Irish Belleek Porcelain Basket, Applied Berry & Fl
applied berry & floral, 5 3/4" diameter, 2 3/4" deep, excellent, amazing.... If necessity is the mother of invention, then luck must be its father! And who would know this better than the Irish? The unique minerals that result in the opalescent shine characteristic of Irish Belleek china were discovered completely by accident. A man by the name of John Caldwell Bloomfield inherited his father's estate outside Belleek, in the Fermanagh Lakelands on the shore of the Elbe River in Ireland. One day in the mid 1800s he whitewashed his cottage using a flaky white powder he dug up from his backyard. As legend has it, a passer-by commented upon the unusual clearness and brightness that gave his home an almost pearl-like appearance. A geological survey of the land uncovered all the ingredients necessary to make porcelain: feldspar, kaolin, flint, clay and shale. Bloomfield joined up with two partners, Robert Armstrong and David McBirney, to produce first earthenware and eventually porcelain. Thus Belleek china was born, and soon becoming the most famous pottery-producing operation in all Ireland. The earliest pieces of Belleek porcelain were a creamy color with a pearl-like luster. All of the pieces were hand painted, often with shamrock designs. The pieces themselves were poured from the mold quickly, leaving incredible eggshell-thin porcelain pieces sculpted into elaborate flowing designs. The earliest Belleek china back stamps compressed multiple symbols of Irish culture into a single expression of pride. The final stamp, decided upon in 1863, pictured a castle tower in the middle with a wolfhound and harp on either side, seated upon a bed of shamrocks. This stamp continued to be used on Belleek china well into the twentieth century. To view Belleek porcelain marks, click here. Soon, the porcelain gained the attention of such famous figures as Queen Victoria and other members of the noble families, who began special ordering pieces of Belleek china from England and throughout Europe. Much like Dresden porcelain, Belleek china became so famous that the name was quickly appropriated by other companies seeking to cash in on the popularity of the original wares. American and British companies such as Lenox used the name with great success. Genuine Belleek china, however, continued to produce its famous lines of seashell designs, basket weaves, and marine themes well into the twentieth century. It has become a favored tradition in Ireland to give a piece of Belleek china at weddings, giving rise to a now old Irish saying: "If a newly married couple receives a piece of Belleek, their marriage will be blessed with lasting happiness."