Even Britain’s Prince Charles couldn’t get one when he admired Belleek Pottery’s most exquisite piece of parian china.
But now five of the pottery masterpieces are available with an asking price of €95,000 each, the most expensive item ever produced by the company.
The reproductions went on sale for the first time yesterday and there was an immediate worldwide rush of inquiries.
The original — the only one ever made before yesterday — was created for the Paris Exhibitionof 1900 and was called the International Centrepiece.
The limited edition of five, which took Belleek’s craftspeople over a year to create, marks the pottery’s 155th anniversary.
The reproduced International Centrepiece stands over 76cm high. It is a 3ft urn with three Irish wolfhounds keeping guard around the base. It is decorated with harps and flowers.
When Charles saw the original in a glass case at the visitors’ entrance to the pottery on the banks of the Erne in Co Fermanagh in 2007, he told staff he was deeply impressed with its design and history.
Created for the 1900 exhibition to demonstrate the quality of the pottery’s Victorian craftsmanship, it won a gold medal and was returned. Since 1989 it has been displayed in a secure glass case at the visitors’ entrance.
Belleek head designer Fergus Cleary said: “Within minutes of the limited editions being made available we had inquiries coming in, including from the US.”
He said that since 1978, when he joined the firm, he wondered if it would ever be possible to recreate such an intricate piece.
“We were lucky that the original moulds from 1900 had been retained in our store but they were unusable and had to be painstakingly reconstructed using the exact same skills originally employed to make the centrepiece over 100 years ago.
“From there it really was a matter of professional pride for all of us involved to deliver a product of the quality and attention to detail that would be worthy of our forefathers.”
Belleek Pottery group managing director John Maguire said: “The grapevine amongst china collectors is very strong and even prior to the launch we have had approaches from potential purchasers.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved