Originally introduced as a less expensive alternative to Chinese porcelain, ironstone became a desired ceramic medium in its own right throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Ironstone’s name does not come from the mineral, although at one point historians believed that the clay recipe contained iron. In actuality, ironstone is a vitrified earthenware and was so named after its durability and “iron” strength. Many English and American factories produced ironstone, and monikers for this ware abounded: English porcelain, new stone, opaque porcelain, semiporcelain, stone china, and white granite were all used to refer to different recipes for ironstone. The allusion to Chinese porcelain as well as iron strength is quite evident in these terms, reiterating the desired connection to both porcelain and durability.
William Turner of Longton, Staffordshire successfully manufactured the first ironstone wares in 1800. Upon his factory’s bankruptcy, Turner sold his patent for ironstone to Josiah Spode II, who beginning around 1813 began producing “Stone China” to great success. Around that same time, Charles James Mason obtained a patent to produce “English porcelain”.
Mason’s Patent Ironstone China was introduced in 1813. Mason’s ironstone proved immensely popular at its introduction, however the factory failed to keep up with the demand for new and innovative designs. In 1848, the company went bankrupt and the factory’s contents were sold at auction to Francis Morley. Ten years later, Morley formed a partnership with his son-in-law Taylor Ashworth. After Morley’s retirement in 1862, Ashworth continued the factory in partnership with his father, George.
G. L. Ashworth & Bros. retained Mason’s original printing plates and other equipment and continued to produce ironstone, which had become popular once again, well into the 20th century. This baluster vase features an adaptation of Mason’s circa 1840 ‘Pheasant’ pattern, redesigned by the Ashworth Co. in a bold new colorway.