Whiteness, finesse, translucency of the porcelain and diversity of decorations are the basis of the international reputation of Limoges. 

A little bit of history

Long fascinated by Chinese porcelain, the French only discovered kaolin than in 1768, in Limousin near St Yrieix la Perche. This white clay is essential to obtain porcelain clay.

The discovery of this deposit is decisive for the establishment of porcelain in the region since all the elements necessary for its manufacture are naturally present: wood to supply the ovens, rivers to cart it, a skilled and qualified workforce thanks in particular to his goldsmith skills. 

With that of Sèvres, Limoges porcelain is one of the two main porcelain productions in France and the only issue from a real production area. In 1827, the city had sixteen factories. At that time, the porcelain industry fed a large part of the population of Limoges thanks to the manufacturing cycle that involves many different professions. During the 1830s, eight new ones were created in Limoges. From the middle of the century, following the impetus given by the American Haviland, there are more than thirty.

Techniques, fire and people

Making the dough requires 3 ingredients: 50% kaolin, 25% quartz and 25% feldspar. Adding water and removing air bubbles gives a clay paste which can be used from 3 ways: 

  • the slip, the liquid version for pouring, 
  • soft dough for calibration
  • et pellet-based paste powder for pressing

In the three techniques, the model once drawn, is sculpted in plaster and engraved by hand; fragile this unique piece will give birth to a matrix which will be used to manufacture production moulds.

All parts experience at least two firings. The first (cooking of “dégourdi”) is at 980° and lasts 24 hours. Having become porous, the part is immersed in an enamel bath then annealed at 1400° : it will harden, lose 14% of its volume, waterproof, become white and translucent.

In the technique of great fire, the decoration is placed on the raw piece before enamelling, then the whole is baked at 1400°C, the decorations made up of metal oxides (gold, platinum) are thus intimately mixed with the material. 

Casseaux porcelain kiln

Designed in 1768, round refractory brick ovens are fed with wood, then with coal. On the ground floor, the hearths make it possible to reach the 1400°C necessary for firing porcelain objects. On the upper floor, the parts to be “stretched” at 980°C are deposited in stacked gazettes (cases). In the middle of the 20th century, round ovens were replaced by tunnel ovens with continuous cooking. These are pmore economical and easy to control.

Limoges Porcelain IG

Since 1er December 2017, the Limoges Porcelain appellation is protected by a Geographical Indication (IG) approved by the National Institute of Intellectual Property under the number INPI-1702.

Limoges recognized as a creative city by UNESCO

Since October 31, 2017, Limoges has been labeled “Unesco Creative City” and join the 246 other labeled cities around the world. It is the fourth French city to receive this distinction, after Saint-Etienne, Lyon and Enghien-les-Bains. Ville Créative official website, for its creativity, its innovation and its way of constantly reinventing itself, Limoges places the arts of fire at the heart of its urban, cultural and economic development strategy. It's all one ecosystem who is crowned:

Other UNESCO gems in the region

Was this content useful to you?