Created by applying a porcelain or glasslike finish to steel items using a firing process, French enamelware was produced throughout Europe but is named for its popularity among households in France. Local garden shops and flea markets are good starting points for prospective collectors of these charming pitchers. Pat Camp, another collector with a history in the antiques business, built her collection with pitchers from shops in North Carolina and along the 127 Yard Sale, which stretches from Gadsden, Alabama, to Addison, Michigan.
However, to verify authenticity, age, and value, antiques shops and dealers are more reliable. “Collectors look for pieces that still hold water,” Lidy says. Even sturdy, true antique pitchers have the potential to crack or leak, but “there are plenty of collectors who don’t mind having to insert a little glass vase to hold water in pitchers that are no longer watertight.” Prices for antique pieces can vary from $130 to $500 each, depending on condition, color, and presence of hand-painted flowers.
Hand-painted or stenciled designs, like this delicate flower pattern, increase the value and aesthetic of enamelware pieces and can be a collector’s jackpot. They may be more difficult to find but are worth the search.
While this vintage-inspired label adds a charming touch, it is probably not original to the piece. “The hard work [this pitcher] did for almost a century would have made any label come off,” Lidy muses. More likely, she says, a storeowner added it to make the pitcher more attractive to buyers.