Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Since this is Saint Patrick’s Day, I thought it would be in keeping with the holiday to highlight one of Ireland's most famous collectible exports -Belleek. On the 18th of November 1858, the foundation stone was laid for what would become famous world over for fine Parian china. Belleek Pottery of County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, would establish itself as a producer of translucent fine domestic ware and decorative pieces. By 1865 these pieces were being exported to England, Canada, the United States, and Australia. The demand has kept coming ever since as the handiwork on many of these pieces is absolutely stunning! If you have ever handled the earlier black stamped pieces, you can appreciate the fine eggshell delicacy and transparency. There is nothing like it!

Below is one of Belleek's most popular themes - the shamrock! Notice how you can see the green back stamp through the plate due to the translucent fineness of the china. Another popular feature with Irish Belleek is their trademark cob (yellow) luster finish shown in this Belleek swan. Some pieces are just accented with this color, some are completely yellow while some just have on the inside this cob finish. This swan has just the head and wings touched with yellow luster.

This Belleek grouping has a lusterless swan, a pair of candlesticks with cob luster, and a basket-weave cream and sugar complete with hand painted shamrocks. Some of the artisans at the Belleek factory serve apprenticeships for many years until they have the necessary skill to work on the more difficult hand painting, sculpting, and weaving. The Belleek basket below has delicate hand cut and hand applied roses and leaves and would definitely have been set aside for the more seasoned artisan.

Many Irish Belleek pieces are Irish heritage themed which is not very surprising! You will find many pieces adorned or shaped as: shamrocks, harps, wolfhounds, thistles, thatched cottages, Celtic symbols, seashells/maritime, wild Irish roses, and more! Yes, there are even teapots to vases shaped like the castles and ruins that dot their lush green countryside!

Whether you are purchasing Irish Belleek for reselling, collecting, or just incorporating pieces into you home decor, knowing the back stamps with their approximate time period is a must. As with many fine old porcelain pieces, the date can really make the difference between getting a deal and overpaying! Books such as: Belleek: The Complete Collector's Guide and Illustrated Reference by Richard K. Degenhardt are available on the history and dating of Belleek for those who want more in depth information. The official Belleek Factory website also has some valuable information about Belleek, its history, and dating Belleek - and better yet - this info is free at:

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