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Making the most of metal work, the painted tinplate pieces of Toleware are a unique addition to the field of 18th and 19th century antiques. Taking their name in part from the French word "tôle," or "sheet metal," Toleware includes table service and household items crafted from decorated tinplate metal.

Toleware pieces were successful in part because of their combination of beauty and brawn. Crafted from metal, they could withstand wear and tear, but they were also elegantly decorated with painted motifs of fruits or flowers along with ornamental arabesques.

Adding to their elegance, some Toleware pieces were even finished with a black glaze, known as asphaltum, that allowed the piece to resemble a refined piece of lacquer ware. The versatility of the style, combined with its darling decorative motifs, made Toleware an elegant and effective addition to early American interiors.

Quick Facts

  • Toleware is also known as "japanned ware," in part because of its origins in East Asia
  • One of the most prominent producers of toleware pieces in North America at the turn of the century was Oliver Buckley, whose company was located in what is today Westbrook, Maine
  • Toleware pieces are considered such a brilliant example of American handiwork that they are featured in prominent museum collections including the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

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