These two pans present an opportunity to compare 19th and 20th century construction side-by-side.
|Type||Two tin-lined rondeaux in hammered finish with brass handles|
fastened by three copper rivets
|French description||Deux rondeaux étamés et martelés avec poignées en laiton|
munies de trois rivets en cuivre
|Dimensions||36cm diameter by 14cm tall|
(14.2 inches by 5.5 inches)
|36cm diameter by 13.5cm tall|
(14.2 inches by 5.3 inches)
|Thickness||3.0mm at rim||3.0mm at rim|
|Weight||8880g (19.6 lbs)||7712g (17 lbs)|
|Stampings||“BAI” ; “BAILEYS HOTEL”||“Omnium Hôtelier Grenoble”|
|Maker and age estimate||Unknown;|
|Unknown, possibly Mauviel;|
These two pans look almost identical. They have the same diameter — 36 centimeters, a hair over 14 inches — and differ in height by just a half centimeter. They are each 3mm thick, made for restaurant use. And while they each bear marks of use from service to their prior owners, they’re in the same beautiful fresh condition — they’ve been restored by Erik Undiks at Rocky Mountain Retinning with cleaning, retinning, and a thorough but gentle polish.
But even with this expert restoration, you can still see the signs: these pans are from different centuries and could be as much as a hundred years apart in age.
The older of the two pans is stamped “BAILEYS HOTEL” and “BAI.”
The Bailey’s Hotel
There are a few hotels by this name around the world but the seller says this pan is from The Bailey’s Hotel in London and I am inclined to agree. This hotel was founded in 1876 in the Kensington area and has operated more or less continuously since then, weathering two World Wars and the fluctuating financial fortunes of a series of owners. It is now operated by the Millennium group as a boutique hotel.
This pan is certainly French and not English. It does not surprise me that James Bailey, founder of the hotel, would have gone to France for the copper for his restaurant. The 1880s were the beginning of the “golden age” in French copper cookware and this pan could have come from one of the several chaudronniers in Villedieu-les-Poêles or Paris.
The younger pan is stamped “OMNIUM HOTELIER GRENOBLE.”
Omnium Hôtelier Grenoble
I believe this stamp is from a branch of a restaurant supply company that started in Paris around 1926 and expanded to the Grenoble location in 1958. The company seems to have been a distributor of European-made products, in particular porcelain made by Bauscher Weiden in Bavaria, Germany. On the right is an example of the stamp from a plate made by Bauscher Weiden for Il Novecento in Monte Carlo, Monaco, with the notation Distribuée par OMNIUM HÔTELIER Paris-Grenoble. Sometime in the 1980s, the company was converted from restaurant supply wholesaler to a hotel operator, and in the present day is associated with a hotel in Nice.
This information doesn’t help me identify the maker of my rondeau, but it does give me a date range: 1958 to the 1980s. The most likely candidate would be Mauviel, but it could also be Gaillard.
The most significant difference between the two pans is their construction: the Bailey pan is dovetailed, while the Omnium pan was pressed.
It’s this dovetailing that is the strongest indicator that the Bailey pan is from the early years of the hotel’s history — the 1870s to the 1890s. For centuries, dovetailing was the only technique to assemble large pots from separate sheets of copper by slicing and hammering the edges together, sealed with brass. This pan is made from two pieces — a round base and a long narrow sheet to form the sidewalls. (Look closely at the photo below of the base, and you’ll also see the dot left by the point of the compass used to mark the size of the piece.)
But aging dovetails are potential points of structural failure. This pan is showing some separation of the leaves of the dovetails as well as some pitting in the brazing. Erik Undiks layered some additional tin over the problem areas and the pan is watertight, but these infirmities make the pan a bit fragile.
With the advent of steam-powered machinery in the later 19th century, metal presses gained sufficient force to deform a flat sheet into a pot shape. The Omnium pot was most likely made between 1958 and the 1980s with a powerful hydraulic press that had no difficulty with a sheet of copper 3mm thick. The resulting pot is seamless, a definite improvement in structural integrity over an antique pan.
When I measured these pans, I was astonished to find that the Bailey pan weighs a full two and a half pounds more than the Omnium pan. They are both 36cm in diameter and 3mm at the rim; the Bailey pan is half a centimeter taller than the Omnium pan, but I find it hard to believe that slim difference could account for that much disparity in weight.
At first I thought the Bailey pan must have a thicker base, as is sometimes the case with hand-assembled pans. I don’t have a clever way of measuring the thickness of the base of a pan — I imagine there might be calipers large enough to fit around high sidewalls, but I don’t have one. I use rulers, measuring the height from tabletop to the rim of the pan, and then taking additional measurements from various places around the base. The difference between the outside measurement and the inside measurements indicates the thickness of the copper in the base. But when I measured this pan and corrected for a slight concavity in the base, I found the base of the Bailey pan was still right around 3mm.
My best guess at this moment is that the weight difference comes from the sizes of the brass handles. The Bailey pan’s handles are quite a bit larger than the handles on the Omnium pan. You can see this difference most clearly from the top.
The Bailey handles are massive pieces of brass with large rivets that have been flattened by hand-hammering. The Omnium handles are smaller, with much smaller rivets rounded by machine finishing.
The interior rivets show the same differences. The Bailey pan has wide rivets, flattened flush to the surface. The Omnium pan has machine-made rivets with their distinctive “mushroom cap” heads. These rounded rivets were clamped in place and compressed, but not flattened by hammering.
But what they have in common, to my eye, is that they’re beautiful.
The Bailey pan is the more weathered of the two, marked by tiny scars. Its hammered finish has been softened by polishings over its lifetime.
Its brass handles are pocked. I think this is a flaw in the casting; none of the pockmarks is very deep and they don’t seem to threaten the integrity of the handle. It adds some character, in my opinion.
By contrast, the Omnium pan’s hammering is still clear, even across its base. This hammering is not simply decorative but serves also to harden the copper and help it resist dents.
When you are considering buying vintage or antique copper, keep these differences in mind. Dovetailing is evidence of hand-craftsmanship, and to me it adds to the beauty and value of a pan. But it also creates the potential for frailty as the pan ages and the seams weaken. Newer pans that were machine-pressed were made in far greater numbers and have less of a hand-crafted feel but their single-piece construction cannot fail in the same way.
My advice? Educate yourself, look closely at photos, ask questions, and buy with confidence.