White Ironstone 201 | age, use, & care

Marian ParsonsFavorite Finds, Ironstone31 Comments

I get asked a lot of questions about ironstone and you can read about the basics in my Ironstone 101 post.  In that post, I answer questions like, “Is all ironstone white?”, “What is ironstone?” and “How do you identify it when it’s unmarked?”  In this post, I’ll get into more details about price, identifying the age of pieces, as well as use and care.

ironstone 201- answers to ironstone pricing, dating and is it safe to use everyday | miss mustard seed


What’s a fair price for ironstone?

This is such a tough question to answer, because, like any antique, it depends on rarity, age, desirability, size, condition, aesthetic, etc.   So, a sugar bowl, for example, could be priced too high at $20 if it was made in the 1970s, has a big crack in it, and is missing a lid and it could be an amazing bargain if it’s mid-1800’s in a beautiful pattern.  Do you see my dilemma?  I want to answer the question, so I’m going to give a range of what I will pay and charge for a white ironstone piece.  The low end of the range is for a piece in fair condition, newer, etc. and the higher end is for an old, beautiful piece in nice condition.  I am not including the high-end stuff like rare patterns and really old pieces that are in mint condition, etc.  And these are JUST my opinion, so it’s okay if you think I’m off base.

  • Sugar Jars: $5.00 -$48.00
  • Creamers & Small Pitchers – $5.00 – $42.00
  • Large drink/milk Pitchers – $15.00 – $65.00

ironstone 201- answers to ironstone pricing, dating and is it safe to use everyday | miss mustard seed

  • Wash Pitchers – $35.00 – $75.00
  • Vegetable Casseroles – $15.00 – $65.00
  • Tureens – $20.00 – $150.00 (depending on complete set, pattern, age, condition, etc.)
  • Gravy Boat – (I’m not as into these) $5.00 – $24.00

ironstone 201- answers to ironstone pricing, dating and is it safe to use everyday | miss mustard seed

  • Compote – $35.00 – $125.00
  • Punch Bowl – $65.00 – $125.00
  • Brush Box – $20.00 – $65.00

ironstone 201- answers to ironstone pricing, dating and is it safe to use everyday | miss mustard seed

  • Covered Butter Dish – $15.00 – $55.00
  • Dinner Plate – $1.00 – $12.00
  • Berry Bowl – $1.00 – $8.00
  • Soup Bowl  – $1.00 – $12.00
  • Butter Pat – $.50 – $3.00
  • Platters – $5.00 – $40.00
  • Handleless Mugs – $1.00 – $10.00

ironstone 201- answers to ironstone pricing, dating and is it safe to use everyday | miss mustard seed

  • Coffee/Tea Pots – $15.00 – $65.00
  • Molds – $10.00 – $48.00
  • Serving Bowls – $8.00 – $45.00
  • Soap Dishes – $5.00 – $35.00
  • Chamber Pots – $5.00 – $35.00
  • Cake Stands – $250.00 – $550.00

ironstone 201- answers to ironstone pricing, dating and is it safe to use everyday | miss mustard seed

Let me know if I’m missing anything obvious!  Again, this is just my opinion, but I do buy and sell a lot of ironstone, so this is a typical range that includes my buying and selling prices.


How do you know when a piece of ironstone was made?

 As far as dating a piece of ironstone, you can get pretty exact with hallmarks and using collector’s guide books, but you may be surprised to know that I don’t own any of those!  I just buy pieces I like and don’t worry too much about whether it’s a “collector’s item” or not.  There are some makers I have more of than others…  Johnson, Meakin, and Adams to name a few.

 ironstone 201- answers to ironstone pricing, dating and is it safe to use everyday | miss mustard seed

ironstone 201- answers to ironstone pricing, dating and is it safe to use everyday | miss mustard seed

Here are some general guidelines to date a piece based on the styling.  This is obviously general and isn’t going to apply to all pieces.

The 1830s to 1840s – these older pieces have more of a bluish cast to them, tend to be thicker, and are octagonal or hexagonal in shape.  They look “chunky” and a bit more gothic and masculine.  I love these oldies.

ironstone 201- answers to ironstone pricing, dating and is it safe to use everyday | miss mustard seed

The 1850s – Things get a little frillier with leaves.

ironstone 201- answers to ironstone pricing, dating and is it safe to use everyday | miss mustard seed

The 1860s – The leaves from the 1850’s evolved into the popular wheat pattern and other harvest-related themes like fruit (strawberries, grapes), grains, and nuts.

ironstone 201- answers to ironstone pricing, dating and is it safe to use everyday | miss mustard seed

1860 – 1880 – White Ironstone patterns start to get more elaborate and feminine.

 ironstone 201- answers to ironstone pricing, dating and is it safe to use everyday | miss mustard seed

Sometimes looking at the style alone isn’t enough to date a piece.  I’ve learned to spot some indicators of older pieces vs. more recent reproductions…

Older pieces…

…the hallmarks are often muted and blurry and sometimes raised and stamped.  Some have no markings at all, which confuses the matter even more!

…are often thicker and heavier than their modern counterparts

…more imperfections in the glazing and coloration

…have more of a gray or bluish cast.  The whites and creams have more depth and luster to them than modern pieces

ironstone 201- answers to ironstone pricing, dating and is it safe to use everyday | miss mustard seed

Newer pieces…

…hallmarks are clearer and tend to have more of a “manufactured” look, if that makes any sense at all!

…tend to have a more uniform white or cream color, smoother glaze and less crazing

…the depth of the color and warmth of the glazing just looks newer (that one’s hard to describe!)

…are still heavy, but aren’t quite as thick or “chunky”

ironstone 201- answers to ironstone pricing, dating and is it safe to use everyday | miss mustard seed

I usually don’t buy really new ironstone, but I do like some of the vintage stuff (1970’s – 80’s era), because it’s dishwasher safe and easier to find in large sets.  For that reason, I love using those pieces for my everyday dishes.

I will say, though, it’s the really old stuff that stirs my soul.


Is ironstone safe to actually use and eat off of?  

I didn’t want to answer this question on my own, since I’m not an expert and have wondered the same thing.  Lisa Braeman of Smithsonian.com shared this response from Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA press officer, answering the question if it’s safe to eat off of vintage china:

“First, as a bit of background, FDA established and began enforcing limits on leachable lead in tableware 40 years ago. Obviously, any ware, Fiestaware or otherwise, manufactured prior to that era was not subject to FDA limits, because they didn’t exist. This doesn’t necessarily mean that old ware is unsafe, but consumers who are concerned about such a possibility can use home lead test kits (available in hardware stores) to screen old ware to determine whether it may leach high levels of lead into food.

We do not recommend not using old ware unless it shows signs of deterioration such as cracking or pitting of the glaze. This could be a sign that the glaze is disintegrating and could allow lead to leach into food. In addition to using a home test kit, consumers who want to be cautious might choose to avoid storing foods in older holloware (bowls), consuming hot and acidic liquid beverages such as coffee or tea out of cups, and heating bowls, cups and plates in the microwave. Again, these are qualified recommendations; the ware is not necessarily unsafe because it is old, but it may not comply with current FDA standards.”

So, there it is.  It may be safe, it may not be safe, but it’s on you to decide.

There are some pieces in my collections that I have concerns about, so I don’t use them to serve food.  I don’t serve drinks out of my antique ironstone pitchers, but use them for flowers and herbs instead.  I will put my everyday white ironstone in the microwave and dishwasher, but I wouldn’t do that with older pieces.

If there’s a doubt, don’t use it or test it.

If you do decide to use your ironstone, here are some additional tips to care for it…

Hand wash it – As I said above, I put a lot of my ironstone in the dishwasher and it’s just fine.  The being said, I have heard that it can cause crazing.  I would never put the really old pieces in the dishwasher.  Just gently wash those by hand.

Never bleach white ironstone – If you want to lighten stains, use hydrogen peroxide, not bleach!  It will penetrate the glaze and dissolve it.

Buff away marks caused by silverware with a little white toothpaste.


ironstone 201- answers to ironstone pricing, dating and is it safe to use everyday | miss mustard seed

I hope this Ironstone 201 post gives some more information to budding collectors, those who are starting to sell it or others who are just curious.  Even though I’ve bought and sold a lot of ironstone, I’m far from being an expert.  As I’ve shared before, I glaze over when hardcore collectors start rattling off pattern names and such.  I just love white ironstone and buy what I like.

 ironstone 201- answers to ironstone pricing, dating and is it safe to use everyday | miss mustard seed

The fact that I don’t mind chips, crazing, discolorations, missing lids and broken handles has been a real benefit.  I’m able to find pieces that others overlooked because they are not perfect.  To me, those imperfections make the piece even more endearing.  Who keeps a sugar jar with broken handles and no lid unless they really loved it?  Right?  To me, pieces like that sometimes have greater value than the pristine piece that lived a life behind a glass china cabinet door.  Not that I’ll turn my nose at those, but I appreciate the used and forlorn.

I hope this post answers some of your ironstone FAQ’s!

White Ironstone 201 | age, use, & care

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31 Comments on “White Ironstone 201 | age, use, & care”

  1. Great info, Marian. It’s also worth noting, in general, that standards for marking china only began, I believe, in 1842, with the English Copyright Act of 1842. There were so many pottery factories springing up (well before that date, I’ll add), that factories wanted to prevent copying designs. Besides the company name, as you’ve described so many here, there were also early marks that had an Rd in a diamond shape, with letters and numbers to the L and R, above and below, each having significance in determining when a design was registered in the British patent office (though it could have been mfd later than than date). Those Rd marks changed over the years, just as most manufacturer’s marks have.

    What we all want to know is – when will you be listing more of yours?! 🙂

    1. Very good information! As I shared, I am not an expert at hallmarks, so I appreciate you sharing your knowledge. Honestly, I love the hallmarks for how beautiful they are. Sometimes I buy a piece just because the markings are so cool! 🙂

  2. Great info, I didn’t even know ironstone was still being made in the 70’s and 80’s. I really love the frillier more feminine pieces and of course those gorgeous tureens. It’s hard to find now but I’m always on the lookout, and like you I don’t mind if it’s imperfect.Gorgeous shots as always.

  3. Marian,
    Thank you so much for this post! My daughter has recently fallen in love with ironstone after purchasing a small creamer at a yard sale. We have visited antique stores but had absolutely no clue what we were looking for or what was a fair price. This is such a helpful guide! Thank you for taking the time to put all this information together in one post. Now I’m off to read the Ironstone 101 post! 🙂

  4. Thanks Marian! I would imagine that many dealers would not share this information because they would not want the buyers to be aware of when an item in their shop is overpriced. I think that you being so forward and candid about this is really decent and honest and hopefully all of your readers can appreciate it as such. I am already a dedicated follower of your blog, but this makes me appreciate it even more!

  5. Thank you so much for the refresher! I discovered ironstone for the first time when I began reading your blog, and have been looking out for any piece I could find since. Living in Arizona, I have yet to see a piece I even think could be ironstone. I guess it’s more commonly found back east? I think the more masculine style pieces that look like they are browning on the edges are just beautiful.

  6. Marian,
    Great informative post! I had no idea either that Ironstone was still being made in the 70’s & 80’s. I love the older, chunkier pieces and find the imperfections charming. My question is when buying Ironstone tops or lids only what should be the average price range based on age, size and design?

    1. Yes, I forgot lids, which I will buy and sell! If they are tureen/casserole lids with a really pretty design…let’s say they are “wall worthy”, than I would pay up to $20 for one. For the average stray chamberpot lid, simple casserole, etc., I would only pay less than $10 and maybe sell it for $12-15 at the most. I’ll pick up stray sugar lids for $1-3 in case it fits a lidless one I find along the way.

  7. Hi Marian,

    Thanks for the info. I bought my first two ironstone pieces this past weekend: a butter pat dish and an ironstone drain (for the sink). I just liked it and remembered that my grandfather had one of those in his sink. It actually fits my drain too! So cool!

  8. I just got my 1st piece of ironstone (a small pitcher or creamer) at a garage sale for $0.10! It did have a crack but I was still pretty excited to finally find one!

  9. I love the fact that you love the chipped, forlorn and imperfect. I have several pieces that are exactly that way and I just can’t part with. They are family pieces and they are here to stay. If it has a story it is so much better.

  10. The timing of this post is awesome ! I almost wrote last week to let you know that I had been able to identify some ironstone in a couple thrift stores in my area. (SC) it’s not always easy to find antiques and collector items in the south because families tend to hang on to them and pass them down from generation to generation. But remembering what I had read in your blog helped me to identify it —I was tickled pink and so proud of myself. Despite the fact I didn’t buy the pieces it was fun knowing what they were when I wouldn’t have without reading. Thanks so much!

  11. I have loved ironstone for years but never really knew what it was called till I started following your blog. I’m starting to add to my collection now that I know more about it. I finally found a piece that wasn’t ridiculously overpriced at an antique store in Columbia Pa. It is a gravy boat and I just love it. The piece that I really would like to find is a brush box. I imagine that will be a hard one to find.
    Thank you for this very informative post.

  12. Thank you so much for this post & answering my e-mail! It gives me a lot more insight about my piece. Although I haven’t been able to nail down the age of it yet, a lot of this information was helpful. I especially like the tip about the blue cast in older pieces. I didn’t even notice this about my pitcher until you said this. I’m guessing mine is from 1860-1880 because it is mor feminine but it is definitely not frilly. It has clean graceful lines with a small amount of detail by the top of the handle. Thank you so much again for all if this information!

  13. I received the latest issue of Romantic Country today ~ congrats on being a cover girl!!! Can’t wait to sit down and read it.

  14. Thanks to your price summaries, I just breathed a deep sigh of relie fat paying $45 in a rural TX shop for a wonderfully intact and detailed ironstone sugar jar –so feared that I had over payed, but it was an awesome piece!

    Also, your earlier blog reference to Bakelite flatware,prompted me to purchase my first set of Bakelite handled knives at auction last night—an incentives for additional research on Bakelite—one of my first findings is that the ‘stag horn’ steak knives I received 50+ years ago as a wedding present are now collectible…tuff to admit one’s belongings are now considered ‘vintage’ :}

  15. I appreciate the information on safety of ironstone for everyday use and/or storing food in. Thanks for going the extra mile to obtain this information from the appropriate source, Marian!

  16. Thanks for the info about ironstone, informative and sound. I am curious as to why your posts now have the title, Latest Post, etc. There used to be a subject. Over the years I have placed those I want to save in a folder; when going back it helps to identify the contents when there’s a subject. I suppose I can rename them, another step, but it makes no sense to me.

  17. In packing my MIL’s dishes, I’ve come across blue patterned ironstone platters. She had a few other pieces of white and, along the way, I’ve picked up some white as well. I’ve got a nice collection of bowels and pitchers, chamber pots, etc. I should do a post on those…thanks for the nudge!

  18. Thanks for a great post! I have always loved ironstone, though not knowing anything about it! Since finding your blog, I am now loving it even more and proud of the few pieces I have collected. Also thanks to you, I feel so much better about buying the chipped and stained, which I have always done if I liked it for other reasons; I now figure I am in good company!

  19. Marian, I couldn’t find another place to email you, so am taking a chance on this…would you possibly sell me your bamboo DECOR STEAL rug? I don’t feel able to buy a new one, and thought since you had moved yours into your work room you MIGHT consider selling it to me…have no idea what the freight would be, but thought I’d give it a shot in the dark…

  20. Thank you so much for both posts about iron stone!! The clarification was great and it also was never helpful to know if it could actually be eaten of off!! So thanks so much for sharing!!
    On another note…. can you PLEASE share the color of the white hutch?? I adore it!!
    Thank you!!

  21. Thank you so much, Marian. You have answered a lot of questions that I’ve had about ironstone. I also find it absolutely beautiful and go by what catches my eye. So glad that you found out about whether or not to use ironstone. I’ll definitely pick up a kit to help know which pieces might contain lead.

  22. Thank you for this post and helpful information. I just acquired my first piece of ironstone. It appears to be a covered vegetable dish in excellent condition. I noticed it in the glass case of my local thrift store I frequent. It has the J & G MEAKIN stamp on the underside. I was so attracted to the beauty of the handles I couldn’t resist. The price being under $6 was also screaming “Buy Me” as it was placed on the counter for my closer inspection. I couldn’t be happier having given it a home in my kitchen. You have sparked my interest so much on this topic that I started a new board on Pinterest with your pictures.

  23. Thanks for the info, Marian. I don’t collect it, but recently saw (so rare here in Montana) some large ironstone pitchers that were all marked well over $100 a piece. I had a feeling it was overpriced, but now I know!

  24. Hi Marian–
    I have a pitcher just like the final picture in this post, except it’s in good condition. I paid somewhere in the area of $10 for it years ago. I’ve wondered how old it was. Do you know the general era it was made? I feel the same way you do–condition isn’t very important to me. I just love the look and character of the old pieces!

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