White English Ironstone - what a collection!

We just acquired a huge collection of white ironstone from Staffordshire, England. I was doing some research on some of the pieces and came across an article I wanted to share with you. I found it on Martha Stewart's site. White ironstone has long been an American favorite. Although massive quantities of the handsome, functional, undecorated and inexpensive Staffordshire were imported to America in the late 1800s, Martha Stewart revived its popularity in the 1990s. It is no longer inexpensive.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 United States. It is a staple, like the little black dress of the antiques world, can't go wrong with it.

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 unrepaired. The cost of a piece depends on its maker, pattern, condition, and rarity, as well as where it is being sold.

I never tire of seeing White Ironstone in displays or changing it around. it is so cherished by collectors. It can be used with any combination of color or texture.


The Attic said...

I love white ironstone too! I am curious about the set of forks on the plates..can you tell me if those are seafood forks and the price? Thanks Cordelia!

Cordelia of Cottage Antiques said...

Yes, their seafood/cocktail forks, old Wallace plate.

call the shop! 619-222-1967

Rita said...

Lucky you....they are bellissimi

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Steph said...

the pitcher....can you tell me if that is a t.r. boote? looks exactly like one that i have. if so, do you know the value? i'm soooo curious! great website!

Wizard of Was said...

Hi Cordelia,
I love the white ironstone, too! I had a pitcher like yours about a month ago...now I have seller's remorse! Hope to see you one day soon!
My Best

Cordelia of Cottage Antiques said...

Steph, The pitcher is Royal Crownford Falconware, England - $65

Cordelia of Cottage Antiques said...

Gale - I'm with you - I love all the white ironstone, nothing like it. We have a lot more pitchers in our shop - part of a very large collection, everything's not pictured here.
Come see us!