Construction began on what would become the Belleek Pottery in 1857, although the first objects to bear the characteristically Irish-themed Belleek trademark were not shipped until 1863. Built on the River Erne in what is now Northern Ireland, the Belleek Pottery initially specialized in earthenware, from floor tiles and dinnerware to mortars and pestles. But by the 1920s, porcelain painted with creamy and lustrous glazes began to take hold, and by 1946, the pottery ended its earthenware lines entirely.

The other important clay body used by Belleek's first ceramists and designers was parian ware, which had been developed in Staffordshire, England. Parian was used primarily for sculptural figures. Among those produced by Belleek in the late 19th century were “Erin Awakening from Her Slumbers,” which stands almost 18 inches tall, “Basket Bearing Boy and Girl,” and “Crouching Venus.” The pottery’s work was widely praised, but when Robert Williams Armstrong, the company’s influential co-founder and the inventor of many of its early glazes, died in 1884, Belleek closed its doors until it reorganized under new ownership later that year.

In its second incarnation, Belleek became a bit more of the company we think of today. Under the management of two brothers, James and Edward Cleary, Belleek hired modeler William Gallimore, whose protege, Michael Maguire, created the pottery’s famous “Shamrock Ware.” Edward Cleary also hired an Englishman named Frederick Slater, who came from a long line of Stoke-on-Kent potters, and left his formidable mark on Belleek. But World War I and the lack of exports that bloody conflict created caused Belleek, in 1919, to once again offer itself for sale and hope for the best.

This time, the savior was an area mill owner named Bernard O’Rourke, whose managers got the company through World War II, ended earthenware for good, converted Belleek's coal-fired kilns to electric ones, and focused on parian ware. Today, most of Belleek’s pitchers, vases, jar, jugs, and figurals are slip-molded before being hand painted and glazed. At the base of each piece is one of 15 trademarks, which can be used to date the object. Indeed, many antiques dealers sell vintage Belleek by identifying it as First Mark, Second Mark, and Third Mark, or “third green mark,” “blue mark,” and so on.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

This gallery showcases highlights from the 5,000 items in the museum's ceramics collection dating from 1500-1900. I… [read review or visit site]

Ceramics at The V&A

Ceramics at The V&A

A great reference on ceramics from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Learn about different ceramics techniques and st… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Belleek Ireland Summer Rose Basket 5" Bowl 2059 Woven Porcelain Lattice FlowersBelleek Cob Luster Neptune Kettle (1965-1980) Tea PotNew In Box Belleek Shamrock Dalriada Shamrock Fruit BowlFabulous Rare 9" Design Belleek Vase - 3rd Black Mark Circa 1930Belleek Set Of 8 Third Black Mark 1926-1946 Set Of 8 Bread Butter Plates7.5 Long Belleek Oval Flower Basket Brown MarkBeautiful Belleek White Iridescent 8 Diameter BasketIreland 11 1/2" Belleek Celtic Rose & Shamrock 2-pc Electric Globe Lamp 981/3500Belleek Limpet Yellow Teapot, Irish Green MarkBeleek Dragon Teapot - Beleek Collectors Society Belleek Tara Lamp And Shade (ireland) Belleek PotteryAntique Hand Painted Flowers & Gold Trim Lenox Belleek Salt & Pepper Shakers Belleek Lot - 4 Pieces - Vintage Antique 5th And 6th Marks - Priced To SellBelleek China Saucer 2nd Black Mark Parian China Irish Beautiful Excellent CondBelleek Ireland Shamrock Mint Tray New With TagsVintage Belleek Shell Shell Sugar And Creamer-purple MarkBelleck Creamer And Sugar Bowl - Excellent ConditionLarge Belleek Shamrock Vase - IrelandBelleek Vase 6 1/2" ~ Unusual Design ~ 1955 To 1965 Green Mark ~ W/ BookletBelleek Vintage Gorgeous Vase Light Pink And Off White With Gold LinesNwt Belleek China Kylemore Heart Shaped Porcelain Covered Trinket Box ShamrocksBelleek Ireland Fine Parian China Cat Shamrocks Green EyesIrish Belleek Cream Shell Creamer Pitcher Lustre 6th Mark Green Inc 1965-1980Vintage Belleek Porcelain Heart Dish / 3rd Green Mark / 1965-1980Book Belleek-irish Porcelain : An Illustrated Guide, Langham + 1994 Price GuideVintage Belleek Gold Embellished Swan Salt Cellar! Nice Belleek/cac Mark! Oldie!Belleek Ireland Ornament An Irish Blessing NewVintage Belleek Mini Clover VaseWonderful Belleek Bud Vase In Shamrock PatternIrish Belleek Small Heart Shaped Bowl Scalloped Pattern 7th MarkIrish Belleek Fine Porcelain Hexagon Shape Votive Candle Holder Blue Mark SignedBeleek Heart Dish 3rd Green Mark 1965-1981Beautiful Belleek Ireland Porcelain Jack Pulpit Lily Old Green Mark Flower Vase