Limoges Porcelain boxes were first created in the mid-1700s during the time that Jacques Turgot, Finance Minister of King Louis XVI, gave a Royal edict to the city of Limoges, France the exclusive right to produce Royal Limoges porcelain for the Kingdom of France. The first Limoges trinket boxes were long narrow containers that were created for expensive needles. From here, other shapes of limoges porcelain boxes evolved. The earliest were those that held thimbles and embroidery scissors and then round flat Limoges boxes were formed and used as powder boxes, and/or snuff boxes.
Exactly when and who made the first porcelain Limoges snuffbox is up for debate. There were soft paste Faience snuffboxes that were produced sometime around 1730. These antique snuffboxes cannot be identified by back stamp marks, for none were put on them. There were though four big factories that made the original Limoges snuff boxes at the time, Chantilly(1725–1800), Saint Cloud(1677–1766), Mennecy(1734–73), and Vincennes(1740–56), which became Royal Sèvres(1756–present), though often independent artists of the time would commonly create them with no signature or marking.
Snuff eventually went out of fashion around time of the French Revolution but putting pills in Limoges Boxes came forth again in the 1840s as the aristocracy once again began to use these as wardrove assemblage. During the Victorian era the Limoges boxes lost popularity again until the 1970s when people began to carry their pills in the limoges porcelain figurine boxes. In the 20th century they became popularly used as pillboxes and decorative figurines.
Under Louis XIV these small boxes were used to hold a lock of lady's hair or small poem.
The creation of the Limoges Porcelain Box is an arduous and time intensive process of creating a master mold, detail painting by hand of color and design, performing multiple firings and glazing upon the porcelain mold, and a final touch of a metal hinge for opening and closing. The Painting of the Limoges porcelain in the Limoges box industry are accomplished by small handed French artisans, as experts at the fine brush strokes required for such detailed work. After painting, there are multiple firings. The final firing at a temperature of 1400C is unique to Limoges, giving them a very fine pure and strong white finish. The final touch to a Limoges Box is the metal hinged mountings that are meticulously fitted to the finished box. The entire work process is made by hand, so small variations are the norm, thus making each piece really unique. Each model is often made in very limited numbers, & signed by the Artists or the Atelier.
Limoges boxes once were often gold boxes that contained portraits of king and other political figures. Napoleon was one of the great snuffbox collectors, he had about 100 gold portrait boxes made as tokens of appreciation from his political supporters.
- Mira Lash, (List of all Limoges Porcelain: Exclusive Designs and Antiques).
- Debby Dubay, Collecting Hand Painted Limoges Porcelain: Boxes to Vases).
- Mary Frank Gaston, The Collector's Encyclopedia of Limoges.
- Faye Strumpf, Limoges Boxes (2003).
- Nancy du Tertre, The Art of the Limoges Box (2000).
- Marina Chernyak, Limoges factory