Sunday, August 27, 2017

Vintage Enamelware Bowls

I have a penchant for mixing bowls, all types of mixing bowls.  Bowls are a must in any home because they are practical and helpful with a number of tasks in the kitchen.  From holding items for your mise en place and mixing batters, to serving portions at the table and storing leftovers, a good set of mixing bowls will always be welcomed in the kitchen.


Vintage enamelware bowls have slowly started to make their way into my home, because I find them to be charming and a perfect fit with the other vintage kitchen items that I love to collect.  I first took notice of them while visiting flea markets eons ago, but I never really inspected such pieces up close.  They were "filed away" in my memory under a future maybe/maybe not.

To put it simply, it didn't take long for me to get the first set of vintage enamelware bowls into the kitchen before they started to multiply.  It was instant attraction. 


Enamelware began to be manufactured in this country in the late 1800s, and continued to be produced right up until the end of World War II.  What made enamelware such a sought-after kitchen must-have, was its durability, its practicality, its affordability, its light-weight properties, and its usefulness in homes throughout the country.  No longer was it necessary to deal with heavy, stoneware bowls and pans that could chip, crack or break, because enamelware was virtually indestructible.

Made from light steel and coated with a colored porcelain enamel, each piece was then baked at very high temperatures.  This created a very durable finish, that was smooth and shiny.  Enamelware became a staple in many kitchens for this simple reason.  Bowls, ladles, pots and pans, basins, pitchers, percolators, mugs, plates and a number of other kitchenalia, were manufactured for decades by several American companies, such as the St. Louis Stamping Company (this later moved to Granite City, Illinois; hence the name 'graniteware'), Vollrath, Lalance and Grosjean of New York (they made blue-colored agateware), and the Bellaire Stamping Company.  One might venture to say that enamelware could be found in just about every American kitchen at the turn of the twentieth century.

In terms of colors, white was the most popular.  White pieces were often given a contrasting color along the rims of the vessels, with blue, red and black being the predominant colors.  Graniteware, which was given a speckled finish, became another popular type of enamelware; these finishes were often found in blue, red, and gray.  Other colors that were made during this time include orange, green, brown, purple and pink.  Many pieces meant for cooking, such as pots, pans, roasters and molds, were given contrasting colors on the insides.

The manufacturing of enamelware took a break for about twenty years, before starting up again in the 1960s.  Manufacturers around the world have been producing beautiful, utilitarian pieces using these traditional methods for decades.  Among my favorite of these international brands is Kockums of Sweden.


Of late, before I even reach for one of my prized stoneware bowls off a shelf or for some of my jadeite bowls that are in my cupboards, I will grab an enamelware bowl.  I love not having to worry about being extremely gentle with these bowls when I'm preparing food or desserts. 


Since enamelware, especially the vintage variety, is prone to cracking or chipping, I make it a point to look for pieces that aren't too damaged.  A little bit of scratching on surfaces is normal, a chip here and there is not uncommon.  If the pieces are used for display purposes only, then chipping and rusting shouldn't present any type of dilemma.  If, however, you plan to use your pieces for food preparation, then I strongly suggest that you find those which have no chipping on the inside surfaces, where food items will sit.


Vintage enamelware isn't for everyone, I know, but if you do in fact want to start a collection, visit a flea market and see what catches your attention.



Enamelware's bygone style and appeal is something that makes them suitable for our old home.  I love how they look sitting in my colonial kitchen ready to be used for the next job.  Because my bowls are old pieces, I do treat them with great care so that I can enjoy them for many years.  The bowls don't get placed in the dishwasher and they are not scoured with stiff pads or sponges.  I like to hand wash each piece in warm, soapy water, using a natural sponge or a soft bristle brush.  Metal whisks, spoons and spatulas are not used for food preparation whenever I use my vintage enamelware.  Instead, I use silicone spatulas and wooden spoons.  

I hope I've sparked an interest in enamelware for you.  Utilitarian, charming, and undoubtedly useful, are just some of the virtues of enamelware from olden days.  Don't overlook it the next time you're out antiquing, because you may find yourself wanting to use it just as much as I do. 

2 comments:

  1. I've always loved the cream colored enamelware with the green band. Great post!

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    1. Aren't they great? Thank you, Kenn! :)

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