This is a beautiful Belleek cabaret set in the pink Tridacna design, consisting of a teapot, three teacups and saucers, a milk jug and a sugar bowl, all placed on a large tray. All items carry the 2nd Black Mark, which was used between 1891 and 1926. 


It is extremely rare to come across an entire cabaret set of these antique items, particularly when in such fabulous condition, so this is a rare opportunity!


If you ever thought Belleek fine china looks, sounds and feels unique, you are right. There is a back story to this extraordinarily fine Irish eggshell porcelain, which has an unusually high amount of "frit" and therefore is thinner and finer than any other china.


Pottery in Belleek (in the now Northern-Irish area of Fermanagh) had started in 1849 with John Caldwell Bloomfield, who was a wealthy land owner. During the Irish famine he realised that unless he would find a way for his tenants to make a profit off the land, they would starve. Agriculture had become impossible due to the agricultural diseases caused by mono culture at that time, and the political unrest in response to British colonial rule. This caused millions to starve and more millions to leave. As an amateur mineralogist, John Caldwell Bloomfield realised that his land had exactly the right mineral deposits to be used as clay for porcelain. He involved several investors and scientists and after many years of research, trial, error, the building of a railway line to import coal from England, and building a factory, the Belleek pottery resulted, employing the local people and soon producing the finest china made with clay from the Belleek area.


What had started as a way to fend off famine among the local tenants had became a story of incredible success by the 1880s as Queen Victoria fell in love with the fine white china and the many homely, slightly bizarre but nature-loving designs; this was different from English tradition, yet it was very much to the taste of the British who had developed a real love for home-made fine china since it was introduced in the late 18th Century. Soon the English nobility started to place big orders and the pottery is still flourishing today and selling its wares the world over, while in England most potteries have long disappeared.


The Tridacna series is one of the very classic and popular designs Belleek has made and could be found in many Irish households. Many Belleek designs are inspired by nature rather than by fashion: there are sea shells, froth, seaweeds, tree roots and bark, corals and woven baskets. The Tridacna series is inspired by a beautiful ice pail that Belleek designed for the Prince of Wales. This ice pail rests on a shell called "tridacna", which is a saltwater clam that is common on the Irish coast. Each detail is true to the concept; the surface is wonderfully fluted and the finial as well as the teapot and milk jug handles are made like seaweed, as are the teacup handles. A detail that shows Belleek's attention to detail is that if you put the lid of the teapot in the correct way, you can see that it was cut out of the same mould as it fits perfectly. 


The tea service is made in a light creamy white colour with a delicate pink wash. The tray has a simple gilt rim around it. As every Belleek collector knows, no two items are exactly the same; the shades of white and pink are ever so slightly different - even though all carry the same mark so must have been made in the same period. Belleek was famous for always slightly changing things and as many households kept adding to their sets over the years, sets often end up with slightly different shades and details, which adds to their charm.


CONDITION REPORT The entire set is in fabulous antique condition. There is no damage or wear other than a bit of rubbing to the gilt on the tray. The only small fault is a firing fault in the spout of the teapot, see close up picture, which means there is a grey area on the top of the spout. This is from production; the spout is in its original state and this spot is not a sign of damage.


Antique porcelain is never perfect. Kilns were fired on coal in the 1800s and early 1900s, and this meant that china from that period can have some firing specks from flying particles. Makers were also known for their experimentation, and sometimes this resulted in technically imperfect results. Due to the shrinkage in the kiln, items can have small firing lines or develop crazing over time, which should not be seen as damage but as an imperfection of the maker's recipes, probably unknown at the time of making. Items have often been used for many years and can have normal signs of wear, and gilt can have signs of slight disintegration even if never handled. I will reflect any damage, repairs, obvious stress marks, crazing or heavy wear in the item description but some minor scratches, nicks, stains and gilt disintegration can be normal for vintage items and need to be taken into account.


There is widespread confusion on the internet about the difference between chips and nicks, or hairlines and cracks. I will reflect any damage as truthfully as I can, i.e. a nick is a tiny bit of damage smaller than 1mm and a chip is something you can easily see with the eye; a glazing line is a break in the glazing only; hairline is extremely tight and/or superficial and not picked up by the finger; and a crack is obvious both to the eye and the finger. Etcetera - I try to be as accurate as I can and please feel free to ask questions or request more detailed pictures!


DIMENSIONS The pot stands 10.5cm (4 1/8"") high to the top of the finial and measures 20cm (8") from handle to spout; teacup 8.5cm (3 3/8"); tea saucer 13.5cm (5 3/8"); sugar bowl 9cm (3.5"); milk jug 11.5cm (4.5") from handle to spout; tray 39cm X 35.5cm (15.5" X 14").

Belleek cabaret set, pink Tridacna 2nd BM 1891-1926

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