Collecting Grey Gardens Style: White Ironstone

As I began putting together the concept for Grey Gardens Collections one of the first items that came to mind to talk about was white ironstone. For those of you who are not familiar with white ironstone — ironstone is china that was first made and patented in Staffordshire England in 1813. It was harder than earthenware and stronger than porcelain. In 1842, James Edwards marketed the first white ironstone china in America and it has been very popular ever since.

I first noticed ironstone at an antiques show in East Hampton. I remember walking by Martha Stewart just after I had been admiring the beautiful ironstone collection at a dealer’s booth. I bought my first piece about 20 years ago at a large flea market and the vendor told me she was born and raised in East Hampton, and I immediately connected the ironstone with the original Grey Gardens house. Knowing that during the 1920s and 1930s, Edie and her family had the best of everything, I could picture ironstone on the table at the Beales’ home at Grey Gardens back in the early days.

I have been collecting for years since and I get great use out of my collection on a daily basis. Ironstone is so utilitarian as it is very sturdy and only comes in one color — white. I think that the simplicity of these white plates, platters, pitchers, and tureens is the reason why so many people love to collect it. You can always spot ironstone, and the older the pieces, the better. The older ironstone from the late 1800’s has a very slight blue tint and you can tell the older from the newer by this characteristic.

You will find different markings on the bottom of the ironstone. Some are so old and the stamp has worn away – but very often it can stilll be recognized. I recently contacted the White Ironstone Association at www.whiteironstonechina.com, as I was curious to know what certain markings meant. (You can go to the website or call 203-938-3740 and learn about your pieces.) I called about a recent purchase – a soup tureen and was pleased to learn the details about it – the markings when compared to a chart revealed the date it was created and the name of the pattern.

Decorating is easy with ironstone and there are many ways to use it. One of my favorite decorating ideas for a dinner party or event — or just everyday use – is to fill an ironstone pitcher with any kind of floral bouquet.  Or take a pedestal bowl or a tureen without the top and fill it with seashells or lemons or any other decoration. Your guests will take notice without a doubt!

We have a wonderful selection of ironstone at Grey Gardens Collections, including a perfect soup tureen with the ladle and cover. There is not a single chip anywhere and it is in pristine condition. Coffee pots and vegetable bowls are also become available, and I post them as I find them.

Ironstone goes with everything — and the best part is that you can use these different pieces very often. The displays you can make with ironstone will add to your style — just as you see these in photos – ironstone stands out from the ordinary china.

Ironstone Collection courtesy of Country Living Magazine