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    

Bowl Blue Enamel Mid Century Modern Kaj Franck / Finel Arabia Finland Tall NiceVintage Finel Arabia Metal Enamelware Bowl Kaj Franck Finland Catherine HolmVery Stylish Catherineholm Norway Dark Blue Enamel Lotus Coffee Pot - Retro L@@kVintage Mid Century Catherine Holm Norway Yellow Lotus Enamelware Bowl 9 1/2"Dansk Kobenstyle Mid-centry Enamel Pitcher Aqua/turquoise Denmark 4 Ducks Very Rare Antique Enamel French Coffee Pot Birds Flowers Butterfly 1880sCatherineholm Norway Blue Saturn 4" Bowls - Set Of 3 - Excellent!!!!!!!!!!Vintage Teal Dansk Kobenstyle Duck Enamelware Cooking Pot W Lid Classic DesignVtg Catherineholm Blue Lotus Leaf 5 1/2" Bowl Mid Century Modern Enamel WareVintage Catherineholm Striped Enamel Large Bowl Mid Century Blue Catherine HolmCathrineholm 9-1/2" Mid-century Enamelware Lotus Bowl, White/blueRed Enamel Train Steam Engine Tea Pot Wheels Turn When Water Begins To BoilCathrine Holm Mid-century Enamel Lotus Bowl- 11"Vtg Mid Century Modern Finel Arabia Enamel Sunflower Bowl Kaj FranckLe Creuset Dark Blue Enameled Cast Iron Skillet Pans 20 & 23 Lot Of 2Catherineholm Lotus 10” And 7 1/4" Plate Yellow Enamel Mid-century Modern Retro Vintage Le Crueset Red Enameled Cast Iron #26 Dutch Oven/stock Pot Lid FranceVtg French Enamel Graniteware Lt Aqua Green Gray Utensil Cup Rack Drip Tray Rare Mid Century Cathrineholm 4" Red & White Lotus Enamel BowlVtg Large Cathrineholm Orange & White Lotus Enamelware Dutch Oven W/ Lid-retroVintage Cathrineholm Lotus Enamel Ice Bucket Olive Green Made In Norway LabelSet/3 Cathrineholm Norway Mid-century Black Enamel & Stainless Steel Bowls 1950sHackman Finland Arabia Metal Enamel Bowl Hearts Beauty Orange-white Rare Mid Century Cathrineholm Orange Lotus Enamelware CanisterVintage Cathrineholm Pans With Lids.Cathrineholme Enamelware Teapot - Flame Orange Lotus -large 6 Cups Xlt W LabelVintage Cathrineholm Enamel Covered Pot W/ Handles ~ 1-1/2 Qts ~ Lotus ~ NorwaySimply Calphalon Black Enamel Nonstick 10" Covered Omelette PanBowl Red Enamel Mid Century Modern Kaj Franck / Finel Arabia Finland Tall NiceDansk Ihq Quistgaard Kobernstyle Khaki Tan Enamel 2 Qt Saucepan Pot Mcm FranceVintage Arabia Rosenlew Sarpaneva 3.5 Qt. Cast Iron Enamel Pot / Casserole 1960Mcm Cathrineholm Black Enamelware Lotus Bowl 5.5"Graniteware Enamelware Vintage Antique French Snow On Mountain Creamer Pitcher Vintage Cathrineholm Of Norway Enamelware 4” Yellow Lotus Bowl, Mid Century Lotus Enamelware Cathrineholm Norway Orig. Vintage Informative Merchant Booklet Lot Le Creuset Heart Shape 2l Qt & #14 & Pan Cast Iron Enamel Oven Casserole PotVtg Danish Modern Enamelware Orange Lotus BowlWonderful Vintage End Of Day Graniteware Enamelware Bowl! 3 Colors! Rare!!Vintage Mid Century Cathrineholm Enamel Blue & White Pot W/ Lid Made In Norway Vintage Catherine Holm Blue And White Striped Small Enamel Bowl/ McmCatherine Holm Yellow White Lotus Bowl Mid Century Modern Deka Plastic ElizabethVintage Le Creuset #18 Enamel Cast Iron Casserole Pan With Lid - Rare WhiteVintage Longwy French Enameled Majolica Pottery 4-1/2 In Bowl- Nice FloralLe Creuset Yellow Skillets 23 And 6Mac Kenzie -childs Courtly Check Large Enamelware CanisterVintage Cousances France No.16 Enamel Over Cast Iron Fry Pan Excellent Small Le Creuset Flame Red Enameled Cast Iron Grill Pan No. 20Vintage Blue Dru Teakettle Tea Kettle Royal Holland Dutch Cast Iron Enamel Le Creuset Au Gratin #28 Flame Enameled Cast Iron Oval Baking Pan-kitchenVtg Dansk Denmark Enamelware PitcherPrimitive Graniteware Enamelware Berry Bucket/pail 5 Vintage Ker Sweden Granite Enamel Ware Plates White & Blue TrimVintage Finel Kaj Franck Heart Enamel Pair Of Mugs/cups Super RareVintage Finel Kaj Franck Heart Enamel Pitcher Jug - Super RareSuperb French Enamel Coffee Pot.hand Painted & Complete With Filters & Inner LidLe Creuset White Enamel Enameled Cast Iron #30 Round Two Handles With LidColeman 14 Cup Enamelware Percolator Coffee Pots Tea Kitchen Camping Cook CampGray Graniteware Small 3-piece Biggin - Exc. Cond.Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Square Grill Griddle Skillet Fry Pan Bright YellowVintage White Enamelware Coffee Pot With Lid