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    

Mid Century Modern Catherineholm 4 Enamel Lotus Bowls & Plate Set EamesCathrineholm Lotus Canister Set - 4 Piece - Orange - RareVintage Dansk Kobenstyle Pitcher And Pot W Lid Teal Blue Turquoise Enamel Ducks Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron 13" X 8" X 4" Red - Roasting Pan W/ Lid #25A 3pc. Lot Of Vintage Enamel Blk. & Wht. Bowls By Cathrineholm Of NorwayLe Creuset Red Enamel Cast Iron #40 Baking Dish Roasting PanCatherineholm Norway 2 Qt. & 3 Qt. Yellow & White Lotus Enamelware Saucepans McmCatherineholm Orange Lotus 7" Bowl & 5 1/2" Bowl - Lot Of 2 VintageVintage Mid-century Catherineholm Blue & White Lotus 7" Enamelware Bowl, Norway9 1/4 Cathrineholm Orange/white Lotus Enamel Bowl NorwayRare Catherine Holm Norway 9'' Omelette Pan/ Lotus / White/ Mustard / Exc CondCathrineholm Orange Lotus Enamel 13" Serving Dish Baking Pan Norway Mcm Vintage Cathrineholm Norway - Yellow Lotus Kettle Teapot - Beautiful ConditionCatherineholm Norway Enamel White On Yellow Lotus Bowl 8" Mid-century ModernCatherineholm Norway Enamel Yellow On White Lotus Bowl 7" Mid-century ModernCatherineholm Norway Yellow & White Lotus Lasagne Baking Pan W/ Wire StandVintage Enamelware Graniteware Green Swirl Ladel - 13" LongCathrineholm Norway Mid Century Orange White Striped Enamel Bowl 9 1/2" Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron 7" X 7" X 4.5" Red - Casserole Pan W/ LidCatherineholm 5-1/2" Cereal Salad Soup Enamelware Bowl Set (4) Yellow LotusLe Creuset French Round Dutch Oven #34 13.25 Quart Cast Blue EnamelwareVintage 1930 Blue Enamelware Child's Toy Dishes - 10 Pcs4 Pc.catherineholm Norway 3 Qt Casserole 10" Fry Pan & 5 Qt Dutch Oven McmCathrineholm Norway Mid Century Orange White Striped Enamel Bowl 11"Graphic Enamel Steel Bowl Wärtsilä Finel Finland Arabia Kaj Franck Ginko LeafMid-century Modern Finel Arabia Finland Beautiful Enamel Patterned Bowl NiceVintage Mid-century Catherineholm Blue & White Lotus 8" Enamelware Bowl, Norway2 Quart Catherineholm Norway Covered Casserole Yellow & White Lotus McmLe Creuset Blue Enamel Cast Iron 10 1/2" Saute Skillet Fry Frying Pan FranceLe Creuset Enameled Cast-iron 2-1/4-quart Saucier Pan - CherryArabia Of Finland Finel Enamel Red Hearts Bowl 8" Kaj Franck Mid Century ModernCatherineholm Norway Navy Blue Lotus Enamel Saute' Pan SkilletVintage English Enamel Bread Box Cream W/green Enamelware GranitewareGraphic Enamel Steel Bowl Wärtsilä Finel Finland Arabia Kaj Franck Disk RareKittelsen Cathrineholm Norway Lidded Enamel Baking Dish Green Lotus Retro ModernOld Vintage 1940s-1950s Monterrey Western Ware Enamel Frying Pan Skillet Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron 13.75" X 4.25" X 4" Red - Casserole Pan W/ Lid #3Enamel Pot & Dishes Set 27 Pieces_white And Red_ Vintage. Nice Cond_free Ship!!! Catherineholm Norway Covered Pot Lotus Line Pale Green & WhiteAntique "french, Enamelware Pitcher" Hand Painted Pansies, Look!Nice Vintage 8 Quart Dutch Oven Pot Dansk Kobenstyle Yellow With Trivet LidCatherineholm- Catherine Holm Norway Orange & White Lotus Pitcher- Coffee PotVintage Blue White Swirl Graniteware Enamelware Water Cream Pitcher Farm KitchenLe Creuset Orange Cast Iron Enamel Terrine Loaf Pan PotArabia Enamel Ultramarine Blue Bowl Bowl Kaj Franck Incised Flora Labeled UnusedLe Creuset Cast Iron White Enamel France 10.5" Skillet Frying Pan #26 & Lid #24Lot 3 Vintage Enamelware Rare 3-piece Soap Dish+cream Green Trim Cup/ Plate SetStunning C. 1900 Mt. Washington Art Glass Bride's Bowl W/ Yellow Enamel N/rVtg~cathrineholm Lotus Yellow And Green Enamelware Bowl 8" X 3 1/4"~ Lemon LimeAntique "french, Enamelware Pitcher" Hand Painted Flowers, Look!Gorgeous C. 1900 Green Theresienthal Enamel Punch Bowl W/ Applied DesignVintage Set Of 4 Catherineholm Norway 5.5" Lotus Enamel Bowls Brown EnamelwareFabulous Little Vintage Carlton Ware Pot Vase Enameled Mallard PatternNordic Ware Pro Cast Traditions Enameled Mini Cocotte Pan With Cover, Set Of 2, Catherineholm Norway Navy Blue Lotus Enamel Baking Dish & Lid CasseroleVintage Cathrineholm Enamelware Frying Pan Cooking Pot LotusVintage Dansk Jens Quistgaard Kobenstyle Yellow 7qt Dutch Oven Enamel Pot & LidCatherineholm Norway 3 Quart Yellow & White Lotus Covered Casserole Mcm 60'sCatherineholm Norway Navy Blue Lotus Enamel Pan & Lid Sauce LargeCatherineholm Norway Navy Blue Lotus Enamel Skillet & Lid Fry Pan