Lac burgaute probably originated in China, with examples as early as the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), and gaining popularity in the Ch'ing dynasty (1644-1911/12), when it became used to cover unglazed porcelain. It was widely used by Japan craftsmen in the Tokugawa (Edo) period (1603-1867). With inlaid designs employing shaped pieces of iridescent blue-green shell of the sea-ear, typically this type of decoration is used on small scale objects such as snuff bottles and sake cups, and these large vases are a remarkable survival.
It has been suggested that in Europe the term 'lac burgaute' was perhaps first coined in Histoire de la Porcelaine (1862) to describe porcelain covered in mother-of-pearl lacquer and subsequently to refer to any type of mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquer. The word is derived from 'Burgau', a type of brightly-coloured mother-of-pearl.