Over the years, stoves have been made in almost every shape and form and using many different materials. The earliest antique wood burning stoves were made of earthenware tiles, often beautifully decorated, which were built into the palaces of central Europe in the Middle Ages. Ceramic stoves continued to be made right into this century, usually with the firebox made of iron, from which the hot gases would then be ducted around the inside of the tiles. The great advantage of the ceramic stove was its ability to absorb and store heat, releasing it to the room over a long period of time. The early antique ceramic stoves are rare as they were often built in.
Once cast iron came along, it was recognized as the perfect material for antique stoves, as it is strong, has the ability to handle extremely high temperatures without damage, and is both a good conductor of heat and good at radiating that heat. What’s more, using skilled pattern makers, you could make a stove as beautiful and intricate as you wished. Almost all of our antique stoves are made of cast iron.
Other materials such as brass and copper came to be used for knobs, oven doors etc and nickel became popular for plating parts of the stove. By the end of the nineteenth century colour appeared with the fashion for enamelling cast iron stoves – many of our antique french stoves are enamelled.