Blue and white ironstone china was created by Miles Mason, who began making the dishes in 1780 in London and patented the idea in 1813. Once the patent expired, ironstone was made by a variety of manufacturers in the 19th century and early 20th century, including the Burleigh Company, which continues to manufacture white ironstone today. Ironstone is made out of semiporcelain and was commonly used for kitchen and household items, including chamber pots. Modern uses include kitchenware and dishes. There are a few ways to correctly identify blue and white ironstone items.
Hold the piece, if possible, and feel the weight of the item. Authentic ironstone is heavy and there will be some heft to the piece. It will feel solid and thick.
Examine white ironstone for a consistent bright white colour that almost has some blue hues to it. If the white colour appears thin or irregular, the item may not be an authentic ironstone piece.
Identify blue ironstone, which is referred to as “flow blue” ceramic. These items were created by decorating the surface of white ironstone pieces with blue patterns that appear to bleed, or “flow” into the white on the item. The original pattern may still be distinguishable, or the blue may be so blurred that it appears to be no pattern at all.
Turn the item over and look for a maker’s mark. Some common manufacturers of ironstone included Johnson Brothers, Alpine Ironstone and Burleigh. For assistance identifying the manufacturer’s mark, visit websites such as Replacements.com or Britnett-Carver.co.uk.
Look for blue and white ironstone china that has the words “Mason’s Patent Ironstone China” inside of a crown outline. These items are authentic, original ironstone pieces and are highly sought-after collector’s items.
Watch for items that have bright Oriental-style patterns or blue prints, as ironstone was not always sold as plain white china. To correctly identify the item as ironstone, turn the piece over and look for a maker’s mark from a company that manufactured ironstone or the word “ironstone” included in the maker’s signature.
Read reference books with detailed photographs and images about ironstone to help learn about blue and white ironstone. Examples include “White Ironstone: A Collector’s Guide” by Jean Wetherbee and “Mason’s Patent Ironstone China” by Geoffrey A. Godden.