A Guide to Belleek China Marks, Patterns & Prices

Belleek china tea service with mint green and gold detailing Three-piece Willets Belleek tea service. Sold for $180 via Garth's Auctioneers & Appraisers (April 2019).

Gracing the quarters of Queen Victoria to the tables of today, authentic Irish Belleek china exudes an unrivaled delicacy. Belleek is a beloved collector’s item in the contemporary market thanks to both its brilliant beauty and fascinating legacy that traces back to one of the darkest moments in Irish history.

Belleek china can sell from anywhere between $500 to $10,000 and beyond. Prices vary based on quality, rarity, and the period in which the piece was made.

Famine to Fame: Belleek China’s Rise to Brilliance

In 1845, Ireland plunged into the Great Famine, a period of crisis that lingered for nearly a decade and changed the very fabric of Irish culture. From the depths of this destitution, though, rose nobleman John Caldwell, who offered Irish industry a glimmering light of hope. Caldwell deduced that his estate’s locale in the rural hamlet of Belleek in County Fermanagh, Ireland, proved perfect for ceramic production. Thus, the Belleek brand was born, and it rose to acclaim with remarkable speed following its appearance at the 1864 Dublin Exhibition. The following decade at that same exhibition, Belleek wares caught the eye of England’s Queen Victoria, who subsequently ordered her own service by the makers.

By the turn of the century the company had shifted its focus to pearly white Parian porcelain, so named for its smooth finish akin to the luminous marble from ancient Paros, Greece. Belleek complemented this finish with richly intricate patterns in their designs of the late 19th and early 20th century. Such technical versatility was crucial, for instance, for the celebrated Belleek basket tradition that began in 1865.

Belleek’s international business was booming by the early decades of the 1900s, so much so that American porcelain companies tried to emulate the Irish factory’s ingenuity (these “American Belleek” producers were eventually drummed out of business). As time marched on, the hand craftsmanship that had been credited to the brand for generations began to fade. This led to the eventual sale of the company and subsequent amalgamation of the remnants of Belleek into a giftware brand conglomerate in the 1990s. Nevertheless, antique Belleek china still exudes that beauty and brilliance that ushered the brand into acclaim, and they come with the added benefit of collection options across price points.

Today’s Market for Belleek China

Antique Belleek pieces are booming today on the collector’s market thanks to this rich heritage of Irish artistry. Beloved by porcelain fans for their Parian-perfect finish and intricate detail work, Belleek pieces come in a range of motifs to satisfy any style or budget. Today’s market trends also suggest that Belleek marks matter: those pieces bearing the brand’s oldest maker’s marks, known among collectors as “Black Mark Belleek,” can achieve record high prices; specimens, such as those from the later eras of the Green and Gold Mark Belleek, appear at more modest prices but are equally modeled with Belleek beauty in mind.

Below is a list of realized prices for Belleek from the Invaluable price database that highlights some of the most characteristic examples in a range of styles from the most valuable to the most accessible.

Black Mark Belleek: First Period

Pieces of Belleek china have been chronicled with various marks throughout the years – indeed, Belleek is currently on its fifteenth mark. The most coveted of these marks, though, is undoubtedly the “Black Mark,” the first mark used by the brand. It featured an arched ribbon banner bearing the name “Belleek” in capital letters that enveloped symbols of Ireland, including shamrocks, an Irish wolfhound, a harp, and the profile of the Round Tower of County Fermanagh.

The Black Mark can be further subdivided into three periods of production. The First Period, which incorporated production from 1891 to 1926, includes accordingly some of the most coveted – and thus expensive – Belleek piece on the market today.

1: Pair of Colored and Glazed Figures of “Meditation” and “Affection”

Sotheby’s (May 2001)
Estimated Price: £3,000-4,000
Realized Price: £6,545 (~$8,286)

2: Set of Monogrammed “Echinus” Patterned Plates

Christie’s (July 2010)
Estimated Price: £2,000-3,000
Realized Price: £4,375 (~$5,539)

3: Chinese Tea Urn and Stand

Ronald K. Shepherd Estate Auction (May 2015)
Estimated Price: $2,000-3,000
Realized Price: $3,750

4: First Period Three-Strand Pierced Basket

Adam’s (September 2011)
Estimated Price: €800-1,200
Realized Price: €1,800 (~$1,909)

5: Porcelain Handled Basket With Lid

Susanin’s (February 2014)
Estimated Price: $500-700
Realized Price: $600

Black Mark Belleek: Second Period

The Second Period of Belleek’s Black Mark spanned 1891 to 1926. It is distinct from the First Period Black Mark in that it has the added text “Co. Fermanagh, Ireland” in another ribbon banner that wraps around the original Black Mark seal. This addition was made to ensure compliance with contemporary tariff laws, such as the 1891 McKinley Tarriff Act, that mandated that a product’s country of origin had to specified. No less splendid than their First Period predecessors, Second Period Black Mark Belleek china exudes the same brilliance of design but can be acquired at somewhat more accessible prices.

6: Second Mark Crouching Venus Statue

Davidson Auctions (May 2012)
Estimated Price: AUD3,750
Realized Price: AUD3,750 (~$2,810)

7: Second Period Porcelain Basket

Susanin’s (February 2014)
Estimated Price: $100-200
Realized Price: $2,400

8: Jardinière, c. 1891-1926

Waddington’s (March 2008)
Estimated Price: CAD700-1,000
Realized Price: CAD2,400 (~$1,828)

9: Rare Second Period Commemorative Vase

Adam’s (September 2011)
Estimated Price: €800-1,200
Realized Price: €1,500 ($1,592)

10: “Hexagon” Cabaret Service

Bonham’s (November 2001)
Estimated Price: $1,193-1,789
Realized Price: $1,341

Black Mark Belleek: Third Period

The Black Mark Third Period was ushered in with the debut of the new mark at the 1926 Wembley Exhibition and continued to be used until 1946. This mark was updated to include the Celtic phrase “Deanta in Eirinn,” or “Made in Ireland,” which wrapped in script around a circular cartouche featuring a Celtic knot. One will also find the addition of the company’s registry mark, “REG No 0857” included. The most modern of Black Mark Belleek examples, Third Period pieces reflect the ongoing tradition of craftsmanship as well as the company’s response to contemporary trends. This was the era, for instance, of Belleek’s incredibly popular Shamrock line, a motif featured across decorative wares as well as table services.

11: Third Period “Limpet” Pattern Coffee Set

Adam’s (September 2013)
Estimated Price: €150-250
Realized Price: €420 ($445)

12: Third Period Blanc de Chine Epergne

Freeman’s (December 2010)
Estimated Price: $300-500
Realized Price: $288

13: Black Mark Vase, Third Period

Cordier Auctions & Appraisals (November 2011)
Estimated Price: $150-300
Realized Price: $250

14: “Special Twig” Four-Strand Basket, Third Period

Wright Marshall Ltd (January 2014)
Estimated Price: £150-200
Realized Price: £190 (~$240)

15: Pair of Aberdeen Ewers

Mellors & Kirk (July 2008)
Estimated Price: £100-200
Realized Price: £90 (~$114)

Looking for more? Explore Belleek pottery available now on Invaluable.