Monday, July 7, 2008

Enamored by Enamelware

Enameling traces its routes to ancient China and Egypt as well as Cyprus 3500 years ago. It is made by melting fine glass particles on to red-hot metal. As it cools, it fuses to give glass-coated metal. Cloisonne symbolizes the fine artistry of the enameling technique.

In the late 18th century, a German steel mill applied enamel glazes to iron containers at the same time Sweden was developing a process. Of course, when it was developing into cookware, France joined the production ranks, and, by 1803, the process was perfected. Great Britain also joined the ranks of top enamelware manufacturers.

Germany became known as the major producer in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. In 1848, a patent was issued in the US, but the overseas competition was tough. The European designs were colorful and much better designed than the American wares. That stemmed from the peasant heritage and everyday things were decorated to make life beautiful in their meager lives…or…as my theme echoes…extraordinary touches for ordinary days…

As immigrants came to America, the European techniques made their way into US manufacturing companies. American enameled items came to be called graniteware -- a term that may have arisen from the popularity of Granite Iron Ware, a line first produced the St. Louis Stamping Co. They introduced the gray speckled wares at the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition. You can see the grey strainer on the ladder below...this is the style you see in great quantities at flea markets. Agateware is a label for the swirled an aggie marble. Agate is always popular among the country collectors. The blue agate ladle in the carrier below is a pretty specimen of agateware.
World War I halted production in the United States, and, although wares were produced later, they were never as spectacular as the early European or American Victorian lines.

By the 1940s, aluminum and glass cookware that could go from oven to table took over the market. In the 1950s a resurgence of the white utensils occurred, but they did not have the popularity of earlier wares. Also, in the 1970s, Hong Kong produced a number of the old style colorful pieces like the one below.

Today, Chinese reproductions do exist, but it is easy to distinguish old from new. The news pieces are extremely lightweight and “tinny” sounding. The older pieces feel more substantial, and they probably do show wear. After all, the process is glass fused on metal…it cannot be perfect…it was used everyday. Even though some collectors always want perfection, they tend to forget life is for using…not for wrapping away.


Anonymous said...


I look forward to your post every week. I love enamalware and enjoyed reading about it's history.


Sweet Necessi-Teas said...

Susan, Another Monday, another fabulous lesson! Can I come be in your class?!

Francie...The Scented Cottage Studio said...

There is just something about enamelware...
Thanks for the lesson, I learned something which is always a good thing.

Cottage Flair said...

As always, another great history lesson. You have some really great pieces too.

Miniature Patisserie Chef said...

Great lesson on Enamelware. The pink ones are beautiful :)

Pei Li

Janet L Christian said...

I love all that enamel ware. I love the history and the different colors too.

Eileen & Karen said...

Susan, You do such a great job on your blog! Very interesting post!
Forget Me Not Dreams

Patricia said...

Susan, another great lesson. I never saw the pink, how much fun is that? I like the look of things that have been used. I like knowing that someone before me loved it too.


Georgia said...

I love your history lessons!! What gorgeous examples of enamelware, too!

I look forward to next week's lesson!

Grandma G's

Inka Smith said...

Great Lesson Teach!!!

I love your show and tells and the enamalware!


gail said...

Thanks for the lesson.. I really do like enamelware, and there are some really pretty examples here. Thanks for sharing...cant wait to see what you come up with next week! (()) gail

Noelle Garrett Designs said...

I just love enamelware. You have some wonderful examples. As always, a great lesson. Thank you!

Susie said...

Susan, Thank you for sharing your enamelware with us. We have a few pieces that were one of my aunts and we cherrish them. Nice show and tell.
Susie ~ The Polka Dot Rose

Carolyn Kocman said...

i just love enamelware. brings back such memories for me!

Susan - InHerOwnWords said...

Susan thank you for sharing your knowledge of enamelware. WOW...that was very interesting!

Silena said...

Hi Susan,
My favorite examples of enamelware are the beautiful french pieces that are so very expensive and unatainable (for me, anyway)! But I can dream!! Thanks so very much for the great information. Your blogs are great source reference for us!

Unknown said...

Hi Susan!

Once again a wonderful Show and Tell! I just love the enamelware and french pieces. And the fact that you take the time to explain it all. A real treat Susan. I love it! Hope you have a fun week and can't wait to visit again next week!
Janet's Creative Pillows

Anonymous said...

Loved your article on the enamelware I have been collecting it for a number of years and the French pieces are my favorite.


A Rose Without A Thorn

SoCal Helene said...

You did it once again, I so enjoy your Show n Tell.
Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge.
Sisters Gift Company

Cathy said...

Absolutely love your blog. Every post is an amazing SHOW and TELL. I just love this one on all the enamelware (which I too love).

Thank you for such important information and gorgeous pictures.

xo Cath