How to Identify Old Ironstone


Early ironstone, or stoneware, was originally made in England and was meant to be an alternative to the more fragile earthenware and porcelain. Charles Mason and his family patented ironstone in 1813. By 1870, American potteries were making white "graniteware." Old white ironstone is still relatively easy to find. Old blue ironstone is scarcer.

Things You'll Need

  • An ironstone reference book
  • Use tactile and visual judgment.

    Old ironstone may or may not have hand-painted designs or transfers. It may also have a raised design. It will always be opaque. Under light, you should not see any translucence. As you hold it, you will notice that compared to other dishware, it is quite heavy. Lift a piece of known ironstone and compare how it feels with a similar piece that is not ironstone.

    While new and early 20th-century ironstone comes in many colors, old ironstone is usually creamy white (American) or white with a very slight blue cast (English). Though rarer, you may also find beautiful examples of blue ironstone. The more primitive-looking jugs may have a beige-gray background with or without a cobalt blue painted flower or bird. Fancier pieces may have faded-looking light blue backgrounds with cobalt blue pictorials.

  • Identify and date old ironstone by register marks on the bottom of the piece. Spode, Wedgewood, J&G Meakin, Wood & Sons, Birks Bros. & Seddon, T & R Boote, Turner & Tomkinson as well as other companies all made English ironstone. A great deal of English ironstone was exported to the United States. American ironstone makers included Red Cliff, Knowels, Taylor & Knowels, W.A. Lewis (Galesville NY), and McCoy. Be aware that McCoy was manufacturing well into the 20th century.

    Not all ironstone is marked. Very old ironstone made before 1813 and American white "granite ware" may not be marked.

    When hunting for pieces, carry a list of manufacturers or a reference book with you. has a comprehensive list of British manufacturers available, as well as a great deal of other information. There are also several good books available that list manufacturers, and include photos and registry marks.

  • 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.

  • Learn to spot reproductions, which abound. Look for tell-tale signs, such as the words "flow blue" stamped on the bottom of the piece. No real piece of flow blue is stamped "flow blue." The words "iron ware" are also a giveaway. You may also see imitation register marks that appear to be stamped on, rather than fired into the finish.

Related Searches


Promoted By Zergnet


You May Also Like

  • History of Semi-Porcelain

    Semi-porcelain is commonly referred to as "ironstone," but it also goes by other names. Though the fired clay body does appear somewhat...

  • About Stoneware Crown Stamps

    Stoneware crocks and jugs manufactured by U.S. companies held butter, cookies, moonshine and pickles in the 20th-century American home. Stoneware is fine...

  • How to Care for Real English Ironstone

    Some china pieces made by the now-closed Adams China Company bear the mark "Real English Ironstone." These pieces are made from ironstone...

  • Differences Between Earthenware, Stoneware and Ironstone

    Many people choose dinnerware and china based upon appearance, which is understandable, but not always practical. Not all dinnerware is created equal,...

Related Searches

Check It Out

22 DIY Ways to Update Your Home on a Small Budget

Is DIY in your DNA? Become part of our maker community.
Submit Your Work!