Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ironstone Facts

                    Back after Summer...Today's Leason is on Ironstone!

Ironstone Facts

Early ironstone china, or stoneware, was originally made in England and was meant to be an alternative to the more fragile earthenware and porcelain. Charles James Mason and his family patented ironstone in 1813 in the Staffordshire Pottery District in England and produced wares with the backstamp "Mason's Ironstone China". Early ironstone was decorated, but by the 1840s wares were typically plain white. Mason's patent did not last long, and by the late 1820s several other Staffordshire potters were producing ironstone china. Staffordshire became the center of ironstone production because of its abundance of high-quality clay. J. & G. Meakin became one of the highest quality Staffordshire potters.

Ironstone pottery was a form of durable, porcelain-like ceramic. Mason's ironstone was distinctive for containing iron slag as one of its ingredients. However, other manufacturers such as Spode and Ridgway made very similar products throughout the 19th century. Ironstone pottery can usually be identified by its markings and physical properties. The genuine article will show some wear and discoloration to the rim of the base from a century or so of being moved from one dusty shelf to another, while reproductions will look pale and new.

Not all ironstone is marked. Very old ironstone made before 1813 and American white "granite ware" may not be marked. Most pieces will bear the word "ironstone" or terms such as "stone china" or "semi-porcelain." These words can appear both by themselves or as part of a complete maker's backstamp. Pieces by Mason usually carry the mark "Mason's Ironstone China," while Spode pieces often say "Spode Stone China." Ridgway ironstone is often marked with a backstamp which omits the manufacturer's name but which includes the words "Stone Ware" or "Ironstone" and the pattern name within one of a variety of decorative borders.

Acquaint yourself with the many names that ironstone goes by. They include Chelsea Grape, Chelsea Sprig, Flow Blue, Gaudy Ironstone, Mason's Ironstone, Moss Rose, Staffordshire, graniteware, stoneware, opaqueware, and Tea Leaf Ironstone. Know that old ironstone comes in many "shapes," as they are referred to. It was--and still is--a workhorse. Along with serving dishes, you may find chamberpots (also called sanitary ware), utilitarian storage jugs, washing pitchers and bowls, soap dishes, snuff boxes and cups without handles.

Crazing (a term you will hear often when referring to condition of a piece) is a pattern of tiny, random lines on ironstone or porcelain. Crazing affects only the shiny glaze on the ironstone/porcelain and has a minimal effect on value, unless it is heavily stained or discolored. Crazing can be caused by age or by the glaze shrinking more than the body of the piece during cooling. Removing the stains in crazing in porcelain dishes can improve their overall appearance and allow the beauty of the porcelain to show through its age.

We define Vintage as 50+ years old, and Antique 100+ years old. 

White Ironstone: Open Here!

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