Limoges is famous worldwide for its porcelain. Let us start with a brief history of Porcelain
It is near Limoges that during the 18th century Kaolin was found: Kaolin this pure white calcareous ground brought to porcelain the whiteness and transparency to light that the Chinese knew of centuries before. In the 13th century, Marco Polo discovers it during his travel to the Far East. He gives it the name of Porcelain, even though this is the name of the “mother of pearl” found on seashells. Thereafter plates star showing up on the tables of Europe, replacing little by little the pieces of bread, on which meat was laid.
They are made of clay and precious metals from India and also beautiful ceramic from China, brought back by travelers. A need is born.
In the 17th century, the British and the Dutch take over the trade and start their famous East India Companies. In 1664, under Colbert, France starts its own “Compagnie Francaise des Indes Orientales”. It imports thousands and thousands of porcelain pieces from China, most of them table ware that are bought by rich people. Europe tries to manufacture itself this wonderful ceramic. But however hard he tries, it fells for lack of the one essential component, the mysterious component: that seems to only be found in china. If it cannot copy the Chinese Porcelain, Europe will try and get close with a near porcelain called: Porcelain tendre (soft paste porcelain) made without Kaolin. It is not a perfect substitute for the Chinese porcelain.
Nevertheless manufacturing takes place all over Europe, in Italy, France (St Cloud, Chantilly, Vincennes, and the “Manufacture Royale de Sevres” setup on the instigation of Madame de Pompadour). Search for Kaolin continued all along. It is in Saxony that it is first found in the early 18th century; the “Electeur de Saxe” setup in Meissen in a well-guarded mysterious fortress a Royal Manufacture. Both the kaolin quarries and the manufacturing are jealously kept hidden under threat of death. For the first time in Europe, China’s secret has been penetrated and of course, Meissen’s secret eventually seeped out.
In 1766, Kaolin is found near Saint Yriex in Limousin, France; it is the “Eldorado”. Everybody digs and believes he has struck it rich. Everywhere, people are searching, digging, sifting, washing… In Limoges, Superintendent Turgot encourages the manufacturers, for he sees here a source of prosperity for his region known to be pour.
On July 11th 1786, in a place called Marcognac, after a long and careful search, François Alluaud, the kings geographical engineer (our Ancestor), recently appointed manager of the floundering “ Conte d’Artois Manufacture”, identified what seemed to be an abundant and accessible supply of Kaolin. He starts here a new company. It flourishes; he eventually passes on to his sons and it will stay in his family, our family, for 200 years.
During these years, we have been an active participant in the expansion of the porcelain industry over the following two centuries.
porcelain [Ital. porcellana], white, hard, permanent, nonporous pottery having translucence which is resonant when struck. Porcelain was first made by the Chinese to withstand the great heat generated in certain parts of their kilns. The two natural substances used were kaolin, also known as china clay, a white clay free of impurities that melts only at very high temperature, and a feldspar mineral called petuntse that forms a glassy cement, binding the vessel permanently. Although proto-porcelain wares exist dating from the Shang, by the Eastern Han high firing glazed ceramic wares had developed into porcelain, and porcelain manufactured during the T'ang period (618–906) was exported to the Islamic world where it was highly prized. The ware was refined during the Sung period (960–1279). During the Yuan period (1280–1368), blue and white ware was produced by utilizing cobalt blue from the Middle East. The Ming period (1368–1644) developed this blue and white ware but used other colors as well. The Ch'ing period (1644–1912) designed porcelain especially for export often utilizing Western designs. In Europe porcelain was first commercially produced (1710) in Meissen, Germany. Most of the European porcelain is soft paste (made from clay and an artificial compound such as round glass) and is not as strong as the Chinese hard-paste porcelain. Important European centers for porcelain are Bow, Chelsea, Worcester, Staffordshire, Vienna, Meissen, Sèvres, Limoges, and Rouen.