 years. These linens still have plenty of years left to make your home beautiful.
  2. A gentle soaking with a product especially made for antique linens is usually all you need to get out spots. You can carefully rub a combination of lemon juice, white vinegar and salt on a stain and lay the piece in the sun for a few hours. Avoid bleach, as it’s too harsh on the natural fibers.
  3. Line dry. Skip the dryer, which removes lint from antique linens and makes the fabric less smooth. Hang your linens outdoors to dry; they will be fresh and smell wonderful.
  4. Exceptional hand-embroidered triple monograms add a sense of elevated luxury to these pillow shams.

    Iron if needed. Time your ironing so that your pieces are still damp. This makes it easier to press out wrinkles. Use a spray bottle of water to spray each piece; then roll it up in a little bundle. Place the monograms right-side down over a terrycloth towel on your ironing board, so as not to flatten the embroidery, and press. Iron the linens completely dry.

  5. Gently fold each piece and store it in your linen closet. Add some lavender sachets for fragrance. Drape heavy hand-embroidered tablecloths or sheets over a padded hanger, and place them in a clothing closet. Never press on folds, as this weakens the fibers.
  6. Mix and match antique shams with different monograms together with a contemporary duvet on your bed, or a different napkin at each place setting. There are no rules!


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Collectible French Enamelware

Plus, how to style these beautiful and unique antique pieces.

Enamelware comes in a variety of colors and finishes, with floral motifs being among the most desirable.

The amazing vibrant colors and spectacular graphic designs give antique French enamelware a signature look prized by collectors and designers alike, and add French country flair to any home.

Originally used in European and American households in the late 1800s and early 1900s, these commonplace, utilitarian pieces are charming reminders of a time when even humble household items were beautifully made.

Most of the enamelware antiques sought after by collectors today were manufactured between the late 1800s and 1940. Roses (especially hand‐painted rose garlands), pansies, gilded accents and soft pastel hues of pink, blue and aqua make the hearts of collectors beat faster. One standalone piece of enamelware holding a bouquet of romantic roses can add great flair to a dining room table, but one just doesn’t seem to be enough, and a collection is born!


During the 19th century, painted utilitarian steel or tinware became known as French enamelware due to its popularity in France, although it was produced throughout Europe, with large amounts manufactured in Austria, Germany, Belgium and Czechoslovakia. Most collectors prefer French enamelware because of the quality and designs.

Enamelware was made by fusing powdered glass to steel items in a kiln, creating a durable, glass‐like finish that kept the metal from rusting. Several coats of enamel were required to produce a quality piece that could be used in kitchens and bathing areas without rusting. Talented artists created the botanical and graphic designs on many of the French pieces, and each piece was an original work of art.


Enameled heirlooms from the past include everything used in Victorian and Edwardian kitchens for preparing meals, including pots, canister sets, salt holders, coffee pots, pails, utensil racks with matching utensils and more. Teapots, sugar and creamer sets, soda and sand sets, body pitchers (used to carry enough water for a bath before indoor plumbing existed) and pitcher and bowl sets for each bedroom were all beautifully colored and often decorated with hand‐painted floral designs.

7 Tips for Organizing Vintage Kitchen Collectibles

Tips for turning potential kitchen clutter into a pretty and practical collection.

When glass panes break, chicken wire is a vintage farmhouse-inspired alternative. It’s inexpensive, provides an interesting visual texture and allows clear views to the collections within.


If you wander flea markets and antique shops often, you’re probably aware that the there are a wide variety of vintage kitchen collectibles available for purchase. No matter what time period or decorative style you’re interested in or the particular items of that catch your fancy (french enamelware, silver servingware or teacups), these everyday, functional items are easy to find and impossible to resist. In fact, the abundance of vintage kitchenware can create a problem of its own – clutter!

Don’t let your collection get the best of you! Here are our favorite tips for organizing your vintage kitchen collectibles, and keeping them on display for everyone to enjoy.

vintage stove displayed with kitchen collectibles

Use the Walls to Hang and Display Collections

Larger items like colanders, pots and pans are awkward to display on shelves, so put hooks on the wall to create an instant work of vintage art in your kitchen. Use Command Hooks, if you’re worried about putting holes in the wall, or look for vintage wall hooks for a little extra style.

Display Collectibles on Open Shelving

The appeal of vintage kitchenware is largely visual, so don’t hide away your treasures behind closed cupboard doors. Remove cupboard doors and show off your collectibles in style, and make your vintage items easy to access. Or opt for glass-front cabinets for a showcase effect.


Make Your Kitchen Decor Functional

Just because something is old doesn’t mean it is useless. Go ahead and store bulk dry goods in your vintage canisters and jars. Larger containers can be used for storing dishtowels and napkins. Keep vintage utensils corralled on the counter top in a large mason jar or other coordinating container. This way, you can banish more contemporary storage in your kitchen make room for vintage!

Install Extra Shelving for Display and Storage

If your collection is large, you might need to find a way to add additional display/storage space in your kitchen. This might mean hanging shelves on a wall or bringing in a free-standing cupboard or cabinet. For smaller items, get the maximum use of the space available by using risers and inserts on existing shelves.


vintage kitchen with colorful tins on shelves

Think Up for Additional Storage and Display Ideas

If you’re still looking for extra display room, then look up. The space above cupboards is often overlooked but it’s a great place for storing items you don’t need to access often. Even the ceiling can provide a little extra storage space, with a pot rock or hanging scale suspended from above.

Repurpose and Reuse Your Collections

Finding new ways to use vintage kitchen items is a great way to incorporate their decorative value in your home without losing functional space. Antique tea tins, for example, become charming little herb pots for your windowsill. Try transforming that Pyrex mixing bowl into a pendant lamp over the kitchen island. Convert an old cookie sheet into a trendy magnetic note board. And let’s not forget the hundreds of ways people have transformed simple mason jars!

Size Down and Keep Only What You Display

When push comes to shove, and your overcrowded vintage kitchen collectibles start pushing and shoving each other off the shelves, it might be time to think about cutting back on your collection. Sometimes less equals more – more space to appreciate what you can see and use, at least! Thin out what’s on display to those items you just can’t live without. If you can’t bear to part with them, then split up your collection, store part of it and rotate items by season, so that you can fully enjoy everything you own at least part of the year.










Teacup Treasures: A Primer for Collectors

Get started collecting vintage teacups with this basic guide.


It all started innocently enough. We needed some props, so I popped into a vintage shop downtown to see if I could pick up a few cute vintage teacups. The prices surprised me – $25, $30, even $50 or more for a single cup and saucer? I could buy a whole tea service at Home Goods for that much. My only purchase that day was a $12 tea cup with a saucer that had been repaired – good enough for a prop, I figured.

Flea market visits resulted in a few more select purchases, but they were obligatory – pretty enough to use for work, but nothing that got me excited about collecting. That changed when I found treasure at Goodwill. I almost overlooked the pretty cup and saucer, hand painted with violets.  I flipped it over to check the price and saw, to my surprise, the magic words “Haviland Limoges” and a price of just $4.99. Something inside me stirred.

Mikasa Antique Garden Teacup

I checked all the shelves again and found nearby another cup and saucer, this one with a familiar pink and red rose pattern, similar to one I’d bought at a flea market recently. But whereas that one had been produced in China, this one said “bone china” and “Made in England.” The price on this one was just $3.99. I was hooked! For me, it’s not about the cups themselves – I could easily find dozens of beautiful tea cups at my local vintage shops, if I was willing to pay their prices. But I love the thrill of finding the unexpected treasure for a bargain price. Bit by bit, my collection of tea cups and saucers is beginning to grow, and I love the feeling I get when I find something new.

Tips for Tea Cup Collecting

I can’t in any way proclaim to be an expert on tea cups or china, but here are some of the basics I’ve picked up so far. Above all, buy what you love. Tea cup collecting isn’t something to go into as a money making scheme. Choose cups with shapes, patterns and colors that delight your eye and thrill your soul when you see them displayed in your home.

Porcelain versus Bone China

Porcelain is a technical term that refers specifically to a type of hard clay (kaolin clay) only found in China. When fired at intense heat, it has a glassy or translucent surface and is very delicate. Various European craftsmen tried to replicate this product with different kinds of clay to various success,  including those from Limoges, France. Bone china is made by mixing bone ash in with the clay, a process that was invented by Josiah Spode in England in the 1790s. It is stronger and whiter than porcelain, and therefore became very popular throughout Europe.

Vintage teacups and teapot on display.
Photo by Bret Gum.

Tea cups versus Coffee Cups

While it may seem of little practical difference, there are technical differences between coffee cups and tea cups. Tea cups tend to be smaller, more delicate, more ornate and their handles are higher on the side than coffee cups. You can also find demitasse cups in many patterns and styles.

Country of Origin

Most tea cups will have a mark on the bottom that indicates their country of origin and the company that produced it. It might even include the name of the pattern and the date it was produced. You can use online resources to help you track down  information about these marks if you’re interested in knowing more.

There are pretty tea cups available from all over the world, including England, France, China and Japan. Always collect what you like, of course, but one approach to building a collection is to focus on one country or period. Tea cups marked “Occupied Japan,” from the period following World War 2, are considered particularly collectible. But watch out for cheap modern replicas that are tagged “Made in China.”

Tea Cup Manufacturers of Note

As you start to engage in tea cup collecting more and more, you’ll begin to recognize certain manufacturers and patterns that appeal to you. You can research specific details online and in reference guides for collectors. Some of the more notable ones include:

Mixing and Matching Teacups and Saucers

When buying a teacup and saucer set, check carefully to make sure they are an actual match – don’t just compare the pattern, but look at the mark on the bottom to ensure they were produced together. A mismatched set should have a reduced price.

On the other hand, many people enjoy the charming novelty of mismatched cups and saucers. If monetary value isn’t an issue for you, then feel free to mix them us as desired!




Merry and Pink: A Very Vintage Christmas

Silver, white and pastels go hand-in-hand, especially when sourcing vintage.

Vintage Christmas decor
When purchasing ornaments online, ask to have them double-boxed to prevent damage in shipping.

Vintage Christmas ornaments, whether inherited from grandparents or carefully curated by visiting flea markets, auctions and the like, will bring nostalgia and tradition to the holiday home. Vintage Christmas décor is so popular that a search on eBay for “vintage holiday” will yield over 122,000 items classified by year, make, color and even country. These ornaments of yesteryear bring a softer palette to the season by replacing the typical bright reds and greens with ethereal hues of aqua, faded silver, and muted green and pink.

pink hallway
Vintage bottlebrush trees and wreaths are very popular and even harder to find. They come in beautiful shades of aqua, silver, white and pink, and some are adorned with small glass ornaments or flocked with fake snow.

Shiny-Brite, one of the most popular brands of vintage ornaments, first came on the scene in the 1950s. These delicate glass ornaments come in all shapes, sizes and colors, with pink the most sought after. The more intricately shaped ornaments command a higher price, and some are even packaged in the original box, which is ideal for purists. Most are marbled and freckled by age and time.

Shiny-brite ornaments
Use ornaments that are missing their metal tops to fill glass bowls and place the bowls around the house.

Vintage bottlebrush trees and wreaths are very popular and even harder to find. They come in beautiful shades of aqua, silver, white and pink, and some are adorned with small glass ornaments or flocked with fake snow. A few were made in the style of a music box: The tree sits atop a round pedestal made from tin, which, when wound from the bottom, plays a Christmas song.

Feather tree
A 1940s white feather tree sits atop vintage glass cake plates surrounded by silver ornaments.

Before Shiny-Brites and bottlebrush trees, German glass ornaments were king. They were handblown, made of thick glass and were sometimes intricately painted. Known as kugels (a German word meaning “sphere”), they were originally sold as window decorations, but soon families delighted in using them to decorate the holiday tree. Kugels demand a high price in the marketplace, especially those that still retain most of their original paint.

Vintage Christmas Tree
Store your ornaments from year to year by color, shape and size.

Glass ornaments went from a cottage industry to an international phenomenon when Frank Woolworth, the founder of F. W. Woolworth and Company (whose stores were often referred to as “five and dimes”) opened his first store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He bought $25 worth of the ornaments, and they sold out in two days. With over 3,000 Woolworth stores, he went on to make millions from ornament sales alone.

Seasonal greens
Fresh greens are the perfect accompaniment to your vintage ornaments.

Mix your vintage ornaments with fresh greens from the season. Add pink ribbons, roses and anything that sparkles. Give yourself a few weeks to decorate, taking each ornament out one at a time to capture the specific memory that it brings. And may your days be merry and pink.

Read more of Gay’s home styling advice on her blog Canterbury Cottage Designs.


Auction Adventures

In-person or online auctions are a great place to discover unexpected and enduring pieces of all kinds.


Steuben Jadeite and Pink Glass Teacups and Saucers_Michaan Auctions_Barnebys
Five Stueben Jadeite and Pink Glass Teacups and Saucers, on sale at Michaan’s found via Barnebys

Lovers of all things vintage, antique, unique and beautiful can strike gold at auctions. In-person or online auctions are a great place to discover unexpected and enduring pieces of all kinds. For expert advice on making your experience as amazing as it could be, we got the down low from Pontus Silfverstolpe, Founder and Head of Content for Barnebys, an auction aggregator.

RH: What is your advice for people buying at auctions?

Pontus: Set yourself a budget—it can be easy to get carried away with the excitement of an auction!

Do your homework—is there a cost for delivery? What is the rate of buyers’ premium? How long will the auction house hold the item before you have to collect it and are there any storage costs? 

When is the auction? Using Barnebys, the auction aggregator, you can easily track what auctions are coming up and when.

When should people buy?

There are auctions underway around the globe around the clock! 

If you want a bargain, look out for an auction houses’ ‘House Sale.’ These are often miscellaneous sales that have everything from art, to furniture, jewelry and textiles.

Pair of French Louis XV Rococo Fauteuils Stamped Pothier_Nicholas Wells Antiques_Barnebys
Pair of French Louis XV Rococo Fauteuils Stamped Pothier on sale at Nicholas Wells Antiques via Barnebys


What sort of problems might occur and how would you advise people deal with them?

If you do your research regarding delivery and premium your auction experience should go smoothly. However, if you have any concerns, speak with the auction house prior to bidding, the experts are there to ensure you have a pleasant and transparent buying experience.

 Read all information very carefully, the auction house will provide you with the size of the object and all the particulars in a condition report. You don’t want to end up with a doll-sized piece of furniture when looking for a sideboard for the dining room!  Check the currency you are bidding in if bidding in an international auction.


Are there any trends on your site you’d like to bring our attention to? 

Photography and prints are both great entry points for starting an art collection, as prices can start as little as $100 or below for an original piece. …

 If you’re looking for something on a budget, but still want something with the wow factor, unique items such as unusual shaped trays, antique screwdrivers or ornate candlesticks [are a great start whether for your own collection or as gifts].


Book Collecting 101

The basic guide to starting your own book collection.


Start your own vintage book collection.
When you’re out shopping at your favorite market or antique store, participate in the long, illustrious tradition of book collecting. Of course, you can just pick up titles that catch your eye or have beautiful covers, but if you want to start a library-worthy collection of your own, check out these tips.

Start your own vintage book collection.

Choose what kind of books to collect.

The number of books on the market, both new and vintage, is overwhelming. Narrow down your choices by choosing a type of collection. You can collect by several different methods:

Collect by genre. You can choose any kind of book, from vintage school textbooks and dictionaries to classic literature or stories you read as a child. But whatever genre you choose, make sure it’s a subject you love. You won’t keep interest for long if you start your collection simply for the sake of collecting.

Collect by author. You can shape your collection around a specific author or a group of authors. Collect texts by famous poets like Shakespeare and Robert Burns, or stick to modern literary geniuses such as T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Wolfe.

Collect by aesthetic. This method is a bit different because you’ll look at each book as an art piece instead of searching for books by their content. Try collecting music books with interesting graphics or hardback books with bindings from the 19th century.


Find the right books for your collection.

Once you’ve decided what you want to collect, keep an eye out for books that fit into your collection. When you find a book, there are a few things you’ll want to consider before you purchase it:

Condition. Book sellers categorize the condition of their stock with the same set of terms. A book in “As New” or “Fine” condition has very little wear, with no loose pages, stains or writing. “Good” and “Fair” books may have some writing, wear on the binding and a few dog-eared pages. Beware of books in “Poor” condition, which may have a torn, stained or missing cover, and missing pages inside.

Edition. The first printing of a book, also called the first edition, can be very valuable, especially if the book has gained popularity over the years and had a small initial print run. To tell if a copy is a first edition, check the copyright information inside the book against the book’s publication year. If the copy mentions any other years, it’s not a first edition. Some books will also contain a “First edition” label.

Dust Jacket. You’re in luck if the book you’re after has its original dust jacket. This will make the book more valuable because dust jackets are so easy to lose and tear. For example, a first edition copy of The Great Gatsby without its original dust jacket is worth about $2,000, but a copy with its dust jacket will sell for over $190,000 because the dust jacket artwork is so famous.

Start a collection of valuable vintage books.

Above all, do you homework. Become familiar with the kind of book you want to collect and the typical price ranges for the author’s work or genre of books. Then get out there and start looking!

If you’re still interested, here are a couple additional resources for you:

Abe Books is a good resource to find and become familiar with old and rare books. Peter Harrington also has a wide range of information about rare books, including a great article on first editions.

Limoges: History and Collecting Basics

If you love France, the romance and elegance of bygone eras and porcelain, Limoges may be the perfect collectible for you.

When you use the word “china” to mean porcelain tea sets and dinnerware, you are keeping alive a linguistic reminder that China used to have the monopoly on high quality (hard-paste) porcelain. That changed in the 1700s, first in Meissen, Germany, and several decades later in Limoges, France.

Beautiful French Limoges Porcelain has always captured hearts and has the ability to inspire. To collectors, the beauty, incredible artwork and exceptional quality of Limoges porcelain surpass any other porcelain in the world. A collection of Limoges, edited and arranged in a contemporary style, is as beautiful as fine art in any interior. Best of all, Limoges porcelain is usable today. Vases hold lush floral bouquets, place settings set a gracious table and teacups are a most welcome indulgence when filled with steaming hot tea.

There is an incredible range of Limoges porcelain to collect, from full dinner services to precisely painted hatpins, from one‐of‐a‐kind hand-painted objects to transfer printed items. No matter what type of Limoges captures your heart, the history of Limoges is enchanting.

The History of Limoges China

The term “Limoges” refers to the hard‐paste porcelain produced by factories in Limoges, France, for over 200 years. The name of the city has become synonymous with the luxury porcelain products made by those factories. Hard‐paste porcelain is known as grand feu in French; it is porcelain that is fired at very high temperatures. Before kaolin clay was discovered in the town of Saint‐Yrieix‐la‐Perche in 1771, the Chinese were the only ones able to produce hard‐paste porcelain. Kaolin clay creates resilient, translucent porcelain, unlike any other porcelain.

The first factory, founded by brothers Massié and Fourneira Grellet, was bought by Louis XVI, King of France, in 1784. The royal court commissioned exquisite dinner services to be made exclusively for the palaces of the King.By the beginning of the 1800s, several private factories began producing the porcelain. The French aristocracy were the main buyers of Limoges, commissioning vast dining services, vases and decorative pieces. At one time there were over 48 factories operating in Limoges.

Often, exports to the U.S. came as “blanks” so amateurs could add their own decoration. Sometimes amateur decorators transferred a design to the plain porcelain, and many were hand-painted by china-painting hobby groups. The quality of the decoration makes a difference in its value as a collectible today.


1. Look for the mark. Almost all Limoges is marked. Each factory had its own production and decorating marks. There are online resources where you can learn about the different Limoges marks. A very few pieces have no mark.

2. Study the quality of the porcelain. genuine piece of Limoges porcelain will be translucent and bright white under the glaze. The glaze should be smooth and hard. Go to a reputable antiques shop to study Limoges pieces; after you’ve seen a few good pieces of Limoges, you will recognize it by the exceptional quality.

3. Look closely at the beauty and skill of the painting. The really good pieces of Limoges were painted by incredibly skilled artists. Many pieces of Limoges were painted and signed (or not) by an amateur artist. To determine whether to add these to your collection, look at the quality of painting. A piece of slightly inferior porcelain that is extremely well painted with a beautiful subject is superior to a piece of Limoges that is better in porcelain quality but poorly painted.

Lidy Baars sells antiques on her inspiring online shop