I am sure I have done several other articles on vintage graniteware items, but I am seeing more and more of it online and brought it to my “What’s It Worth” Antiques Classes on Tuesday evenings lately. I thought it might be good to touch base on this subject area once again.
The definition for “graniteware” is enameled tin or iron used to make kitchen utensils since the 1870s. The fun part about graniteware is the fact that we see so many different colors and patterns through our travels online and/or when out shopping in antique stores or shops all over the Midwest and the East. However, these were such a very important mainstay through the late 1880s, that it can now even be found worldwide. In fact, many of our older pieces may have come from Europe with belongings of immigrants coming to the United States. These may have been given to families as wedding presents and/or hand-me-downs for starting their new lives in another country.
As far as sturdability goes, these enameled tin or iron pans or coffeepots, tea kettles, roasters, colanders, cooking utensils, etc., were very well made and will last a very long time. However, if one should be dropped or dinged on a cast iron stove, we may see chips where the lovely enamel has fallen off. They even made what we call “mendets” which were metal pieces we could pop into actual holes in the graniteware and keep a pot from leaking. We see many graniteware tea kettles with such mending additions such as these.
The attractiveness of the many swirls of color on these cooking vessels is the calling card, and there are many different variation of colors. We will see turquoise, cobalt blues, red, browns, greens (usually emerald greens), black and white, pinks, grays and even lavenders — which are very rare. I am sure I may be leaving out a few colors, but the swirling and/or spatters of colored enamel patterns are probably the next most sought reason for people collecting these wonderful specimens.
In my earlier years of buying and selling antiques or collectibles, I would purchase the latest price guides or identification books to help me identify and price what I had found. There were two volumes of the “Collectors’ Encyclopedia of Granite Ware” on the market by Helen Greguire at that time. And, I believe she updated those same volumes a few years back. Naturally, there were other reference books or subject matter where we could learn more about these unique pieces of homemaking utensils. But, the uniqueness of the many different styles and coloring — spattered, speckled, swirled, etc. — is the usual determining factor of setting a value on these great antiques and collectibles, depending on the age, of course.
As I have mentioned many times before in my articles, condition and coloring are probably the two most deciding factors in our enamel ware or graniteware finds today. Most are considered to be over a hundred years old and are definitely a true “antique” in most cases. But, we are seeing many reproductions of our graniteware online and at auctions, so please be aware. Weight, coloring, craftsmanship and design or pattern are probably the most important factors of determining the age as well as the values.
When you are shopping for another piece of graniteware to add to your collections, you may want to ask questions about the condition or why the price is a bit more than usual — but, I am sure you will be told how rare a certain swirl or color might be, and its a good reminder to watch for it at auctions or yard sales. We can still buy graniteware in the dark navy blue or black with white speckles roaster pans — I still use one for my roasting chickens or beef roasts. These pans allow the food to brown appropriately as well as cook rather quickly. Naturally, these pans are not as heavy as the much older pieces are — but they still do the job of making a beautiful meal.
Please keep your eyes open for all of the beautiful and unusual patterns and colors in our graniteware from yesteryear. It is always fun to find matching sets as well as unusually rare items as well.
As I have always mentioned before (many times), you never know what you might find at the next auction or antique shop. Make sure you visit our local shops as often as you can so we will be able to keep selling locally. Please remember the old saying: “The time to buy an antique is when you see it.” If you wait to go back to get it another day, someone else may have come along and grabbed it up and hauled it away to another town or even another state.