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The History of Belleek China

With roots dating back to the 1850s, Belleek is Ireland’s oldest fine china manufacturer. Named for the town of Belleek in County Fermanagh on the estate of John Caldwell Bloomfield in what is now Northern Ireland, Belleek began as small pottery to help the local population economically recover from the devastation from the Great Hunger. Today, it has grown into one of the most renowned fine porcelain producers in the world, known for its thin, slightly iridescent tableware and figurines. Though pottery making has existed in Ireland for centuries, Belleek china put the island on the world map when it began working with the then-novel technique of casting Parian china porcelain to create marble-like sculptures and tableware in the 1860s. Soon, Belleek porcelain was being sold throughout the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, and the company even counted the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria as customers. Some of Belleek’s earliest china is included in the permanent collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

How Belleek China is Made

Every piece of Belleek china goes through a rigorous creation and inspection process, which the company refers to as the 16 Hands, as 16 different artisans are responsible for every piece sold to the public. From design, molding, firing (each piece is fired three times!) to packaging, each item of Belleek porcelain undergoes intense scrutiny. There are four different inspections in the 16 Hands process, and if at any time a piece is deemed less than perfect, it is discarded, ensuring that every plate, every mug, every tiny salt shaker that enters a customer’s home is flawless. The first step of the process is the design phase, in which Irish Belleek’s design and marketing team collaborate to create drawings of new items or concepts. All accepted designs are then modeled in full detail using plaster or clay. From there, a mold is built—except with the case of Belleek’s famous baskets and flowers, which are all made by hand—and filled with slip. Once the slip dries into clay it can be removed from the mold and next, fettled (trimmed and perfected). After it dries completely, the piece enters the riskiest stage of production—biscuit firing, named for the slang term given to fired clay pieces. In the first firing, contraction of the clay occurs, and if the clay is cooled too quickly, it can very easily shatter. After biscuit firing, all pieces—now referred to as “biscuit”—undergo inspection. All pieces that pass inspection are dipped in Belleek’s signature white glaze, which is formulated to give the finished items a slight pearlescent sheen, then fired again. If they do not retain any defects after this stage, they are stamped with the company’s trademark stamp. Next, any pieces that require decoration, including those with text or the delicate shamrock pattern for which Belleek is famous, are painted by hand. One final firing fixes the painted designs to the glazed surface, and all remaining items receive one final inspection before being shipped to retailers like us.

Shop a Variety of Belleek Fine China Styles offers a wide range of Belleek porcelain, including mugs, tea cups, and pots, serving trays, picture frames, decorative plates, ornaments, and figurines.

Belleek Shamrock Collection

We offer a broad selection of designs, including the classic Shamrock motif, first introduced in the 1880s, which features exquisitely embossed basketweave patterns and hand painted shamrock sprigs that has become a mainstay of Belleek’s tableware collection for generations.

Belleek Classic Shamrock Handled Basket - this beautiful handmade little porcelain basket makes the perfect gift for anyone with a love of Irish history or culture.

Belleek Classic Mum Mug- give the mum in your life a truly unique, one-of-a-kind piece that is sure to take her breath away.

Belleek Classic Shamrock Salt & Pepper- this beautiful salt and pepper shaker are a combination of intricate Irish design and style.

Belleek Classic Kylemore 7in Vase- this beautiful vase features a classic basket weave ceramic pattern considered to be one of the most standout design.

Shamrock Mint Tray- this gorgeous shamrock mint tray is from Parian China and makes the perfect addition to any home coffee table or office desk.

Shamrock Bread Plate- this charming Belleek plate is adorned with two-toned shamrock flowers that highlight the four corners of the white porcelain platter.

Belleek Harp & Shamrock Collection

We also offer the Harp line, developed in the 20th century by Frederick Slater. The Harp line is beautifully symbolic, incorporating three motifs in one to represent the nation: the harp, signifying Ireland’s musical and poetic tradition, the shamrock to signify St. Patrick’s conversion of the island to Catholicism, and the seashell, representing Ireland as an island nation, perpetually looking outward towards the ocean.

All Belleek China Pottery products are packed and shipped with the greatest care, while the manufacturing techniques used have been passed down from generation to generation. Buy a piece of Irish heritage for your home today.

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