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 Mid-century Catherineholm Norway White On Yellow Lotus Enamel Tea Kettle NrVintage Enamelware English 1930 Bread Bin Box EmbossedVintage Le Creuset Cast Iron Blue Enamel Dutch Oven Pot W Lid 4.5 Quart #24Vintage Le Creuset Cast Iron Blue Enamel Dutch Oven Pot W Lid 7.25 Quart #28Cathrineholm~ Vintage 2.5 Qt Lotus Leaf Orange & White Covered Casserole~ NorwayVintage Enamel Ware Job Lot! 4 Bowls Teapot & Oven Dish Retro 1940's Rustic ChicVery Fine Art Nouveau Bowl With Enamel19c Japanese Satsuma Porcelain Bowl Signed W/ Raised Enamel No Reserve1960's Cathrineholm Norway Yellow Lotus+white Frying Pan, RareVintage Kittelson Cathrineholm Norway Avocado Green Lotus Bowl~mintyEllamarie & Jackson Woolley Enamel On Copper Bowl 4419 Rare Hard To Find ArtVintage Le Creuset Aqua Blue Turquoise 9" Cast Iron Enamel Skillet Frying PanVintage Antique Enamelware 1930 English Flour Bin Canister EmbossedVintage Le Creuset "flame" Enamel Over Cast Iron 2 Quart Sauce Pan :excellentVintage Midcentury Modern Enamelware Coffee Beverage Dispenser Descoware?Excellent Hand Carved Cinnabar Bowl With Turquoise Enamel, China#28 Le Creuset Cast Iron 1 Quart Pate Terrine W/ Lid Flame Orange France Sterling Dish/bowl Norway Maker J. Tostrup Green Enamel Take A LookCatherineholm Lotus Enamel Bowl 11" Wide Turquoise And Dark Blue NrArabia Finland Vintage Modern Finel Kaj Franck 8" Enamel Bowl -red Hearts- LabelCatherineholm Lotus Enamel Bowl Yellow 5 1/2" Marked Catherineholm Of Norway NrVintage Enamelware Enamel Kitchen Percolator Coffee Pot Aqua Turquoise Vintage Mid Century Danish Modern Krenit Enamel Graduated Bowls Set Of 3 OrangeRare Vintage Large Arabia Finland Enamelware Enamel Bowl Retro Brown Leaves5.5 Inch - Mid Century Vtg Norway Cathrineholm Enamelware Lotus Yellow Bowl7 1/4 Inch - Mid Century Vtg Norway Cathrineholm Enamelware Lotus Yellow Bowl #14 Inch - Mid Century Vtg Norway Cathrineholm Enamelware Lotus Yellow Bowl #1Vintage Dansk Mid Century Kobenstyle Blue Teal Enamel 10" Frying Pan (pan #1)Blue Speckled Enamel Camping Dishes-plates Bowls Cups-setting For 4/coffeepot 9 1/2 Inch - Mid Century Vtg Norway Cathrineholm Enamelware Lotus Yellow Bowl24 Piece Lot Of Vintage Red Enamelware And Utensils, (platter Not Included)Vintage Le Creuset Cast Iron Blue Enamel Skillet Fry Pan Iron Handle # 23Le Creuset Cast Iron Enameled Blue Two-in-one Pan 2qt. #22Enameled Cast Iron 6 Qt. Round Casserole Dish Kitchen Martha Stewart BeStaub Cast Enamel 4 Quart Oval CocotteeVintage Dansk Kobenstyle Fondue Pot, Cobalt Blue Enamel With Teak HandleVintage Dansk Kobenstyle Mid Century Enamel Dutch Oven Stock Pot Mustard Color4 Vintage Monterrey Enamel Western Ware Plates Enamelware ChuckwagonCathrineholm Norway Mid-century Modern Fab Mod Lotus Enamel Bowl Nice Vintage French Enamel Coffee Pot 7 1/4 Inch - Mid Century Vtg Norway Cathrineholm Enamelware Lotus Yellow Bowl #23 Vintage Monterrey Enamel Western Ware Cups Enamelware Cowboy Hat Lasso RopeVintage Metal White Enamelware Pitcher Creamer With Flip LidCatherineholm Mid Century Enamel Lotus Omlet Fry Pan SkilletLe Creuset Cast Iron Marseille Blue Enamel Dutch Oven Pot W Lid 4.5 Quart #24Vintage French Enamelware Antique Pitcher And Basin Dansk Designs -enamel-cast Iron- Kobenstyle Lasagna/casserole Pan FranceColeman Special Edition "sunshine Of The Night" White Enamel Coffee Pot Nice!4 Inch - Mid Century Vtg Norway Cathrineholm Enamelware Lotus Yellow Bowl #2Vintage Monterrey Western Ware Creamer Pitcher Enamel Ware Cowboy Hat ChuckwagonNorwegian Norway Cathrineholm Grete Prytz Kittelsen Blue White Lotus Pot C1960sMartha Stewart Collection Collector's Enameled Cast Iron 6 Qt. Round CasseroleVintage Enamel Bowl Set Yellow And White Stripe Mid Century Collectable RareLe Creuset Cobalt Blue Cast Iron Enamelware 5 1/2 Qt Dutch Oven #26 Le Creuset Enamel 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet Fry Pan Double Spout BlueLe Creuset Blue Enamelware Oval Au Gratin Baker 28 8 1/4" X 11"Matisse "peter Pan" Bracelet & Earring Set Enamel Copper Nice L@@k!!Antique Vintage White Enamel Pot/pitcher With Black Trim Rare Size Vintage Dansk Kobenstyle Enamelware Small Butter Melter Sauce Pot WlidLot Mixed Dollhouse Miniature Accessories Lot Fireplace Enamel Pots Pans Teapot+