François Boch established Jean François Boch, a small pottery company, in 1748 in the tiny village of Lorraine, Germany. By 1766, Boch established a licensed porcelain factory in Septfontaines, Luxembourg. In 1785 Nicholas Villeroy founded a faience factory at Wallerfangen, Germany. And in 1836, the François Boch Company merged with the Nicholas Villeroy Company, creating Villeroy & Boch.
Today, Villeroy & Boch are still in business. Since 1982, the company has specialized in three areas — tablewares, tiles for flooring, and fine plumbing fixtures. However, among collectors, Villeroy & Boch are famous for Phanolith (created by ceramic artist Jean-Baptiste Stahl), which is semi-transparent porcelain that combined the best characteristics of jasperware and pate-sur-pate.
Villeroy & Boch’s Phanolith gained world attention when several ceramic pieces were displayed at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900. Among the ceramic pieces that caught the eyes of art lovers, then, and collectors, now, were ceramic wall plates.
Most of these plates are called “Mettlach,” which is the German town where Villeroy & Boch’s factory stood, so they named the ware after the town.
If you are a novice collector, beware! Villeroy & Boch wall plates are offered on Internet auction sites in wide ranges of prices for similar pieces. Recently on eBay, a geritzter Villeroy & Boch wall plate, signed M. Hein, was offered for $2,681, and just a couple of listings below it, a similar plate was offered for $1,276, which is less than half. It seems obvious that these plates are offered in wide ranges of prices, so shop around before buying.
As mentioned, M. Hein was one of Villeroy & Boch’s famous artists. Another artist to look for is Heinrich Schlitt. Signed plates always bring more than unsigned plates.
Finally, don’t overlook Villeroy & Boch’s newer, lower-priced wall plates. These plates appear to hold their value quite well and can usually be found in the $100 - $200 range.