Vintage enamelware, also called enameled ware, became popular in the 19th century, when manufacturers of kitchen staples such as pots and pans coated everything from heavy cast iron to lighter steel with enamel. When fired, the enamel glazed, creating a non-porous surface that was easier to clean than exposed metal. White was a standard color on enamelware since that gave plates, mugs, ladles, and coffee pots a bright, sanitary appearance. The rims of lightweight steel enamelware were often trimmed in a solid band of red or blue, while enameled cast iron, designed for the stovetop and oven, was usually white on the inside but colored on the exterior, most classically in orange.

An important variation of lightweight enamelware was graniteware, which had a speckled surface (the effect is sometimes described as mottled, but mottled pieces are not considered true graniteware). Patented in 1848 by New York inventor Charles Stumer, graniteware—also known as agateware and speckleware—enjoyed a long run in the United States, filling kitchen shelves and cabinets from the 1870s until the end of World War II.

Among the many U.S. manufacturers of graniteware were the St. Louis Stamping Company, which marketed its products under the Granite Iron Ware brand, Lalance and Grosjean, whose Peerless Gray Ware was sold by Sears, Roebuck and Company, the Bellaire Stamping Company, and Vollrath. A parallel enamelware industry developed in Europe, particularly in Czechoslovakia, whose manufacturers tended to use bold colors like blue and white and simple patterns such as plaids and polka dots.

The advantages of enamelware were its low cost, light weight, smooth surface, and glossy finish. Unfortunately, enamel surfaces were also prone to cracking, which would expose the metal beneath, causing it to rust. This tendency was so widespread, a company called Mendets did a brisk business in the 1930s selling patch kits.

In general, enamelware can be dated by the heft of the piece. For example, an enamelware coffee pot from the beginning of the 20th century is noticeably heavier than one made after World War II. Sound can also be a clue. If you tap the bottom of a brightly colored enamelware mug with your fingernail and it sounds tinny, it was probably made in the 1970s.

The enameling of cast iron goes back as far as the enameling of steel, but the popularity of enameled cast iron did not take off until the early 1950s, when a French company from the 1920s, Le Creuset, began exporting its pots, pans, and casseroles to the United States. An orange color called Flame was Le Creuset’s first hue; yellow followed in 1956.

In the 1960s, a Belgium line called Descoware (called Bruxelles Ware when the company was founded in the 1940s) gained acclaim when Julia Child used the cookware on her TV show. In addition to orange and yellow, Descoware made pieces in Descorama patterns based on maple leaves, tulips, and ivy, while the Markley series had a classic ’60s-graphics look.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Feeding America

Feeding America

This archive of 76 influential American cookbooks from the late 1700s to early 1900s, assembled by the Michigan St… [read review or visit site]

Tupper Diva

Tupper Diva

Kristian McManus’ fresh, airtight collection of Tupperware catalogs and related ephemera from the 1950s and 6… [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vtg Black Enamel Le Creuset France French Skillet Frying Pan 12" Wide Cast IronVintage Cathrineholm Norway Orange On White Lotus Bowl Enamelware 9.5 X 4" Holm8 Vintage Cathrineholm Norway Olive Green Mustard Lotus Enamel Salad Bowls 5.5"Le Creuset France Green Enamel Cast Iron Non Stick Fry Pan Skillet 26 10" SpoutAntique Blue And White Swirl Enamel Ware Granite Ware Pot With LidVintage Arabia Finland Sugar Jar Canister Mushrooms Finel Kaj Franck Not EnamelLe Creuset France French Cast Iron Enamel Turkey Roaster Pan Unused No 43 LargeMid-century Modern Catherineholm Enamelware 9-1/2" Saturn Bowl Black & TurquoiseVintage Pair Of Mid-century Modern Arabia Finel Kaj Franck Enamelware Heart MugsVintage Cathrineholm Green And White Enamel Lotus Bowl~norway Green And White Chrysolite Chicago North Western Railroad Enamelware Cup Signed Mid-century Modern Red & White Stripe Catherineholm Enamelware 8" Bowl6 1/4" Kaj Franck Bowl Arabia Of Finland Red Hearts Finel Enamel McmFrench Mid-century Modern Dansk Bright Red Enamelware Fondue Set W/ StandMid-century Mod Mint Green & White Stripe Catherineholm Enamel 8-5/8" BowlCatherineholm Of Norway Lotus Black Salt Or Pepper Shaker Mid Century Modern Set/3 Mcm Cathrineholm White Enamel Bowls Ribbon Stripe Yellow Blue OrangeMid-century Modern Yellow & White Stripe Catherineholm Enamelware 4" BowlKaj Franck Arabia Of Finland Bowl Red Hearts 8" Finel Enamel McmMid-century Modern Catherineholm Enamelware 6-3/8" Yellow & Black Saturn Bowl Vintage Finel Arabia Large Cobalt Blue Bowl Enamel Great Condition Rare!Vintage Blue Enamel - Cathrineholm - Lotus Coffee Pot - NorwayMonterrey Western Ware, Vintage Enamel Camping Frying Pan, 10 1/2" DiameterLe Creuset Blue Cast Iron Enamel Double Spout Skillet~fry Pan #16Cathrineholm Le Creuset #18 White Cast Iron Enamel 2 Qt Round Dutch Oven Pot W/lidMid-century Mod Royal Blue & White Stripe Catherineholm Enamel 11" Mixing BowlLe Creuset 30 Braiser Flame Orange 3.5 Qt Cast Iron Enamelware France Signature Vintage Yellow Enamel Le Creuset France Frying Pan Skillet Lid 9.75"w Cast IronMid-century Modern Black & White Stripe Catherineholm Enamel 7-1/8" BowlLe Creuset #30 Braiser Covered Casserole Flame Orange Enamel Nice Condition NrVintage Finel Arabia Large Red Sunflower Bowl Enamel Mint Condition Rare Large 28.5" Porcelain Enamel Enamelware Baby Tub Basin Bath Farm EstateVintage Belgian 11" Descoware Yellow Enamelware Cast Iron Frying Pan W/coverMid-century Modern Orange & White Stripe Catherineholm Enamelware 5-1/2" BowlVintage Dansk Koben Style Blue 3qt Dutch Oven Pot~france Cast Iron Enamel W LidLe Creuset French 4.5 Quart Flame Orange Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven Pot #24Finel (arabia)~ 4 Qt Vintage "orange Daisy" Enamelware Pot ~ Kaj Franck FinlandFive Piece Set Of Antique White And Black Refrigerator Enamel Ware3 Vintage Blue Enamel Coffee Tea Pitchers 2 Cinsa & MoreCathrineholm 5-1/2inch Yellow And White Enamel Lotus Bowl Excellent ConditionCathrineholm Norway Enamel Bowls Eames Era Orange Draped Square White Kittelsen Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Bistro Grill Pan, 12-2/3-inch, Flame Green Cathrineholm Butter Sauce Warming Enamelware Pot White Lotus Design NorwayDansk Turquoise Enamel Ware PitcherVintage Mini Guilloche Purple Enamel Hand Mirror And Rouge Pot In Original BoxVintage~9.5"~cathrineholm~yellow/white~striped~enamel Bowl~estateVintage Mid Century Modern Catherineholm Blue White Stripe Enamel Serving BowlLe Creuset #22 White Cast Iron Enamel 3 1/2 Qt Round Dutch Oven Pot W/lidRare Vintage Mid Century Catherineholm Yellow Enamel Daisy RoasterScandinavian Design Enamelware Swedish Coffee Pot 8 Cup Berggren Rooster MotifVtg Descoware Flame Red Orange Enamel Ware 6 Qt Dutch Oven Cast Iron Stock PotVintage Enamelware Enamel Pitcher White With Black TrimVintage Finel Arabia Large Yellow Bowl Enamel Excellent Condition Rare!Vintage Mid Century Krenit Enamel Satin Black Mixing Bowl Denmark Eames EraVintage Original 1950's Monterrey Western Ware Enamel - Six Pc. Set - Nice!Rare & Lovely Antique Enamelware Lacy Cut-out Dish Bowl Blue Swirl Ca. 1900Vintage Enamelware Enamel Kitchen Milk Pitcher White With Black TrimTwelve (12) Monterrey Western Ware Chuck Wagon 10 1/4" Enamelware Plates EucFour Emalox Enamel Bowls Mid Century Scandinavian Design