A simple, white, opaque plate, dish or pitcher has never caused such excitement as it does in the antique world. Ironstone is the little black dress to an antique, or a farmhouse, lover. It goes with anything and it always looks good.
Ironstone is made from fired clay which contains china stone. It looks very similar to porcelain and has a similar hardness. Unlike porcelain, however, it is opaque not translucent. It dates back to the early 1800s; the name and its formula, containing the mineral feldspar, were patented in 1813 by Charles James Mason of Staffordshire, England. Original ironstone china produced by Mr. Mason bares a mark that reads “Mason’s Patent Ironstone China” above a picture of a crown. (Ahh, crowns. I also love crowns!) Decorations on his dishes ranged from highly colored and gilded all-over patterns to a simple strawberry design in copper lustre.
In the 1840’s, England began exporting the undecorated wares to the American and Canadian markets. The English potters discovered that the “Colonies” preferred the unfussy plain and durable china. Specifically, it was 1842 when James Edwards marketed the first white ironstone china in America. And I thank you, Mr. Edwards, as do many other avid white ironstone collectors.
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