Identifying old china patterns, especially in a highly productive manufacturing area like Limoges in France, is a lesson in a highly competitive industry made possible by the Industrial Revolution. The Guerin china company was not one but several, as companies consolidated activities and the maker's marks that identified their wares. Identifying Guerin patterns requires knowing some of this history and creating a useful definition of Guerin products: work created by the Lebron & Cie and Jouhannaud & Dubois factories under Guerin ownership (Wm. Guerin & Cie, 1870s through 1932), patterns added by the Guerin's acquisition of 3/4 of the J. Pouyat company, the additional lines added in 1920/21 through consolidation resulting in the Guerin Pouyat Elite brand—or all three.
Locating a specific pattern involves sifting through hundreds of them. Limoges china, especially that made for the export market, was produced in huge quantities and large sets, to meet the needs of large families and multicourse meals. Commercial survival dictated branding with makers marks. When researching Guerin patterns, the marks may be those of the original company or its later commercial cousins.
Make copies of the marks on the bottom of your china. Draw all the marks you see, or take photographs. One pattern research website suggests carefully photocopying marks. Print copies will keep you from having to carry fragile china during your research.
Visit your public library to examine dictionaries and manuals of china makers marks. "Kovel's New Dictionary of Marks, 1850 to the Present," written by Ralph and Terry Kovel, and Mary Frank Gaston's "Collectors Encyclopedia of Limoges Porcelain" are samples of directories available in libraries. Library print resources can provide confirmation of the marks on your pieces and may also contain photographs of your pattern.
Find further information through online research sites. These can range from antique and collectible club sites to commercial sales sites. ReplacementsLtd.com publishes both online and print guides to makers' marks and patterns. Onsite information often depends on existing china pieces for sale, and statements of value are based on potential sale. Some sites may also charge membership fees. Pursue these sites only if you are fairly sure they will add to your store of information.
Add online museum collections and museum contacts to your pattern research strategies. Curatorial information is ordinarily provided without charge, although print collection catalogs may require purchase. Museums are likely to have research resources hard to locate otherwise; inquire about services to museum members as well as nonmembers.
Local antique dealers may have contacts with china experts. Ask locally and make extra copies of your maker's mark and pattern photos to share with possible experts.
Tips & Warnings
- Be prepared to spend some time on your search, especially if it involves correspondence. Follow up on your inquiries. Experts can be busy people.
- Avoid stores and websites that place high priority on the worth, rather than the character of your china.
- If you suspect your pieces are valuable, obtain an appraisal for insurance purposes. If your pieces are rare and of high value, you may wish to consult your insurance company to make certain they are covered in case of damage or loss.
- E-Limoges.com: Guerin & Cie Marks and Limoges Boxes
- Replacements Ltd: China Pattern Identification
- "Kovel's New Dictionary of Marks, 1850 to the Present;" Ralph and Terry Kovel; 1986