An ironstone relish dish is one of my favorite pieces of ironstone to repurpose. I think the reasons for the enjoyment are (1) the shapes are usually floral, which I love, and (2) the sizes are small and therefore easily placed on most surfaces in the home. If you are wondering what an ironstone relish dish is and how you can use it in your home décor, find the answer and four examples below.
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What is an Ironstone Relish Dish?
Simply put, an ironstone relish dish is a hardier-than-porcelain, white dish used to serve a relish.
A relish is a complementary food that enhances a primary or secondary dish. Think cranberry relish with your Thanksgiving turkey and cornbread dressing. Relish can be made of chopped fruits or vegetables that are usually cooked or pickled. The relish that most Americans are familiar with is the sweet or dill pickle relish that goes on hotdogs, and southerners might have Chow Chow come to mind. The ingredients inside of a relish usually produce a liquid that needs to be displayed properly when served. A relish dish will either have sides to contain the liquid or a shape that contains it.
In the case of an antique ironstone relish dish, the shape does not have raised perpendicular sides but instead looks similar to a cupped hand. Most are narrow, but they can be more round in their overall shape, and are usually about nine inches in length or diameter. Because ironstone relish dishes would have been part of a larger set, you will find them in most ironstone patterns. They are typically natural in design—flowers, leaves, or shells.
If a relish is not your go-to dish to serve to guests, these petite and unique dishes can be beautiful used as home décor.
(1) Ironstone Relish Dish as a Jewelry Catchall
Consider turning an ironstone relish dish into a jewelry catchall. I use mine in my bathroom on the vanity to catch any jewelry I might take off at the end of the day. My official jewelry box is kept elsewhere, so having this drop zone is strictly for ease. However, if you wore a minimal amount of jewelry, this vessel could hold several pieces. I like it on my vanity because I do not run the risk of an earring or such falling down the drain, and I can put the jewelry away at my convenience, with it looking like it belongs there anyways.
(2) A Unique Candle Holder
Instead of a plate or tray, consider using an ironstone relish dish under a candle. Its unusual shape under an item that typically calls for a more rounded dish will be quite the attention grabber, so I recommend putting it in a place where it will spark conversation with company. Mine is in our family room on a side table for just that reason. Guests always wonder what it is, and I enjoy giving them a little information on ironstone, my favorite item to collect.
(3) Ironstone Relish Dish as a Display Vessel
Speaking of collections, an ironstone relish dish is a perfect vessel to display tiny collections in. I use one to house a small button collection. Most people would put the buttons in a jar, but having open access to them allows you to enjoy your collection easier than going through a jar would. Other antique collections to consider for your ironstone relish dish display would be thimbles, pocket watches or pieces, skeleton keys, or anything that is miniature.
(4) A Wallet and Keys Holder
Not all ironstone relish dishes are narrow, some are larger and more rounded. The larger ones are great for holding chunkier items, like wallets and keys. Consider placing one in your entry or mudroom to drop off your keys, or empty your pockets, at the end of the day. This addition to our décor has been such a blessing as it prevents the number of “lost keys incidences.”
Related Posts, Pages, and Sources
- If you are looking for a curated collection of antiques, check out my Antique Shop Page.
- If you are looking for more inspiration for using antiques in your home, check out these posts:
Repurposed Ironstone Relish Dish
Obviously, this list is not exhaustive. These are just four examples of how I have repurposed ironstone relish dishes currently in my home. The possibilities are many. I hope you can find one of these repurposed uses helpful in your home decorating, or I hope one of the examples has sparked an idea for your particular needs. Ironstone truly is a beautiful antique to incorporate into your décor. If you are new to ironstone collecting or antiques, for that matter, an ironstone relish dish is a great place to start your collection.
If you are inspired to incorporate an ironstone relish dish into a repurposed way in your home, I would love to see your completed project. Be sure to tag me @inheritedadco in your photo.