Tuesday, August 19, 2014

All About Ironstone… and HOW TO CLEAN!

Recently, I acquired a large collection of Antique Meakin Ironstone!  I adore the creamy  

look of Ironstone.  I love the imperfections, the different shapes and 

the idea of each piece having  story, or history.

illustration by: Julia Rothman
I try to purchase at auctions/estate sales only items that are the highest quality and items

that I personally would collect, and then add pieces to my inventory on my

ETSY site, and to sell at my Vintage Shows.  I want to be sure to stick true to my 

style.  I tend to lean towards the monochromatic look when

it comes to any pottery or serving type dishes.  I love pitchers, platters, and tureens.

I use my collection of white porcelain wear daily and my ironstone for entertaining.

If I have a large party or family event, all my dishes always coordinate, because I keep it 

simple:  I purchase only white!!  I use colors and textures in my table decor!  I feel one

unified color for decorating or serving purposes keeps things crisp and elegant.

This was quite a haul from one auction… so many pieces to choose from!

I really loved this simple floral print on this Ironstone collection.

The shape and size of Chamber Pots is one of my favorites for home decor!

I am planning on keeping a few of these pieces for my home, I try to only collect what I will 

use or just cannot live without!  I also like my displays at my shows to keep in theme, not 

messy or busy, but simple and collected!  

The seal on back of each piece of authentic Ironstone.

Now, if shopping for Ironstone pieces and you come across platters with a few chips or 

dings  or even stains, do not shy away, there are ways to clean your Ironstone!

Also, the look of crazing is often found on these antique pieces, it looks like this:


This is a gorgeous collection of Ironstone and I love how they displayed the pieces.

photo:  Froggoestomarket.blogspot.com

Now, a little bit of history about Ironstone:

Ironstone is a type of stoneware that was first produced in Staffordshire, England by 19th century potters looking for a cheap alternative to porcelain that could be easily mass-produced in English factories. Most of this early ironstone was decorated to imitate Chinese porcelain.

the masons ironstone china factory is on the right in victoria square, fenton – the square also housed a drinking fountain (center) and a public urinal. photo c.1915 via thepotteries.org
The name ‘ironstone’ was patented by Charles Mason of Staffordshire in 1813. Many Staffordshire potteries had similar products known by a variety of names – semiporcelain, opaque porcelain, English porcelain, stone china, new stone – but all referring to essentially the same thing. Mason’s patent ran out quickly and other Staffordshire factories adopted the name ‘ironstone.’
In the 1840s, undecorated white stoneware items were exported to the North American, European and Australian markets. (In fact, very little of the white ironstone stayed in England, most of it was made for export) It was a smash hit. The durable and affordable white stoneware was particularly attractive to rural American families. In order to be even more appealing in the lucrative U.S. market, patterns were often given American names such as New York, Virginia, Potomac and Atlantic.

These ironstone products were thick and heavy so their shape was extremely important. In addition to the maker’s marker, it is possible to date early ironstone by looking at the patterns and shapes. (Older ironstone has a bluish tint, while later ironstone has a creamy color.)
  • 1830s to 1840s – these earliest pieces called gothic have hexagonal or octagonal shapes
  • 1850s – leaves were popular
  • 1860s – more rounded forms – the emergence of the harvest patterns decorated with fruit, nuts, grain or sheaves of wheat
  • 1860 – 1880 – more elaborate decorations
  • after 1880 – a return to simpler forms

Facts to Know
  1. There is no iron in ironstone. Why the misnomer? It could have been a way for Mason to throw off competitors or merely a show of marketing genius (iron and china = durable and desirable)
  2. crazing – is the fine crackling found on the oldest glazed pottery. You should not be able to feel anything when your run your finger over the piece.
(This information is all posted over at DESIGNSPONGE.com)from 2010.  You can read the entire post here:

Now, about cleaning your Ironstone:

I did a little research and found that the safest way to clean your ironstone is Hydrogen Peroxide, here is a Tutorial from DESIGN SPONGE:

Ironstone Cleaning and Care
Stain Removal
Materials Needed
  • plastic container with lid – large enough to completely submerge ironstone
  • hydrogen peroxide
I found these beauties on our last Brimfield trip in September. The brown staining underneath the crazing didn’t really bother me, but I thought it would be fun to see what I could do about it.

One of the safest ways to attempt to remove brown stains underneath the crazing is by soaking the ironstone in 3% hydrogen peroxide. This is just the regular hydrogen peroxide that you can get from the drugstore. (I don’t even want to know what the cashier thought when I bought all that hydrogen peroxide.) Put the lid on the plastic tub and soak for about two days.

This is the clean mug and some dirty, dirty hydrogen peroxide! After soaking, I left my mugs out in the sun for a few days so that the hydrogen peroxide would vaporize. If you have an electric oven, you can bake the ironstone at a very low temperature. (Note: Don’t put the hydrogen peroxide-soaked ironstone in a gas oven – it can cause an explosion!)

The newly cleaned mugs! (I put them in the same order as the first photo! Amazing difference!)

I actually like the look both before and after.  I hope you enjoyed this little post.
  I will continue in my hunt for gorgeous Ironstone  for my collection as well as being able to offer to 
you for your collection.  Please visit my ETSY shop.

Thank you for reading and Happy Collecting!

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