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    

Vintage Catherineholm Pink & White Lotus Enamel 9.5 Inch Bowl Norway(4) Vtg Cathrine Holm Norway Yellow Enamel Cast Iron Lotus Pots W/ Lids RetroMid Century Modern Cathrineholm Norway Red/orange Pasta Pot RareStaub France Enameled Cast Iron Green 10.5” Grill Pan + PressCathrineholm Red & White Lotus Enamelware Bowl Norway VintageCathrineholm Black/white Zebra Stripe Enamel Bowl -9 ½" Mcm/danish Modern EraVintage Catherineholm Avocado Green Lotus Enamel Bowls 5-1/2" - Set Of (6)Mid Century Modern Catherineholm Green Trees Birds Over White Enamel Bowl EamesVtg Karl Lagerfeld Designer For Chanel French Server Enamel Runway Earrings Vintage Cathrineholm Light/dark Blue Kittelsen Lotus 8" Bowl Enamel Norway Mid Century Cathrineholm Blue Lotus Enamelware Ice BucketVintage Kaj Franck Arabia Finel Mcm Enamel 5 1/2' Mushroom Bowl Finland SetVintage Catherineholm Orange And White Large Lotus Enamel Bowl 11"Cathrineholm Norway 3 - 4" Lotus Dip Cups Enamel Green & White Teak Wood TrayCatherineholm Mid Century 9 1/2” Enamelware Bowl Lotus Pattern Norway Vintage 9" Tea/coffee Pot Cobalt Blue Enamelware Graniteware Hinged Lid Mid Century Modern Cathrineholm Norway Orange Lotus Enamel 10" Casserole PotVtg Catherineholm Norway Yellow Lotus Kittelsen Dsgn Enamel CasseroleMid-century Cathrineholm Norway Green Lotus Teapot For Display Or Planter Only Rare-18thc-qianlong-peking-enamel-wash-bowlAntique Enamelware Chinese Carousel Serving Dishes In Wooden Case 9pc Set3 Vintage Cathrineholm Norway 7.5" Mid Century Mod Gold Yellow Lotus PlatesLe Creuset 6 Quart Enameled Steel Stock Pot, FlameCatherineholm Mid Century Enamelware 10 1/4" Plate Lotus Pattern Norway  Vintage Graniteware Milk Cream Water Pitcher Light Blue EnamelwareAntique Enamelware Wall Fountain / Sink ~ Vintage Primitive Garden Decor 3705Cathrineholm Enamelware White & Green Lotus 10" Pot CasseroleCatherineholm Mid Century Enamelware 10 1/4" Plate Lotus Pattern Norway Mid Century Modern Cathrineholm Norway Yellow Lotus Enamel 6" Sauce PanAntique Enamelware Berry Bucket ~ Vintage Primitive Rustic Tuscan Farmhouse 3587Antique Champleve Enamel Ware Raised Relief Floral Vintage Brass Cigarette CaseMid Century Cathrineholm Blue Lotus Enamelware 8" Serving Bowl NorwayAntique Enamelware Hanging Water Pitcher / Wall Fountain Tuscan Farmhouse 35912 Cathrineholm 12" Lotus Plates Orange & GreenLe Creuset Grill Pan - Green Enamel Cast Iron Square # 26 France - Nice!!Antique Enamelware Berry Bucket ~ Vintage Primitive Rustic Tuscan Farmhouse 3601Vintage Graniteware Milk Cream Water Pitcher Light Blue EnamelwareRare Catherineholm Enamel Butterscotch & White Lotus 10.5" Covered CasseroleVintage Cathrineholm Turquoise Blue Lotus Dutch Oven Pot With Lid ExcellentCathrineholm Norway Aqua Blue On White Lotus 6" Sauce Pot With LidEstate Find Vintage Descoware Casserole Roaster Lot 22Le Creuset #16 Cast Iron Skillet Pan Orange Enamel ExcellentTechnique Bright Red Enamel 12" Covered CasseroleAntique Enamelware Milk Can W/ Lid ~ Primitive Vintage Farm Rustic Decor 3610Sunbeam Bread Porcelain Enamel Enamelware Storage Advertising Bread BoxCathrineholm Of Norway Lotus Large Casserole Enamel Dutch Oven CoveredVintage Green And Cream Enamelware Graniteware Colander W/handlesVintage French Enameled Allumettes Matches Box Classic Blue Circa Early 1900s 3 Monterrey Enamel Western Ware Chuck Wagon 8.5" Salad Soup Cereal Bowls PlatesLe Creuset #32 Flame Enameled Cast Iron Terrine Pate Loaf Bread Pan Norway Sterling And Enamel Vikiing Ship Salt Bowl And SpoonsCatherineholm Mid Century 4” Enamelware Bowl Lotus Pattern Norway Mint    Catherineholm Mid Century 4” Enamelware Bowl Lotus Pattern Norway Mint   Catherineholm Mid Century 4” Enamelware Bowl Lotus Pattern Norway Mint Antique Enamelware Milk Bucket W/ Lid ~ Vintage Primitive Farm Cow Decor 3594Large Vtg Berggren Swedish Enamelware Coffee Teapot Tea Kettle Country Folk ArtAntique Enamelware Milk Can W/ Lid ~ Primitive Vintage Farm Rustic Decor 3658Vintage Enamelware *witchs Brew*black Cats* Halloween Coffee Pot Hp By Peggy GVintage Arabia Mid Century Enamel 8.25" Mushroom Bowl FinlandMid Century Modern Cathrineholm Norway Yellow Lotus Enamel 8" Casserole Pot