This is an extremely rare Belleek cabaret set serving just one, in the "Chinese Dragon" style. It consists of a teapot, milk jug, sugar basin and cup and saucer, all placed on a matching tray. The set is from the first period of the Belleek factory, which was between 1863 and 1891.


This set is very Game of Thrones! It would make a fabulous gift or addition to a serious Belleek collection.


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 diseases caused by mono culture. 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.


This Chinese Dragon style is extremely rare and not many were made. It is a wonderful mix of styles; there is the very Irish Belleek style of being close to nature (the surface that looks like a woven basket, the handles that look like they've been bound together with straws). The shapes are slightly Celtic and remind you of the medieval art in the famous Book of Kells. But this is also clearly a play on the late 19th Century fashion for "Japonism", which started after Japan opened its borders to Europe and Japanese art found its way to the West, completely changing the way people looked at the decorative arts. The spouts of both the teapot and the milk jug are shaped like fierce dragons, claws ready to pounce, mouth wide open (and presumably giving a mighty loud hiss) and wings flapping on its back. The feet of all items are dragon claws, and as mentioned, the handles look like bamboo contraptions bound together with straws. The teacup is surprisingly modern and very wide, creating a great contrast with the pot-bellied teapot.


This is what one calls a "dejeuner set" or breakfast set.


One nice detail is the inside of the teapot finial, which reads: "Fill with water blood warm and allow it to stand a few minutes. Empty and use with boiling water." Given how thin this teapot is, if you plan to use it, it is recommended you follow this advice so the hot water won't break the pot (and it is strongly recommended to pour the tea with water below boiling temperature).


As every Belleek collector knows, no two items are exactly the same; the colour of the teapot is slightly different from the colour of the milk jug and sugar bowl. Belleek was famous for always changing things and sets often ended up with slightly different shades and details, which adds to their charm and is a normal phenomenon for a Belleek set.


CONDITION REPORT The entire set is in near-perfect antique condition. One of the three fingers of the dragon's left claw has been invisibly repaired. There is a tiny nibble off one of the teapot feet, see picture. Neither flaw stands out at all. There is some soot baked into the rim of the teacup - this happened during production. There is also a little firing imperfection to one of the dragon's legs on the tray, also a production flaw. Other than this, there is no damage, wear or crazing, and there are no other repairs.


Antique British or Irish porcelain is never perfect. Kilns were fired on coal in the 1800s, 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. 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 9cm (3.5") high to the top of the finial and measures 16.5cm (6.5") from handle to spout; sugar basin 5cm (2") high and 7.5cm (3") wide; milk jug 6.5cm (2.5") high and 9cm (3.5") from handle to spout; teacup diameter 10cm (4"); saucer diameter 15cm (6"); tray diameter 46cm (18").


SHIPPING I ship worldwide from the UK, mostly by Royal Mail 2nd Class for the UK and International Tracked and Signed for the rest of the world. I am happy to combine shipping charges on multiple items - please contact me to discuss. In principle I do not make a profit on shipping although for simplicity's sake I charge flat shipping fees. If the fee charged greatly exceeds the actual cost I will gladly refund you the difference - at the same time if it is slightly lower I will gladly make up the difference. In some countries shipping will end up significantly more than the expected fees and I will contact you to discuss our options. PLEASE CONTACT ME FOR ANY QUESTIONS REGARDING SHIPPING COSTS AND OPTIONS.

Rare Belleek cabaret set for one, Chinese Dragon, 1BM 1863-1891

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    We always aim to have happy customers so if you have an issue with or questions about your item, please contact us and we will do anything we can to resolve the issue with you!