For the Love of Limoges: A Guide to Our Favorite China

By Cathleen Freedman

You’ve perfected your wedding registry and added everything from the big KitchenAid mixer to new master bedroom linens. There’s just one thing on your list that you haven’t decided on yet: yup, it’s the c-word . . . china. Perhaps you’re intimidated by the thought of having such valuable and expensive dishes. Perhaps you are a china connoisseur who has been dreaming of porcelain patterns for years and can’t pick just one. Or perhaps you quite literally have no idea where to begin!

Well, in our book, any fine dining cabinet has to include Limoges. This dainty china depicts flowers in persistent bloom and delicate visages with gold-trim borders. “Limoges” is not the name of who makes the porcelain, but the name of where the china style originates. There are nearly 25 factories around Limoges, France that still produce this precious porcelain. The oldest, Royal Limoges, continues to manufacture today.

The Origin of Limoges

The Limoges lineage begins in eighteenth-century France. A new type of clay, kaolin, was found near Limoges, France. Kaolin produced a fine white hard-paste china which was on par with China’s coveted porcelain. Until then, China had withheld the secret ingredient to fine china-making and was at the forefront of china production. The usage of kaolin in France, however, not only turned the tables but also set the table with delicate Limoges dinnerware.

Unsurprisingly, such princely china has royal beginnings. The monarchy controlled the porcelain industry before the French Revolution. King Louis XIV bought one of the porcelain factories to produce his own Limoges china sets. The first Limoges pieces were sealed with the royal crest. 

Presidential Limoges

Eventually, Americans began to notice, admire, and buy Limoges china. By the 1840s, Haviland Porcelain supplied the President of the United States’s porcelain. This is no small task, considering the longstanding history of presidential porcelain standards. Interestingly enough, Haviland Porcelain was opened near Limoges by an American businessman. 

Presidential administrations began selecting porcelain patterns during President James Monroe’s tenure. He was in the White House shortly after the British nearly burned it down, so the new china was for pragmatic purposes. (There was even a budget allotted for new White House dinnerware!)

President Monroe’s porcelain service from 1817.

Eventually, choosing the President’s china became a task for the First Lady. Each First Lady has their own personal style. Mary Todd Lincoln chose a patriotic pattern complete with a bald eagle. Ulysses S. Grant’s wife Julia chose a more floral design. Michelle Obama opted for china that paid homage to her home state of Illinois and her husbands home state of Hawaii.

The official china of the Obama Administration.

Limoges Patterns

Most Limoges china is hand-painted, but there is also the “transfer method.” This method is like a printing press for fine china where a pattern is superimposed on the porcelain. You can tell whether your Limoges is hand-painted or transferred if you can see the brush strokes in the lines or feel the paint’s ridges along the ceramic.

Limoges China Plates and Sets

Philippe Deshoulières, the sixth-generation member of the Deshoulières Group, says, “In the past, mothers and grandmothers helped a bride choose traditional, matched settings. Today’s sophisticated hostesses own several different patterns and love mixing them creatively.” From Limoges dinnerware to trinket boxes to vases to oyster dishes, take a look at the different ways you can mix Limoges! 

Limoges Candle Tea Sets

The world of Limoges is more fragrant than ever with Limoges Candle teacups. The husband-and-wife team of Memo Paris launched a home goods line with candle teacup and teapot sets. Check it out!

Cindy Sherman Limoges

Even contemporary artists love Limoges! Photographer, model, and artist Cindy Sherman crafted this Limoges tea service in 1990.


Now, after our reading our primer, you can return to your wedding registry more informed on Limoges china than ever before. Go forth and find your heirloom-worthy china! (Gently and carefully) seize that Limoges!