Stoneware Crocks

Watch Dr. Lori reveal how to identify a $10,000 stoneware crock by its color, how to determine where it was made and if it’s hand-made.

Stoneware crock

by Dr. Lori Verderame

Imported from Europe until the end of the American Revolutionary War, stoneware is a heavy, durable ceramic. England and Germany were the main sources for stoneware in America until market competition and cost prompted American potters to produce stoneware at home. New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were the source for most stoneware of the early 1800s. New England and Ohio followed suit in the latter decades of the 1800s.

What is stoneware?

Stoneware DecorationBy definition, stoneware is a type of clay with a waterproof rating of less than 2%. Stoneware is basically a potpourri of other clays. Colors, density, and texture of stoneware vary greatly. Stoneware has a coarse texture and is often decorated with a brown or gray salt glaze with blue decorations. Salt glaze is the tell tale sign of a piece of antique stoneware and it is recognizable by the salty or pebbled surface on a stoneware crock. The use of salt glaze results in a rough texture on the surface of a stoneware crock. This surface helps you to identify the stoneware crock, its age, and origin. Watch me show you how to identify a stoneware crock worth $10,000.

Values of decorated crocks

Identifying the origin of antique stoneware crocks is also based on decorative elements added to a crock. For instance, flowers, birds, butterflies, animal figures, dragonflies, and organic designs are commonly added to the crock in a blue glaze that originated in central Pennsylvania. The cobalt blue colored glaze found on some stoneware crocks is sometimes referred to as Dauphin glaze for its origin in Dauphin County, PA near the state capital of Harrisburg, PA.

Various stylized imagery on stoneware crocks are indicative of makers, artisans, and potters and the designs often impact the value on the antiques market. For instance, mid 19th Century crocks can command $500 to $1000 at auction without a simple cobalt blue design on it. By contrast, a highly detailed cobalt image found on a stoneware crock can raise the value, depending on maker, of such a collectible well into the $10,000 to $25,000 range.

Stoneware crocks were used in the process of lacto-fermentation. Farmers and cooks alike would place prepared vegetables (like cucumbers or cabbage) in the stoneware crock and put a weighty lid on the mixture. Microbes like mold would be kept out and carbon dioxide would escape the crock over a period of a few weeks resulting in pickled veggies like pickles or sauerkraut.

Get an online appraisal of your stoneware crock from Dr. Lori.