I love ironstone. Its simplicity, even with a little crazing, stains and a bit chippy. Ironstone, salt glazed stoneware, yellow ware ~~ any old crockery in general ~~ is a favorite (and useable) collectible, even though my ‘collection’ is minimal.
Did you know…? Ironstone china is not porcelain; it is a porous, glaze-covered earthenware, consisting of clay mixed with iron slag and feldspar, and a small amount of cobalt. First patented in 1813 by Charles James Mason in Staffordshire, England, it was decorated with under-glaze transfer patterns. It was an improved china harder than earthenware and stronger than porcelain. Mason’s patent lasted only fourteen years and by 1827 a number of other potters had already experimented with his formulas. All of these wares were decorated with transfer patterns or brush-stroke designs. Occasionally an undecorated piece would find its way out of the factory, possibly because it was flawed in some way.
Eventually, by the 1840’s, undecorated, or white ironstone china, was being manufactured for export to theAmericasand Canadian markets. The English potters discovered that the “Colonies” preferred the unfussy plain and durable china. This is the white ironstone china collected today. Older white ironstone has an almost bluish cast to it, due to the cobalt, while later examples have a creamy color.
Late in the 1850’s and into the 1860’s huge quantities of china were sold to the agricultural communities and called “thrashers’ ware.” These dinner, tea and chamber sets were embossed with wheat, prairie flowers and corn in order to appeal to the farmers, who had to feed all the people that helped with the harvest.
To learn more about the history and care of ironstone, visit White Ironstone China Association.