building an ironstone collection

Marian ParsonsAll Things Home, Antiques, Favorite Finds, Ironstone, Shopping Tips28 Comments

I read an article on ironstone in a decorating magazine (I think Country Home) about 20 years ago and have been smitten with it ever since.  I can’t tell you exactly what draws me to it…  maybe it’s the simplicity of it, the creamy-white color, the variety of shapes and designs, the luster of the glaze.  I can’t tell you why, but I love it and it’s one of my favorite things to collect.  I’ve been collecting it since I found an ironstone pitcher in a dusty, crowded booth at an antique mall in Florida.  I’ve since bought and sold thousands of pieces of ironstone, adding to my collection along the way.  I’ve become quite the ironstone hound and can spot it from across the room.

antique white ironstone collection | miss mustard seed

If you love ironstone, as I do, here are a few tips on building an ironstone collection of your own…

Of course, the first step is to start building an ironstone collection!

White ironstone can often be confused with ceramic and porcelain to someone unfamiliar with it, so it’s important to learn what you’re looking for and how to identify a piece of ironstone.  Here are a few articles I’ve written over the years about ironstone that might be helpful…

Ironstone 101 – What is Ironstone?

In the beginning, you’re excited about every piece of reasonably-priced ironstone to add to your new collection.  It’s about quantity and not necessarily quality.  That really is okay!  I think most collections start out that way and are built on bargain pieces until you have over 200 plates and 100 pitchers and realize you need to be a bit more particular about what you buy or you’ll be overrun!

antique white ironstone collection | miss mustard seed

Find ways to use your collection

I have so much ironstone that I use it all over the house.  I think it is literally in every single room except the boys’ rooms.  Platters are hung on the wall, used as large trays, and stacked in cabinets.  Pitchers line shelves and bowls hold everything from fruit to plants to candles.  Soap dishes are used to hold soap as well as small art supplies and business cards.  Sugar bowls hold fresh bouquets, brushes, pencils, and utensils.  Butter pats are used to hold pastels, paperclips, erasers, and to mix watercolors.  Ironstone is everywhere!

Yes, some of it is just displayed, but I try to use as much of it as I can in a meaningful way.  When you can interact with your collection, it makes it that much more special and can help you be intentional about the next pieces to collect.

antique white ironstone collection | miss mustard seed

Refine your collection

I have been in the process of refining my ironstone collection for several years…selling pieces I don’t love, only acquiring new pieces that are unique or fill a hole in my collection.  At some point, more just becomes more.

In a mature collection, more should always be better, different, and/or useful. 

Most of the recent additions to my collection have been pieces that are French, Dutch, or German ironstone, which is different from the majority of my collection which is from England and the US, or they are rare and/or unique pieces.

antique white ironstone cake stand pedestal | miss mustard seed

German Ironstone Cake Stand | Dreamy White Atelier

antique white ironstone paint palette | miss mustard seed

Ironstone Watercolor Palette | White Flower Farmhouse

The newest pieces that were added last week were also from Dreamy Whites Atelier.  Maria sent me this beautiful ironstone footed bowl…

antique white ironstone collection | miss mustard seed

It has a simple stamped R marking, so I’m not sure about its origin.  It’s different from any other footed bowls in my collection, though.

antique white ironstone makers mark R | miss mustard seed

Maria also sent me this stunning French ironstone pitcher!  It is one of the most stunning pitchers I’ve ever seen.  It’s also huge and heavy!  The shape and ribbed detail make it such a special piece.

antique white ironstone French pitcher | miss mustard seed

antique white ironstone French pitcher | miss mustard seed

Lastly, I received a Dutch ironstone bowl.  There are more available in the Dreamy Whites Atelier online shop HERE.  I have stacks of bowls, but the shape of this bowl is unique.  It does have a stamp on the bottom to confirm the maker and country of origin, which is always an added bonus.

antique white ironstone dutch bowl | miss mustard seed

antique white ironstone dutch bowl | miss mustard seed

I’ve lately been considering going through my collection and selling a few pieces I’m no longer displaying or using.  Those pieces are just “more” and really should go to a home where they will be used and displayed.  I’m in the process of setting up my online shop again for original art and I might sneak a few antiques in there now and then.

For those who love to collect, do you have any other tips to share about building a collection?

Disclosure; This post isn’t sponsored, but Maria of Dreamy Whites sent me several pieces of ironstone from her shop.  We have collaborated, worked together, shopped from, and promoted one another for years, but I wanted to make note of it.

 

building an ironstone collection

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28 Comments on “building an ironstone collection”

  1. You have definitely given me something to think about when it comes to my ironstone collection. I have a lot of purely decorative pieces and they sit on a shelf collecting dust. I do have a lot I use (probably after seeing how you use yours) but I could definitely thin the herd😊. When you have too many, they all can become one giant piece and then lose their individuality.

  2. Bowls are my weakness. My husband tried to tell me it’s a ‘one in, one out policy with a twinkle in his eye! I’ve learned as I’ve collected that my favourites are stoneware, not just any ceramic, and I like a bit of patina and neutral shades – unless the markings strike me. I love very utilitarian, workhorse type pieces – the kitchen in Downtown Abby was absolutely *dreamy* for me! I preferred what the help were using to what the family used at their meals! Anyway… all this to say, the bowl you’ve added to your studio is simply gorgeous and I love when you give me ideas about how to use pretty things to stay organized. ❤

  3. Hi Marian, I am still buying and selling ironstone. It is getting harder to find and harder to sell these days. I learned everything about ironstone from you, and can find it hiding in a box at auction!!

  4. I love my Ironstone collection and enjoy picking up pieces and adding to my collection… My current “hunt for piece” is a cake plate…..

    1. Did you see that Cheri found one for $25??!? That was an amazing score. I bought one years ago with my birthday money, but it was $400 on eBay.

  5. It has been my experience that Ironstone is more plentiful on the East Coast especially in states like PA, MD and VA. In fact, I have heard some of your readers who live in states like California say that ironstone is really rare there.

    1. It is more readily available on the east coast, but I still find it everywhere. I bought a beautiful tureen when I was visiting California for a book signing a few years ago. I find it here in MN and on many of my travels. I even found it in Italy and France!

      1. Wow…that’s surprising you have found ironstone in all these places especially California! I have found some of my prettiest and best pieces in PA when visiting. Although, I have found many nice pieces as well in VA in local shops.

    2. Teresa I am a native Californian looking for ironstone for past 35 years and can say it is very hard to find out here (except restaurant ware) but better with the internet. I think we know Marian has the special skill for finding everything.

  6. Hi Marian,
    I too am in search of a Cake Plate. But I’ll say that tall pitcher is nothing like I’ve ever seen. It is truly stunning!!! My mouth dropped open when I saw it. You have a great friend there. 🙂

  7. A thoroughly enjoyable post! I have a few pieces of creamy white ironstone…a huge platter that’s a family heirloom and a lovely little creamer come to mind. It’s amazing how something so sturdy can also be so delicate and beautiful.
    My mother has an ironstone pitcher that’s brown with the swastika on it, the early emblem of Eurasian religions.

  8. My sister has a beautiful ironstone collection, and we both google our yours. She just found some unique ironstone plates at a dusty old antique shop that were under a table, at the bottom of a box, that her ironstone radar detected that have dividers on them and said to me ” I wonder if Miss Mustard Seed has any of these?

  9. I have taken inspiration from you and now use as many pieces as possible around the house. I always enjoy shopping my stash and changing things up. Especially as it is not possible to hunt out new pieces because of COVID closures

  10. So lovely! Although white ironstone is not common in my area, I do have just a few small pieces inspired by you. In fact, I’ve blamed you for a few of my shopping obsessions- writing compendiums, art supplies, quilts, laundry baskets and even a vintage bird cage. My husband accepts that I’m helpless under your influence! I’m a willing victim I think!

  11. Hi Marian,
    I have a collection of ironstone and I absolutely love it. It’s not a huge collection but it makes me happy. I love to think about the history of the pieces and how they may have been used many years ago. It’s so fun finding new pieces that are unique and special. I have found some really amazing pieces in Goodwill, of all places. Thanks for all of the great info on ironstone. I have learned a lot from you and others over the years. One of my favorite pieces is a very large and heavy bowl that has a farm scene inside it. It is so amazing. The only thing is I don’t know how to display it so that it can be seen. I also love the idea of using the pieces we have. Most of mine are on display but I have a few chamber pots that I use at Christmas time to put decorations in them.

    I am so excited to hear that you may reopen your online store. I was always so excited to see the fun treasures you would list.

  12. Don’t your kitties get into your amazing collection of yarns? I see that in the photo and just wonder how you do it…(The ironstone is great but yarn is my passion).

  13. Marian, thank you so much for this wonderful post! It is so helpful. I have a few pieces, and hope to collect some more. My main love is Blue Willow, and I collect a lot of it. Your collection is amazing.

  14. I have a ton of transferware in different colors, and I’m just about to start going through it and analyzing it and seeing whether or not I can part with some. Where I live, transferware is plentiful and inexpensive! I wish I knew of the best way to sell it given the super high shipping costs nowadays. I inquired at a local antique store but they charge $75/month just for a small showcase. I’m sure it wouldn’t be worthwhile. But I am hesitant to use Etsy only because I wonder whether or not people would be willing to pay the shipping fees, which would be far higher than the pieces themselves.

  15. Your collection inspired me to stage my empire secretary with opened shelves. I almost brought home from the swap shop an ironstone picture until i noticed that someone drilled a hole in the bottom.
    About 20 years ago and i think it was in one of the country magazine there was an article about perking up ironstone that had the aged look. Something bout using hydrogen peroxide? It might have been an article by Martha. Do you recall reading something like that. It was noted that after the treatment it was not wise to use it for food service.Thanks.

    1. Yes, there are ways to “bleach” ironstone and I shared about that in one of my articles. I have only ever done it with one piece, though. I really love the aged look, crazing, and discolorations.

  16. I love Iron stone and have a few piece (3) and I’d to buy more but with Covid many of the big flea markets are not open at this time here where I live in California. And even if you did find it before Covid it is very expensive. I have seen Iron stone on Etsy but I can’t justify the cost and on top of that add shipping. I’ll just have to happy looking at your collection for now:-)

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