What is Antique White Ironstone?

You see people showing photographs of pretty white dishes and they refer to them as vintage or antique white ironstone.

For 15 years, I have been collecting vintage dishes including antique white ironstone. Recently, I had some questions about my white ironstone collection. The timing was perfect to answer some of those questions.

vintage white ironstone stand

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Vintage Ironstone

White ironstone was developed in the early 19th century in Staffordshire, England. It was a less expensive alternative for porcelain China that could be mass-produced. White Ironstone made its way to American around the 1840s.

Why not? The love affair with antique white ironstone began after seeing photos of in a magazine of someone’s collection. There was something beautiful about the antique white ironstone.

My first piece was a large wash pitcher found at a local vintage store. There was something about the love for seeking out these pieces at yard sales, markets, antique shops, online shops, or other antique dealers.

What I know is that there are some manufacturers you will begin to recognize in collecting such as Johnson Brothers, Wm Adams & Sons, and Meakin and Adams. Most ironstones have a mark on the base so their age can be determined by referencing a collector’s guidebook. I found a great website about the history of white ironstone at White Ironstone  China Association Inc. You can find out more information about identifying marks. I found their website to be very helpful.

There is absolutely no iron in ironstone. The name ironstone is probably due to the pieces being tougher than porcelain China.

My collection, you can see the colors that range from a blueish white to a more cream color. The early ironstone will be blueish white. It’s because the cobalt was part of the earlier mix.

Crackling and brown blemishes in the finish of white ironstone is referred to as crazing. Crazing happens from seepage of moisture combined with organic materials such as coffee, tea, dust, dirt, etc. makes its way through very small  cracks in the glaze and penetrates the clay of the item. Many collectors like the look of the crazing of a vintage piece.

Yes, you can remove brown stains on your ironstone only if the stain has not penetrated the clay. You would need to soak the piece in 3%  hydrogen peroxide.

You would need to completely submerge the piece in hydrogen peroxide for a couple of days. I have done this only to clean a badly stained inside of a pitcher. What I did was pour the hydrogen peroxide inside the pitcher and covered the top with plastic wrap. I let it sit for a couple of days. Periodically, I would pick up the piece and give the inside content a swirl. After two days, I would rinse the pitcher out with warm water.

This was a very good question. Although I use a lot of my vintage items, I do not serve food on my white ironstone especially if the piece shows sign of crazing, blemishes, chips, etc. Why? The glazing of the piece could be compromised and allow lead to seep into the food. I use my pieces of old vintage items for decorating or floral arrangement or keep items in that are not edible for safety reasons.

My collection consists of ironstone pitchers in a variety of sizes from the large to small cream pitchers. The Large ironstone pitchers, you will see the designs will vary from very plain to ornate. Originally, larger pitchers were used in washrooms.

I also have sugar bowls, cover dishes, pedestal, plates, and tureens. My soup tureen is one of my favorite pieces and it came with the original ladle. I was heartbroken when accidently breaking it a few months ago.

Tureens and Cake Pedestals are the most expensive white ironstone. A complete tureen will come with the matching lid, the underplate (dish to catch spills) and ladle. Tureens are highly sought after and can be found from $75-exceeding $800.

The tureen that I have is not English but American Ironstone from Red Cliff, Chicago, USA (see photo below). This piece circulated in 1960 and is not super old like some of my other pieces from England that date back to the early 1800s.

Vintage white ironstone soup tureen with an updated mirror in gold finish hung behind a gray vintage sideboard with stained top. Decorated with black and gold metal stacking boxes, artichoke tea light, woven tray, wooden beads, vintage white ironstone soup tureen, glass gold six wick candle and crystal lamp.

Another highly sought-after piece of white ironstone are cake pedestals. And they can be very pricey. If you come across a cake pedestal, you can expect to pay upwards of $350+. Rarely do I see white ironstone cake pedestals unless damaged priced less than $350. I have one pedestal but no cake pedestals. I keep hoping to stumble across one in a yard sale. You know when someone doesn’t know what they truly have and sells it for $5.

Sugar bowls, I will buy without the lid if they are missing. I love to put my pens and pencils or craft items in them.

The next time you are out treasure hunting, consider looking for great white ironstone pieces that you can incorporate into your home décor. The white color of these pieces will blend in with almost all color schemes within your home. Add some florals and place it on a bathroom vanity or side table. You will enjoy the piece for years to come.

There are some many wonderful vintage pieces of ironstone. It is the number one item that I look for at vintage markets and yard sales. Ironstone makes wonderful decor items in the home. What do you collect? I would love to hear.


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  1. Ok, you had me at ‘ironstone’ I can’t get enough of the stuff!! My first piece was acquired from my mother-in-law 38 years ago. It is a very large pitcher – probably a gallon – and she used it for iced tea at the dinner table everynight. It’s a real gem. Thanks for sharing your collection. Pinning to my ironstone board!

    1. Thank you, Cindy. I just love ironstone too. Pitchers are my absolute favorite. It is always nice to acquire pieces from a family member or friend. It means so much more.

  2. Oh, my goodness! Your collection is amazing! I only have a few pieces and I am such a fan. I visit a sweet shop in town that has so many gorgeous ironstone pitchers…and just admire…lovely post, my friend!

    1. Thank you so much, Leslie. It’s the only thing that I have collected along with a few antique dishes. The white ironstone pitchers are my favorites and most used items.

  3. Oh, how I love white Ironstone, I love this idea. Thank you so much for linking up with Fabulous Friday Link Party! We sure appreciate you, Hugs and blessings to you.

  4. What a beautiful collection and you provide some great information. I also see you have another one of my favorite collectibles – jadeite. Thank you for sharing such useful information.

    1. Anna, thank you for visiting the blog. Yes, I love Jadeite as much as the vintage Ironstone. My Jadeite collection is small right now. I only have snagged a few pieces. Don’t you just love the color?

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