I was fortunate, recently, to meet two local gentlemen who had collected all sorts of enamelware and graniteware for many, many years. While they loved their collection and had happy memories associated with finding each piece, they were ready to divest themselves and de-clutter their apartment. I was more than willing to purchase their enamelware. I'm just beginning to unpack, photograph and offer it up for sale. There are some stellar pieces in the lot and I hope that they will bring people much joy.
Enamelware, the first mass-produced Technicolor kitchenware, first appeared in American dry-goods stores and mail-order catalogs in the 1870s, and continued to be produced through the 1930s. Items such as biscuit cutters, baking tins, and ladles were stamped from thin sheets of iron, steel, or aluminum, then coated with enamel, which was fused to the metal in a very hot oven.
Enamelware came in blue, red, purple, brown, green, and pink, plus gray and white. Patterns were as varied as the colors; besides the familiar swirls, mottles, speckles, shades, and solids, there were designs that looked like chicken wire, checkerboards, and pickle relish. Some pieces sported a festive jumble of colors collectors call "end of day," because it was made with a mix of leftover glazes. Enamelware was much lighter-weight than the average kitchenware, cleaned easily, and was less fragile than china, which added to its popularity.
Made by several manufacturers, enamelware was known by many names. Lalance and Grosjean coined Agate Iron Ware for one of its products; the St. Louis Stamping Co. marketed a line called Granite Iron Ware. Shortened to agateware and graniteware, these names caught on and came to be used interchangeably with generics such as porcelainware and speckleware. In fact, graniteware remains the name most widely used by collectors today.
Many pieces that survived home life at the turn of the century were lost to World War II scrap-metal drives, so the once-plentiful kitchenware is much harder to find now, and its rarity adds to the value. A muffin pan intended for use a century ago rarely arrives on the market in perfect condition today; it can be worth more than $1,500 if it also has a rare shape and color or the original label intact. Teapots and mixing bowls in near-mint condition are more common and might cost $30 or $300 each. Worn ladles, funnels, and pie tins can sell for a quite reasonable $5 to $10. Rare colors and patterns -- purple, red, cobalt-blue swirls -- are the priciest; solid and shaded pieces are much more affordable.
Enamelware was manufactured again in the United States during the 1960s, and is produced in various locations around the world today. A genuine antique may have its maker's name fired into the glaze on the bottom; some pieces have the date fired in as well. "You can tell the old pieces by the smoothness of the finish, riveted handles and spouts, and handles or knobs made out of wood instead of plastic," says Helen Greguire, author of "The Collector's Encyclopedia of Granite Ware" (two volumes, Collector Books).
Click here to read more and for tips on using and cleaning your enamelware.
Just a few more photos to share of Ladles (their collection included hundreds of cooking utensils) and Funnels