Monday, February 6, 2012
For my blog post number 99, here is an example of what I would describe as the “missing link” of ramekins. Probably some of the last of the handled ramekins coupled with the fluted exterior of the modern. These are allegedly made from what is known today as Ironstone, although this is usually just used to describe a tough product.
A lot of people have ramekins that were made in Japan. They began to arrive in Australia after the Trade Agreement between the two countries was signed on the 6th of July 1957. Australia thus became the first nation to trade with Japan after World War II. Because of the standard of living in the respective countries at the time, trade was mostly one way for manufactured goods. The signing of this agreement began a shift in Australia’s reliance on Great Britain, with Japan quickly becoming Australia’s most important trading partner. Initially, their ramekins were copies of existing Australian makers with a few decorative changes. This was common practice for the times as many Australian makers copied other designs anyway. Copyright compliance in Australia was viewed somewhat more flexibly than today. Many of the earlyJapanese copies were of Martin Boyd designs.
It is sometimes difficult to trace the makers in Japan as they would make up western names to add to their wares. Now, most marks have been washed off over the years. Others simply had the word “Japan” stamped on the base, or “Made in Japan” moulded into the base. These have neither but I believe them to be Japanese from the design and quality of manufacture.
Ironstone is a term that has often been misused, particularly in the late 1970s when these were made. Most ramekins that are called “Ironstone” is actually stoneware, which is earthenware that has been fired to melt the silicates in the clay to make the pottery water-tight. The term is used to make you think that what you have is tough and durable. So, to sum up, ironstone is highly vitrified earthenware that is known to be sturdy and chip resistant.
Genuine ironstone (sometimes mistaken for meteorites) is a type of stoneware that was made in England early in the 19th century by Staffordshire potters who wanted to develop a mass produced porcelain substitute. Ironstone dinnerware is thicker and heavier than porcelain and was marketed as being hard and durable as iron but contained remarkably little iron. Ironstone is actually a type of sedimentary rock that contains some iron compound from which iron can be extracted.
Technically the clay body of ironstone is dense earthenware containing china stone. China Stone is s a medium grained feldspar rich partially decomposed granite. Its mineral content includes quartz, feldspar and mica. Other minerals include kaolinite and fluorospar. It is found in one area of Cornwall and is the UK’s only indigenous source of feldspathic material currently being commercially extracted. Other names include Cornish or Cornwall stone.
Identifying genuine Ironstone should be easy. Genuine Ironstone should be quite heavy and feel thick and solid. Genuine Ironstone can also be indentified by the colour which should be solid. If the colour is uneven, it is likely not genuine.
It became popular in the early 19th century when some Staffordshire potteries experimented with making an inexpensive, porcelain-like dinnerware that could be mass-marketed. Though often referred to as "semi-porcelain," ironstone is refined earthenware and not true porcelain. Wedgewood manufactured a "stoneware" china in the 19th century, commonly used in their heavy-duty dinner services. It is still used as a component in some ceramics.