Frances Osborne Austin TXThe Origin of Ironstone Pottery

By Joey Caparas | Submitted On August 17, 2010

Ironstone pottery - also called ironstone china is a durable kind of pottery that was first made by a china dealer in London who came to Staffordshire and took over a pottery; his name was Miles Mason. He designed a kind of ware that was less expensive but could very well serve as a substitute for bone china. He and his son, Charles, obtained a patent for this new kind of ware in 1813 and christened it "ironstone china". The ironstone pottery pieces made by the Masons were marked with "Mason's Patent Ironstone China," printed black with a crown on top of it.

Ironstone pottery is white, translucent, a little heavier than porcelain and very strong as it is not easily chipped. It is made with white clay, pulverized flint and iron-smelting residue. Although bone china was still desired, demands for ironstone came throughout the nineteenth century because of the durability of the pottery that proved to be more suited to everyday use. The demand was also steady because the production of ironstone pottery was cheaper than the cost of producing porcelain making it more affordable for many who were less than wealthy.

The early works of the Masons were typically decorated, but the appearance of the wares shifted to a simpler appearance in the 1840's where pieces were usually left unadorned, boasting only its pure white color.

Mason's patent for the ironstone pottery he invented did not last for very long, and soon, other Staffordshire potters, including Josiah Wedgwood and Josiah Spode, also started producing ironstone pottery. This happened from 1835 to 1860. Staffordshire was a very abundant resource for clay; hence, the large number of individual potters, pottery dynasties and potteries in the area. The octagon-shaped ironstone plates manufactured there became popular at the time. Since ironstone wares were largely made for everyday domestic use, most examples of ironstone pottery are in the forms of plates, cups and saucers.

Ironstone ware also came to be known through several other names such as semi porcelain, opaque porcelain, English porcelain, stone china, thresher's or farmer's china and new stone. This is due to its whiteness, resemblance to porcelain, affordability and superior durability compared to porcelain.

Ironstone pottery also became popular for its characteristics in the United States. Potteries in Ohio and New Jersey were already making ironstone ware for typical, daily domestic purposes during the 1870's.

Most pieces of ironstone pottery bear the mark of their manufacturers as started by the Masons. If a specimen is dated 1842 onwards and is of a special shape or pattern, a design registry may be seen. If you have a genuine piece of ironstone and you are fortunate enough, you might find the mark of any of the known names in the tradition of pottery.

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