Collecting vintage white ironstone, mustard pots, and marmalade jars was kind of an accidental collection. I didn’t really intend to collect any of those things, but I started seeing displays of white ironstone in beautiful home decorating magazines and loved the way it looked stacked up in old painted cabinets and displayed on gorgeous antique sideboards.
I was in the process of transitioning to a more neutral color in my home decorating scheme, changing out upholstery, paint, and decorating accessories for more whites, creams, grays, and blues. The white ironstone kept popping up everywhere I looked, and I kept being drawn in by it and wanting those creamy white dishes stacked up in my cabinet! Then it hit me that I actually owned a piece of antique white ironstone. A lovely small tureen by Bishop & Powell that belonged to my grandmother.
Grandma Cooper always called it a gravy bowl, complete with a small ironstone platter that was always placed underneath it to catch drips. My mother (Edith) used it forever and it was always used for gravy, most often holding sausage gravy for her homemade biscuits! It was well used by several generations and I’m often amazed that it survived without getting broken.
Once I realized that I had the beginnings of an ironstone collection, I started searching in earnest for more pieces to add……pitchers, tureens, bowls, and sugar jars. It didn’t take long before I had a cabinet full of the beautiful white dishes.
I love finding English ironstone and I’m extremely excited when I find something hallmarked with the Bishop & Powell logo that adorns Grandma Cooper’s gravy tureen. I love the sugar jars, but they are pretty hard to find these days, and I hope that one day I stumble upon an ironstone pedestal cake plate, another rare find. I’ve yet to come across one but the search continues!
I actually started buying the English marmalade jars and French mustard pots to resell in Edith & Evelyn Vintage, but became intrigued by the old advertising transferware pots and how much the pottery resembled the old 1800’s ironstone china.
Many dating from the 1800’s, they fit in beautifully with a display of ironstone. I have kept many of these little pots along the way to add to my own collection. When I find duplicates I put them in Edith & Evelyn Vintage, and now try to only keep the ones that I haven’t seen before. I’m kind of partial to the antique English Frank Cooper marmalade jars, mainly because of the name “Cooper” in the advertising, a family name. Just maybe ol’ Frank was a distant relative! These particular marmalade pots are a rarity, all of mine have come directly from sellers in England, I’ve yet to find one in the States. The French mustard pots with their wonderful French graphics are a wonderful addition as well, with many different styles depending on the year they were made. My favorites are the early ones from the mid to late 1800’s.
If you are interested in starting your own ironstone collection but not sure how to identify it, Miss Mustard Seed did a great article on what to look for, what ironstone feels like, and different hallmarks that may be on them.
It’s a fun collection and I love looking for pieces at good prices, which is getting more and more difficult as ironstone surges in popularity. Ironstone seems to be plentiful in some regions, showing up at flea markets, yard sales, and even thrift stores for very low prices. In other regions, it is pretty scarce and prices tend to be high, especially on the pitchers, tureens, and sugar jars. I don’t find a lot of ironstone in my area and when I do, the prices usually keep me from buying it. I find most of my ironstone in the Southeast when we travel for buying trips for Edith & Evelyn, it seems to be a little more plentiful there with very good prices.
My ironstone cabinet is pretty full these days…… if I find any more pieces, I may have to trade something out and put it in the shop to sell! To see more gorgeous pieces of old ironstone, and inspiration to start your own collection, come visit our Pinterest page!