Thursday, February 7, 2013

White Ironstone

My dear friend 
asked me if I would blog
about collecting 
white ironstone.

I have a lot of it,
as you know,
but I bought it 
originally because 
I love its simplicity.

For me, 
a collection of white ironstone, 
patterns or color to distract the eye,
 becomes an artful grouping
of forms and shapes.

Some silhouettes
are round and shapely,
yet others angular and rigid.
One plays against the other
creating positive 
and negative spacing ---
depending on 
the composition
of the collection.

But not only is it 
pretty to collect,
or to hold flowers or fruit,
it is wonderful 
for serving food.

Food looks best 
on a white plate,
in my opinion.

White ironstone
not only collectible --- 
it's sturdy,
simply elegant
in its own way.

Below you will find  
 information on 
the history of white ironstone
for those of you 
who wish to know more.

Here is what 
Martha Stewart wrote about
early British makers of
white ironstone in her magazine
in 1993: 

"Ironstone dates to the early 1800s; the name and its formula, 
containing the mineral feldspar, were patented in 1813 by 
Charles Mason of Staffordshire, England. Ironstone decorated 
with colorful patterns was an immediate success in England, but 
the white-glazed variety has little official history there because 
virtually all of it was made for export to Europe, Australia, and the US.

By the 1830s, enterprising British potters recognized a potential 
market among rural American families buying china for the first time. 
They put together services of snowy-white ironstone, predicting 
that its simplicity and affordability would appeal to the no-frills 
aesthetic associated with American country life. These pieces, 
given names such as graniteware, stoneware, pearl china, or 
feldspar china, are now all categorized as ironstone.

  White ironstone patterns fall into distinct periods. The earliest, 
called gothic or primary, date from the 1830s to 1840s and comprise
 paneled hexagonal or octagonal shapes. More rounded forms 
emerged in the 1860s, including harvest patterns decorated 
with relief-molded berries or sheaves of wheat. After 1860, 
bulbous, highly ornamental designs combined ribs with leaves 
and flowers, and from 1880 on, ironstone reverted to plainer forms, 
often unadorned except for the handles or finials.

The once ubiquitous and affordable ironstone is now highly 
coveted by collectors and therefore expensive. A teapot might 
sell for $350 and a soap dish for $200. Its quality is based on 
the evenness of the color and the crispness of the relief work. 
All edges, finials, and handles should be chip-free and un-repaired. 
The cost of a piece depends on its maker, pattern, condition, 
and rarity, as well as where it is being sold."

Martha Stewart Living, Volume 12 February/March 1993

Here is what Wikipedia 
reports about the later
American versions 
of white ironstone:

In the United States, ironstone ware was being manufactured 
from the 1850s onward. The earliest American ironstone 
potters were in operation around Trenton, New Jersey
Before this, white ironstone ware was imported to the 
United States from England, beginning in the 1840s. 
Undecorated tableware was most popular in the US, and 
British potteries produced white ironstone ware, known as 
"White Ironstone" or "White Granite" ware, for the American 
market. During the mid-19th century it was the largest export 
market for Staffordshire's potteries. In the 1860s, British 
manufacturers began adding agricultural motifs, such as 
wheat, to their products to appeal to the American market. 
These patterns became known as "farmers' china" or "thrashers' china". 
Plain white ironstone ware was fashionable in the US until the end 
of the 19th century. 

This excerpt was taken 
from a site called:

"... in the 1870's and 1880's, several American potters began to make white "granite ware."
Several potteries were situated in New Jersey, including City Pottery in Trenton, other potteries were also established near East Liverpool, Ohio, including Knowles, Taylor & Knowles and Homer Laughlin & Co.

Most of the ironstone produced in the US had simpler shapes than the English imports which were still preferred by Americans. 
In an attempt to sell more of their wares, most American potteries did not mark their wares, and some used marks that resembled the British Royal Arms.
As people became more confident in purchasing American made ware there was a transition from the British Royal Arms to the use of the American Eagle - below are examples of the Royal Arms and also the American Eagle form the same potter - John Moses.
Homer Laughlin & Co even used a mark which depicted the American Eagle attacking the English Lion.

Notable 19th century Ironstone manufacturers 
in the US include:

If you would like to learn more, 
you can always contact the
white ironstone ironstone china association 
by linking below: 


Rebecca said...

I'm not nearly as "sophisticated" as you are in your collection, but I am am happy with the simple one I've been able to assemble....and ALWAYS love seeing more & learning more.

Thanks for the information here and the peek at some of your lovely pieces! It was a delight to spend some minutes here this Sunday evening.

Blondie's Journal said...

Very interesting post, Alison. You have a lovely collection of ironstone. I think your way of arranging it is just beautiful!


Art and Sand said...

My husband is the chef and he insists that I use solid color dishes to show off his beautiful creations.

I only have a few pieces of white ironstone and I think I need to start collecting it.

Charm Bracelet Diva said...

I collect it, too! Love yours. I also love it when I find that stamp on the bottom after I bring it home from Goodwill!

michele said...

i have some chippy pieces i love. timeless and comforting and look good everywhere.

your photos and styling look fab!


Ron said...

Love your collection. I have been wanting to start a collection for months. xo

Maureen Wright said...

You're amazing as always! I learned so much and can't wait to start my collection...

Terri ~the dressed up cottage said...

What an enviable collection you have.
I have always loved it too, and I agree food always looks best on a white plate. That is why even upscale restaurants use it.

Sarah said...

Alison, thank you for this informative post. Your collection offers a gorgeous array of shapes and silhouettes. You are right about the way they create wonderfully interesting positive / negative space. It's fun to sit here and study your shelves. They make great material for drawing practice.
We've lots of serving pieces in white and just a few pieces of vintage white ironstone. I'm always looking for pieces to bring home to extend our collection.

Karen said...

You have a lovely collection of ironstone. I will read the inserts you provided, I've always wanted to start collecting but could use more education on what constitutes ironstone.

Designs By Pinky said...

I never bought any white dishes or ironstone til I started blogging and saw it all over the place! I now have ONE beautiful pitcher and SOME dishes:) Your collection is beautiful. I love the squared off handles. XO, Pinky

All About Vignettes said...

I love your extensive collection of ironstone. Thanks for all the info as well as the beautiful pictures and information. I always use it with other china because it always matches.

Allan Murray said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brion R. Judge said...

What a wonderful post, I haven't thought about ironstone for quite some time. My grandmother had a quite impressive collection, much like yours, that was used with some frequency....that I loved. Perhaps it is due time I pick up a few pieces myself.

Barbara Bussey {The Treasured Home} said...

I love ironstone! I have a number of pieces for sale at the shop, but think I'll just enjoy it at home. It seems pricey in this economy. Your collection is wonderful!

Suzy Handgraaf said...

Very interesting, Alison. I remember seeing ironstone around all of my life. Too bad that I didn't appreciate it back before it became to valuable. You have a beautiful, wonderful collection.

Rose L said...

I have a little creamer with the first marking on it (England) but it has a slight green line all around the top part.

Victoria said...

Your collection is stunning and enviable. I enjoyed the literature
of its origins. I have a few pieces
mixed with Wedgewood creamware. Delicious post.