If you love to collect antiques, you might have heard of white ironstone. This type of china is more durable than porcelain, and harder than earthenware. Ironstone is already produced since the early 1800s, and it was patented by Charles James Mason of Staffordshire, England, in 1813. The white-glazed variety of ironstone was produced for export to Australia, Europe and the United States, while the variety with colorful patterns was sold in England. In 1830, some British potters are beginning to produce snowy-white ironstone pieces to be sold to rural American families.
The shapes and patterns of ironstone pieces can tell us their periods. The earliest pieces of ironstone produced from the 1830s to 1840s are having paneled octagonal or hexagonal shapes, while the ironstone pieces produced in 1860s are having more rounded shapes with berries or wheat relief. Ironstone produced after 1860 are having highly ornamental designs. However, after 1880, ironstone pieces were made in plainer forms.
Even though the early ironstone pieces were produced as affordable china for rural American families, they are now becoming exclusive items for collectors. They are also quite expensive. An ironstone teapot is priced around $ 350, while an ironstone soap dish is around $ 200. The value of ironstone today depends on the color equality, and the quality of the relief. An ironstone is considered as high quality if it is chip-free and never been repaired. The price of ironstone today is also depends on the rarity, pattern, maker, etc.
White ironstone pieces need special treatments. If you are using ironstone dinnerware for meals, you have to be really careful with the knives, as they can leave cut marks on your precious collection. Even though cut marks are common on old china, you certainly do not to create more. To avoid making more cut marks on your ironstone dinnerware you should only use them for meals that do not require knives. You can also use your ironstone dinnerware as under-plates, but this method is not very convenient. You have to clean your ironstone dinnerware carefully after using them. You can use all-purpose cleaners, but you must not use chlorine bleach, as it can erode the ceramic base.
Before you begin to collect ironstone, you need to gather lots of information about it first. There are some books about ironstone that you could read. The "White Ironstone China Plate Identification Guide" by Earnie & Bev Dieringer for example, is a great book that can help you to identify ironstone produced from the 1840s to 1890s. You can also get a DVD from the White Ironstone China Association that contains all the information you need about ironstone. When you know too little about ironstone, you may end up purchasing cheap ironstone at expensive price. But in the other hand, when you know much about it, you might be able to buy high-quality ironstone at the flea market at dirt cheap price, simply because you know the value of the piece and the seller does not. Then, you can keep that ironstone and add it to your collection, or sell it to fellow collectors for profit.
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Source by Michael Andrew Kay