Tips on Shopping for Ironstone

Marian ParsonsFavorite Finds, Ironstone, Shopping Tips32 Comments

I wrote a post a couple of years ago about ironstone, but I thought I would write an updated post.  I’ve been showing a lot of my recent finds and selling some in my online shop and that has brought out a lot of questions about ironstone.

What is ironstone?

I answered this question in my first ironstone 101 post, so I’ll quote myself.  “Ironstone china is a glaze-covered earthenware. It was first patented by Charles James Mason in 1813 and other manufacturers followed suit.  At one point, there were almost 200 makers of ironstone china and they made everything from plates and bowls to tureens, covered casseroles, and gravy boats.  Even chamber pots.  Its popularity has come in waves and was apparently wildly popular in the 1970s.  I was not aware that there was anything pretty in home decor during the 70′s, but that decade gets a thumbs up from me for liking ironstone.”

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Why do you collect ironstone?  

Like all collectors, I collect the things that speak to me and ironstone calls my name any time I see it!  I bought my first piece of ironstone about 13 years ago at an antique mall in Florida.  It was a pitcher for $25.  I remember clutching it in my arms as I side-stepped through dusty aisles cluttered with stacks of records, magazines, newspapers and junk.  After that, I would buy pieces here and there at antique malls and from eBay, but I didn’t start to really collect ironstone until about eight years ago.

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What do you look for in an ironstone piece?

I am an avid ironstone collector, but not a serious one.  I once got into a conversation with a serious collector and it’s like he was speaking a foreign language..spouting out dates, makers, patterns, pieces.  I glazed over.  I just buy what I like.  I’m picky, but not about the condition or the maker’s mark or the pattern.  I look for shape, the luster of the finish, the potential function and beauty of the piece itself.  I specifically look for sugar jars, pitchers (especially milk pitchers), tureens, casseroles, compotes, soap dishes, plates, platters, handless mugs and bowls.  The pieces you’re drawn to might be different, though, and you may be pickier about condition or find that you like a specific maker.  You can make your own rules when it comes to collecting ironstone.

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How can you tell ironstone from white  china?

Most of the time, the giveaway is the thickness and weight.  Ironstone tends to be thicker and heavier than other types of china, but not always.  You can find some dainty ironstone pieces.  Another giveaway is the luster of the finish.  It’s just different than anything else and I’ve gotten to the point where I can spot most ironstone across an antique store.  I’ve also collected it long enough that I recognize specific patterns.  Every once in a while an unmarked piece has me guessing, but usually I’m pretty confident.  The best thing you can do to learn is to handle ironstone to get a feel for it.

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Does ironstone always have a hallmark or maker’s mark?  

Again, I’ll quote myself.  “The hallmark is the manufacturers marking on the bottom or back of a piece, so the look of the hallmark depends on who made it and when.  Sometimes it will tell you the piece is ironstone, but not always.  I have some pieces that read “stoneware” or display the mark of a hotel the piece was made for.  I also have some pieces that have no markings at all or just some blurry initials.  I love it when a piece has a clear mark, but you can’t rely solely on markings when ironstone shopping.  You have to learn what it looks and feels like.”  It’s not uncommon to find pieces that aren’t marked at all, so just because it isn’t marked doesn’t mean it’s not ironstone.

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Where do you get all of your ironstone?  

I am very fortunate to live in an area where ironstone seems to be plentiful.  I’ve found platters at yard sales for $.10/each.  That’s a dime each.  It felt like robbery, but I kept a game face on and waited to giggle until I got in the car.  I also have gotten familiar with antique vendors who buy and sell ironstone and several of them will tip me off when they have a good stash to sell.  If you don’t live in an area where ironstone is easy to find, I would suggest looking online.

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To do a bit of footwork for you, I did some browsing on eBay and put together a collection of ironstone pieces ranging from bargains to unique finds.  You can view the full collection HERE.

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Hopefully this answers your questions and maybe even gets you started on a collection of your own!

For more design inspiration, follow my other curated collections on eBay.

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Disclosure: This is a paid featured post.  My eBay Collections were curated as part of my collaboration with eBay #followitfindit and Style Coalition.

Tips on Shopping for Ironstone

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32 Comments on “Tips on Shopping for Ironstone”

  1. Marian,you are drawn to ironstone. I am drawn to white or beige china with flowers and scrolls. I don’t have a clue what I am buying, but if it sings to me and is in my price range, I buy it. I am looking at your hanging arrangements of your plates/platters to inspire how I hang mine.

    While I love your ironstone, it doesn’t sing to me… so others can fight over the pieces you post for sale. If you ever want to get rid of a piece with flowers and scrolls, I’m your girl!!!

    Have a wonderful week!! Winter is dragging me (and everyone else) down. I surround myself with what makes me smile. I am warm and loved. I am blessed!!

    Melodye

  2. I read once where white Ironstone was sent to the Colonies to be painted/decorated. Turns out the Colonist preferred it plain and white (thank god). This is why it is more difficult to find in Europe.
    I think it could be said that few people have done more for a dish than you have Marian!

  3. Marian,

    Thank you for reaffirming what I’ve been doing since admiring your ironstone displays. I buy what I like and can afford. P. S. You’re never pretentious in your blog tutorials and I thank you for that. Please keep educating your readers.

  4. Is Ironstone still made today or lately? I have some “garage sale china” that I picked up. I noticed the mark on the back does say Made in England by Johnson Bros. A geniune handengraving. Ironstone. But then it states it is dish washer safe. So it’s obviously modern.

  5. I have quite a few pieces of ironstone, and found one recently that I’ve never seen before. It is a flat soup plate with a fluted rim that has wheat stalks around the edge. The back stamp says “Elsmore & Forster” with a coat of arms and “warranted ironstone china” above that. It also has an impressed English mark. Looks like overkill to me. I know that there are Chinese knock-off’s of blue & white porcelain with fake marks. Have you seen one of these? Is it for real? It’s heavy and feels like ironstone.

  6. Jane, I think some manufacturers do indeed still make ironstone. I found 3 bowls in one of my apartments…marked Pier 1 Bianca Ironstone…relatively new pattern of ironstone sold by Pier One. Of course I fell in love with it and have since spent entirely too much money trying to pull together a complete set…but that’s another story.
    But yes, while I don’t think its is real common, it is still being made as far as I know!

  7. I just love it also. I’ve lived all over the country and it’s amazing what vintage finds are readily available in some areas and then in other places no one’s heard of it. Here in Alabama it is not abundant… at all! But the upside to that is when I do find it, no one knows what it is and it’s cheap. 🙂 I’m planning a trip to VA in April and I’m hoping to load up on several things while I’m there, including Ironstone.

    1. Hi,

      I have some old ironstone of my mums that had some rust marks. I found some helpful tips on a website. I have cut and paste it from the website as I don’t think I should be leaving a link on here. I got the info from white ironstone china website. Personally I found the denture tablets great, you need to make sure the item is fully submersed.

      Here is their solution:

      Common cleaners that will remove some stains include naval jelly & ZUD (rust stains), denture tablets, calgon water softener with a Z code, and ammonia (sealed in plastic).

      I think that Marian would have more experience though as she specialises in ironstone and probably has some better tips 🙂

      Lee

  8. This is so helpful, thank you so much for sharing!

    Is there a reason that some Ironstone has a yellow or brown stain? I have a pitcher with a browinsh stain (?) around the top, but it does not go all the way down the pitcher. Why is it there and should I try to clean it off? I haven’t scrubbed it because I am nervous this is my “oldest” Ironstone piece and I am nervous to do anything to it/ 🙂

  9. I have collected Ironstone pitchers for years…I have too many to count…they sit atop my kitchen cabinet, in every nook and cranny of my home..Occasionally I will get rid of an area of them…thinking of downsizing so my children do not hate me when i am gone…but not too many years ago you could get a huge box stacked full of platters and plates for a song at a weekly farm auction in Mid Illinois…A friend of mine brought home box fulls to break and make stepping stones out of….broken stoneware in concrete. Think that was a 90’s thing…one of my favorite pitchers is the hugh pitcher that would be a paired with the wash bowl, before indoor plumbing….every washstand would have a washbowl and pitcher full of water to freshen up with…

  10. I bought my first piece of Ironstone (small platter) this year while at the Round Top antiques fair. There were several vendors there with quite a collection of Ironstone. However, I don’t think you always get the best prices at these kind of shows. Your best bet is probably finding pieces like you did at yard sales and maybe estate sales. Thanks for the informative post! I will be hunting for more this year.

  11. I have been thinking about that small pitcher which allowed you to pour from the top or bottom. I wonder if it was meant to be used with un-homogenized milk. You would pour from the top spout to get cream and the bottom spout to get milk for your hot beverage.

    1. Catherine
      Sounds like a good guess, but i have to smile thinking about all the younger people who won’t be able to even imagine un-homogenized milk!!!! LOL

  12. I am a collector of white ironstone as well, just wondering if you have ever put your vintage pieces in the oven? I have a beautiful bowl with a lid I would love to actually use, it is so lovely the last thing I want to do is ruin it, but oh, if I could actually use it to serve food….even though it is a bit on the heavy side 🙂

  13. “PPS – Sorry if you’re getting annoying sound from a video ad. I was working on my blog and heard it and thought, is that MY blog?!? I’m trying to figure out which network it’s coming from, so I can block it.”
    I got this when I watched your milk paint video – I had to switch to you tube. It’s coming from the Vodafone/ London Fashion Week ad which is the first one on my page.

    Please nobody try to debrown the ironstone! Sell it on if you don’t like it. Bleach kills it, it gets in the glaze and eats it away to ruin.

  14. Love your ironstone— so pretty. I don’t see much ironstone here in Alabama. But, I just hung an antique type tray in our kitchen / breakfast room last week. It came from our newspaper office. I like your tray, too.

  15. Hi Marian. I love reading your blog. I love the way you explain things and sharing. Maybe I Geting to old, but the nose ring has to go! I love Ironstone too. I do have a set of Dessert Rose Fransican Ware, but other than that, only white dishes! Dont tell anyone but I only use white paper plates as well.

  16. I remember learning so much from your first post about ironstone. I was just starting to collect it. I have a small collection but live in the south where it isn’t as popular. So, every time we travel somewhere I am always looking for a piece. I’ve only lucked up on a couple of really inexpensive pieces and found an incomplete set of dishes (from the 70’s) at an estate sale for $15! Mostly I look for the really old stuff. Thanks for all the info! 🙂

  17. Marian, while I admire your ironstone collection, I must say that I am more taken by the natural willow rectangular serving tray with handles that you have displayed with some of your ironstone as well as in your book. I would love to know where I can purchase one. Any info would be greatly appreciated. I am enjoying your posts, as well as, your book. Thank you in advance.

    Valarie

  18. I collect Ironstone for several years now…but I mostly collect Pitchers, I got a steal of a huge pitcher at the Rose Bowl….for 7 bucks….I was over the moon happy about that..

  19. Marian, my first piece was a casserole dish from you at Lucketts 2 years ago….I remember asking you if it had set in your house….cause I’m a stalker like that! …I carried it back all the way across the country in my carry on so as to make sure it wouldn’t break! Now I have several of those casserole dishes but that dish of yours is still my favorite!

  20. Years ago I managed an amazing antiques shop & we had a couple hundred ironstone pieces buried in the back “primitive” room. Really lovely stuff, some of it with price tags the owner made 20 yrs before (so good deals too). I think you would have had a great time treasure hunting

  21. Marian, I love Ironstone since I started following your blog about 2 years ago.
    I already have a small collection, but here in Canada (BC) I dont’ seem to find the terrines you find. I was lucky enough to find a jelly mould for $2 in a garage sale and that got me hooked. When I went to Scotland last year I found a few jelly moulds and HAD to bring them (you know how it is…) the security lady got a hold of my luggage I don’t even remember why, I was at the belt and she said: WHAT ARE YOU CARRYING??? (LOL LOL LOL) I said… “Ironstone”… HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHA!!! “UH”??? I said: I collect antiques… SHe said: WHAT AIRLINE ARE YOU TRAVELLING WITH??? I don’t think you can carry this weight on the plane! I said, looking around: “honey??” They had separated me from my husband in the HUGE line ups in Edinburgh and I got a bit worried when she started questioning me. BUt then another guard just said “pass” and my husband met me and it was ALL GOOD!!! I also brought a SIlver teapot, cream and sugar in my HANDBAG (could not close the zipper!!!! And oatcakes for a friend that eats gluten free stuff! HAHAHAHAHAAHAHA! THAT’S THE LIFE! See what you got me into???
    Hugs galore!!!
    Claudine

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  23. Marian,
    Thank you so much for your posts on ironware! I’ve recently started to collect some pieces for our french farmhouse style decor. I’ve been able to find some great deals at thrift shops – almost all under $5, and most under $1! I find a piece with great coloring & rusty little bits, and leave smiling like a kid in a candy shop! Thank you for all you do <3
    Pearl
    Ps. I think nose rings are beautiful by the way 😉

  24. YOU HAVE THE IRONSTONE PLATTER I NEED TO REPLACE SINCE MINE CRASHED TO THE FLOOR IN A DOZEN PIECES!!!!! I couldn’t believe it when I opened today’s email and saw this article about ironstone. I didn’t necessarily plan on “collecting” ironstone, it was rather thrust upon me along with more antique dishes than any one woman should have. About a year and a half ago I had THE most disastrous day. I remember it was a Sunday. I think perhaps God was sending me a message since I hadn’t gone to church that day. Anyway, I was putting dishes away out of the dishwasher and I must have set something wrong or unlevel or SOMETHING because I no sooner walked out of my butler’s pantry and I heard a DEAFENING crash. Before I even walked in the room I knew it wasn’t good and just felt sick. The ONE antique piece that broke was the ironstone platter JUST LIKE the one that is sitting on the display of many pieces in this article. The picture that has LOTS of ironstone pieces in it and a stack of dishes. There are two platters on the bottom of the pile. The platter that is on the bottom, the larger one at least from where I’m sitting looks IDENTICAL to the one I had shatter. Do you want to sell it? The other items were Longaberger Pottery pieces. And of COURSE they had to be the ones I use the most, all the time, and were my 9 x 13 rectangular baking dish and a square baking dish. I sold as a home consultant for this company for 17 years and by the time I left the Longaberger Company as a consultant I was actually more in love with the pottery than I was the baskets. Don’t get me wrong, I like the baskets, but I LOVE the pottery and even more so after using it for 25 years. Maybe one day if you come across another rectangular ironstone platter you’ll contact me. At least you give me hope that perhaps one day I’ll find a replacement for my piece. I inherited numerous generations of dishes from my long passed family members and among the things I like the best are the ironstone pieces. I have a vegetable tureen just like the one you have in the pictures and I absolutely LOVE the large soup tureen you display. That is a GORGEOUS piece. I too, when it comes to antique items buy what I like. I love coming across real treasures for a little bit of nothing at auctions. Best of luck with your sale and if I didn’t already have too many other activities including a graduation, a graduation party, a funeral and a helping a bit with a “parking lot” sale during those two days I would attend as I don’t live too far away from Lucketts.

  25. I love ironstone myself. Unfortunately, it has been hard for me to find pieces where I live. I just came across a Red Cliff USA platter at Goodwill for 2.00. It looks like it is missing something that should be sitting in the middle of it. I haven’t been able to find this exact pattern on line. It does have pretty handles on each side. The handles are solid it’s a beautiful platter. I’m not sure when it was made. The backstamp looks kind of old, but I’m not sure. Love your collection.

    Hope.

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