The very first enamelware item that I ever purchased was from a brocante during my first visit to France in 1999. It was a small blue pot with tiny handles... and I bought it to use as a cat-bowl. Yes, I know. But it was charming and just the right size and I paid 5 euros for it -- (probably too much for a cat dish if you ask 'French-Guy').
Enamelware has been around for centuries. The earliest enameled objects were created as early as the 13th century as decorative art in Cyprus. By the 18th century enameling was done in Germany and Sweden for more utilitarian uses and by the mid 19th century the Industrial Revolution pushed the production of industrial vitreous enameling for household items and cookware throughout Europe.
Called 'esmail' in old French, 'email' is the word for enamel in French, and 'smalto' in Italian. Enamelware is made from fusing powdered glass to metal and iron through a firing process. Once fired the 'porcelain' melts and flows to a smooth hard durable surface when cooled.
Used for all types of household items in France; cookware, kitchenware, utensils, buckets, milk pails, storage containers, pitchers, even small lunch 'boxes' .... Enamelware pieces of all kinds are highly collectable. Glaze, hairline chips, and cracks are common in vintage and antique enamelware and adds to the sweet rustic charm.
Although found in many colors (red, blue, yellow, pale blue and pink and even green!) I tend to be obsessively attracted to WHITE! There is something so gorgeously classically French country about white vintage enamel!
I also love that vintage enamel is both decorative and functional; fabulously made, durable and made to stand the test of time!
Easiest to find here in France is probably the cream or milk pitchers, especially here in the Normandie countryside -- lots of farms, lots of cows..... lots of milk.
And perhaps the most highly 'valued' are any of the very old 19th century pieces -- if you can find 'sets' that are still in-tact (like a pitcher and bowl or a 6 piece canister set with lids).
Enamelware integrates well into all types of decor; cottage chic, rustic industrial, French farm ....
I can tell you that I am hooked! Gorgeous French enamelware! Can't wait to discover more!
A bientot mes amis!
~ Cat ~