Glenn enjoys collecting amazing vintage items. It's a fun and educational way to relive the joys of the past!
Hand-Painted China Made in Japan: Noritake Christmas Ball #175
One of the most beautiful china sets ever created is the Noritake Christmas Ball #175, a china pattern that was made in Japan from 1906 to 1991. This fabulous, well-made china has heavy gold decoration that really makes it a stunning set of dishes for a holiday or celebration table.
The set has a white background with a yellow border and heavy 24k gold enameling. The enameling has an elegant scrolling pattern with flowers in a ball or bulb form.
How to Date This China Based on the Markings
- Green Mark: The early productions are marked in green with “NO.175 HAND PAINTED NORITAKE JAPAN.” This would date them from 1906 to 1940.
- Gold "Occupied" Mark: Other productions are marked in gold from the “Occupied Japan” period after World War Two from 1947 to around 1953.
- Gold Mark: Some pieces have gold markings but lack the “Occupied Japan” mark; these are from later in the 1950s to the 1990s.
The Noritake Factory was closed during World War Two, and no china or porcelain for public usage was produced during that time. Amazingly, the Noritake Factory survived the bombing of Japan during the war.
About the Nippon-Noritake China Company
Since 1904, the Nippon-Noritake China Company has been creating beautiful and high-quality china pieces and sets in many wonderful designs. Their china and porcelain products have brought elegance to dining tables around the world.
The Christmas Ball pattern shows the superior artistry and craftsmanship of this company and how the hand-painted attention to detail is uncompromising. This company has shown commitment to quality to create remarkable dinnerware that can stand the test of time.
In the early history of this pattern, you will find the name "Nippon" on the china and porcelain pieces, since the company's original name was the Nippon China Company. This later became the Noritake China and Porcelain Company.
How the Company's Name Changed Over the Years
The Nippon-Noritake Company grew out of a remarkable trading company that was originally established by the Morimura Brothers in New York City in 1876. This trading and import company imported fine chinaware from Japan and other gift items.
In 1904, the Nippon China Company was established in the village of Noritake, a peaceful suburb of Nagoya, Japan, with the help of the Morimura Brothers. The name of this factory town eventually became the company's final and lasting name in 1981.
With the tragic start of World War Two, the Japanese military forced the company to shut down the factory and mothball the machinery. Luckily, the many forms and molds of the different china patterns were saved within the vaults. The employees were sent to ammunition plants to work for the duration of the war.
Amazingly, the plant survived the bombing raids, and full production started once again after the war. In the ensuing years, the Noritake China and Porcelain Company continued to perfect and improve its line of china and fine dinnerware.
The Evolution of the Hand-Painting Method
The company's earliest dinnerware plates, like the Christmas Ball pattern, were mostly hand-painted, often with liberal applications of 24k gold. By the early 1920s, the Noritake China Company introduced more of an assembly-line technique that allowed for mass production of high-quality (yet affordable) dinnerware for consumers in the United State and overseas.
The Amazing Number of Christmas Ball Serving Pieces
There is an amazing amount of serving pieces in the vintage Noritake Christmas Ball pattern—in fact, there are about fifty different styles and sizes of pieces. Here are photos and descriptions of just a few.
In the photo above are just three examples of serving dishes:
- The dish with a single center handle is just over 8 inches wide.
- The round bowl is just over 9.75 inches wide from handle to handle.
- The long dish/tray is just over 13 inches long from handle to handle.
The photo below shows a lovely example of a gravy boat with an attached plate.
This photo shows a mayonnaise server that comes with three pieces: a bowl, an under-plate, and a very nice ladle, all with gold filigree trim.
- The bowl measures 5 1/4 inches in diameter and stands 3 1/4 inches high without the under-plate. This one is marked with the green Noritake #16034 stamp (see the photo of the markings below).
- The under-plate measures just about 6 1/8 inches in diameter. Together, the two pieces stand 3 1/2 inches high. The under-plate has no back stamp.
- The ladle measures just about 5 1/4 inches long. The opening of the ladle measures 1 3/4 inches in diameter. This piece is marked with the green Noritake #43061 stamp.
This set could be used to serve a variety of different things, such as salad dressing (not just mayo!).
Cups and Saucers
The photo above shows a beautiful Christmas Ball cup and saucer. As you can see, the condition is excellent, with no cracks, chips, scratches, crazing, or cut marks. There is no loss of gold anywhere. The owner of these particular pieces kept them in a quilted protector case and felt they were too elegant to use.
The bottoms of this set are appropriately back-stamped with the newer gold mark that says "No. 175 Hand Painted Noritake Japan" in Japanese characters as well as English text.
The photo above shows an impressive 13-piece demitasse set.
- The coffee pot stands 6.5" high and 6.5" wide.
- The creamer is 2.5" high and 3" wide.
- The sugar bowl is 3.5" high and 4" wide.
- The saucers are 4" in diameter.
Above, the photo shows six salad or dessert plates. The plates are a tad over 7 1/2 inches across.
Below are a few more photos of Christmas Ball pieces:
- Sugar Bowls
- Butter Dishes
How Is Fine China Made?
To understand fine china, you need to know that the chemical composition of china is a combination of clay, quartz, kaolin, feldspar, and a number of other minor but very important materials. Many materials are kept a secret. Once the cleanest and best materials are measured, mixed, and properly prepared, the mixture is shaped and molded into the desired items.
The Firing Process
The molded pieces then go through a number of extremely high-temperature firings for long periods of time. The number and the intensity of the firings are determined by the nature of the china that is being created. With the Christmas Ball pattern, the china becomes very white and translucent by the end of this time-consuming and finicky process.
The Finished Product Is Beautiful, Strong, and Durable
China tops the list of ceramic products in the U.S. because of its durability, beauty, and delicate nature. The extreme art and skill required to produce it also impresses the consumer. Although it appears fragile, china is known to have remarkable strength and an amazing resistance to breakage. This is all due to its composition, the high firing temperatures it undergoes, and the many processes that go into creating it.
Are China and Porcelain the Same?
A lot of folks do not understand the use of the terms "china" and "porcelain." In reality, they are the same product. China is named after the country of its origin, and porcelain comes from the Roman word "porcella," which means "seashell." The Romans chose that root word to imply that porcelain items are white, smooth, and lustrous.
European vs. North American Usage
The term "porcelain" is preferred in Europe. There are many factories that make fine porcelain in Germany and Great Britain.
The folks in North America like to use the word "china" instead. The United States once had many factories that made china, but most Americans buy their china from Asia now. At one time, Japan was the leading seller of china in the United States. It is still one of the top sellers of china in North America.
What Is Bone China?
Bone china is made with calcified bone, which is used as a refractory material. The firing temperature is usually much lower for bone china than for regular porcelain china. This type of china starts the same way as porcelain china, but it includes an extra ingredient: bone ash.
What Is Bone Ash?
Bone ash is a fine, white, powdery substance, and it's the by-product of incinerated animal bone. The bone ash adds remarkable translucency to the body of the dinnerware, giving it a unique, pearl-like milky-white color. It also makes the dish much stronger by making it softer.
Bone China vs. Porcelain China
Bone china is usually delicate and much thinner than porcelain china, with a smoother glaze. Unfortunately, the glaze is not as durable as that of porcelain china, since it is softer and more yielding. However, by making the china dinnerware softer and less brittle, the bone ash makes it more durable and resilient—and less likely to break if dropped or mishandled.
What Are Ivory China and Ivory Bone China?
Ivory bone china and ivory china are the same as bone china. The only difference is that an ivory coloring is added to the mixture before firing.
Lyn on February 19, 2019:
I have inherited a large set of christmas ball from my grandmother. It has the gold stamp no. 175 and the ball and noritake and the Japanese word. This all indicates that it was made after 1946. She passed not long after1946. The tea/coffee cups are painted on the inside. Someone from replacements told me this indicates the china was made before WW lI.What is the story?
Glenn Waters (author) on March 09, 2018:
"Hand Painted" Nippon in blue is very rare, and on the very early patterns, so I would assume yours are from 1906 ... Noritake 175 marked in green dates them from 1906 to 1940 ... Noritake 175 marked in gold dates them from 1946 to the 1990s ...
Thank you for your comment,
Harriette on March 08, 2018:
My dishes are the exact same dishes as the Noritake Christmas Gold Ball but the stamp on the bottom is light blue and all it say is, "Hand Painted" Nippon. Can you date them for me?
Thank you very much I enjoyed your article.
Glenn Waters (author) on October 01, 2017:
Hi Digger, could be very valuable depending on the condition of the set, if it is MINT or shows signs of usage. The best way to price your collection is to check out what a set like yours is selling for on eBay ... :)
Digger on September 30, 2017:
I have almost completely all of this set it was my great grandmas I would love to know the value
Beth on September 10, 2017:
I have a full set with most of the serving pieces in mint condition. It has the Green stamp. Do you know what stamps were used when? I know some were green and some were gold but I don't know the time line of the production.
Glenn Waters (author) on November 21, 2015:
Hello DiTo, if you have an eBay account you probably will have more interested and well-funded buyers, but most would want you to ship the china to them. I bought most of my collection on eBay, and most sellers do a great job packing, be sure to get insurance on your orders, and charge enough for packing job, and your time doing an expert packing job. You could break the set up into sections, and sell each side piece separately, you might make more money this way in the long run. Another idea is to find a good respectable antique store to sell your china on consignment. But make sure you trust the store, and know the people have a good reputation. Some folks sell on Craigslist, so that might be another option. Good luck, and thank you for your question ... Glenn :)
DiTo on November 21, 2015:
Glenn, This is a fabulous article
I inherited a full set of 8 with many side pieces. I would like to sell it but am not sure where is best to list. I live in NJ and am thinking it is best to list for local pickup.
Glenn Waters (author) on October 31, 2015:
Hello Taranwanderer, yes they are more for special occasions. The pattern first came out for bridal parties and weddings, but folks loved them so much for holiday china especially for Christmas, the name was changed to Christmas Ball very early in the production around 1910, it still was very popular for bridal teas, and wedding rehearsal dinners up to 1960s however :) They have to be hand-washed because of the delicate gold 24k trim, not for dishwashers, and they do display lovely in vintage china hutches.
Sossity on October 27, 2015:
Thank you. They are flawless.
Glenn Waters (author) on October 27, 2015:
The early productions are marked in green would date them from 1906 to 1940, which means they are much older, and if they are in mint condition they could be priced higher since they are truly antique pieces. The china marked in gold can be from the “Occupied Japan” period after World War Two, 1947 to around 1953 and others in the gold markings without “Occupied Japan” are later in the 1950s to the 1990s. Some collectors like the “Occupied Japan” because they are also rare. But as a rule price the china according to the condition. If the trim, and gold is really good, and has a new MINT look they can be sold for a better price than used and worn china.
Thank you for your comment,
Sossity on October 26, 2015:
Glenn, thank you for your informative piece on this beautiful pattern. I plan on listing a service for twelve and want to be very honest in my listing. Some of my pieces have the green back stamp and others the gold. Is there a difference in quality and should there be a difference in price? Is it necessary to identify the marks in my listing?
Appreciate your help.
Glenn Waters (author) on July 14, 2015:
I would try to sell the set on EBay, a complete set should sell quickly with the Holidays coming up in a few months. :)
Thank you for your comment,
Jeff from California, USA on July 13, 2015:
Glenn, thanks for a very informative page. A friend has asked me to help him sell a complete set of Noritake #175 that he purchased back in 1956. Do you have any suggestions for selling a set?
Glenn Waters (author) on May 27, 2015:
That is a very good find, and will look great when serving your guest. The thing I love about this pattern is all the many different pieces that have been created in this beautiful design.
Betty Smith on May 23, 2015:
I just bought a two-handled dish with 4 compartments in this pattern.