My love affair with English ironstone started with these. This pattern is Johnson Brother's Heritage White and I registered for it when I got married almost 38 years ago.
I think it is as stylish today as it was then.
The term "ironstone" was coined back in the early 1800's by Charles Mason, an English potter. He patented a particular process for making durable, mass produced earthenware dishes. He dubbed it "ironstone" for it's strength. (It does not contain iron in the clay as some believe.) It is opaque as opposed to translucent like porcelain. The term became popular and was adopted by other pottery manufacturers.
I felt extremely lucky to find eight of these rimmed soup bowls recently while thrift shopping. I love the way they look mixed and matched together.
In fact, that is one of the great joys of white ironstone. The body (or clay) used is usually very similar from maker to maker so the pieces harmonize. These three pieces are all Johnson Brothers- Athena, Regency and Heritage.
There are countless serving pieces to fit every taste.
While ironstone is durable it is not unbreakable. A common problem in old pieces is crazing, or the appearance of tiny cracks in the surface.
To see if a piece is genuine ironstone look on the underside of the plates for the makers mark. There are too many manufacturers to mention but I like Meakin, Spode, Adams, Johnson Brother's, Mason's,
Wedgwood Queen's Ware, and those marked Staffordshire.
You can see how the mark on my plates have changed over three decades. The pieces are now dishwasher, freezer and microwave safe.
American companies got into the act and there are lovely sets made by Red Cliff, Pfaltzgraff, Buffalo and Homer Laughlin among others.
I can't resist an ironstone tureen or creamer!
Of course, not all ironstone is white, but that's another post!
I like to join these parties