This is going to be complicated.
Mauviel is perhaps the most prolific French copper cookware manufacturer of all, or at the very least the most prominent in the US market. And yet for the first 150 years of its existence, Mauviel was virtually anonymous — an artisanal workshop in Villedieu-les-Poêles, in the words of its current president, that transformed in the 1960s into the premier supplier of French copper cookware in Europe and the US but that didn’t stamp its own name on its copper until the beginning of the 21st century.
This post is lengthy and I’ve divided it into sections.
- 1850 to 1940: Artisanal Mauviel
- 1940 to 1962: The post-war period
- 1962 to 1985: Opening the U.S. market
- 1985 to 2000: Copper, tin, nickel, and steel
- 2000 to 2007: Yet more steel
- 2007 to 2011: Mauviel 1830 and the M’ series
- 2011 to present: The M’150/250 series
The last section, Design iterations, 2007 to present, is an omnibus section for stamps and handle changes from 2007 to the present day.
This took me a while to write because I kept heading down rabbit holes into different areas of research. This post will focus on stamps and photos of copper, but there are
three five spin-off posts that may also be of interest to you.
- The importance of being Ernest Mauviel is an exploration of the history of Mauviel and the family members who lead the firm over time.
- Cupretam, Cuprinox, and Cupronil covers Mauviel production from 1985 to 2007, a particularly confusing period with three product lines and multiple sub-variants.
- How to tell nickel from stainless may help you visually distinguish these two types of pots in photos.
- Counting rivets focuses on Mauviel’s process of redesigning handles from three to two rivets.
- The demise of Mauviel’s cast iron handles looks in depth at when and why they phased out cast iron.
1850-1940: Artisanal Mauviel
Yes, you read me correctly — I believe the “Mauviel 1830” we know today began not as “Mauviel” and not in 1830 but instead as Mauviel-Tétrel in 1850, and I discuss my reasons at length in my post on the elusive Ernest Mauviel. (End of rant.) In 1880, Mauviel-Tétrel was renamed Établissements Mauviel-Gautier Frères, a name it maintained until the 1940s. The company supplied restaurants and industry (and, incidentally, copper pots and pans for the Titanic that were recovered and are now on display at National Geographic). Notably, Mauviel-Gautier Frères manufactured pots for the Grands Magasins Du Louvre — beautiful pieces with custom handles, showcased in Mauviel’s Masterpieces: Copper at the Grands Magasins Du Louvre, Paris. They made these pans from about 1880 to the 1920s.
There are contemporaneous documents mentioning the company by name as late as 1939 but I have had very little luck finding records during World War II. In any event it appears that Mauviel-Gautier Frères was one of several small chaudronneries in Villedieu (among cohorts Eugène Lecellier, A. Lefèvre, and Villain-Havard Frères). I call this Mauviel’s artisanal period because that’s how Valérie Le-Guern Gilbert, Mauviel’s president, described it in an interview: “Until the 1960s, [Mauviel] was a rather artisanal workshop.” If it’s good enough for Valérie, it’s good enough for me.
Mauviel-Gautier products stamped as such from this period are hard to find. I have found one item that I think is from this era and quite possibly pre-1900. This old-style colander has hand-punched holes and a dovetailed basket — this is a very old piece.
1940 to 1962: The post-war period
The war was devastating for France, and Normandy suffered greatly. Villedieu-les-Poêles was spared catastrophic physical damage but the wartime demand for copper left sky-high prices for coppersmiths and buyers alike. Armand Mauviel had taken over the firm in 1940 and was left the unenviable task of rebuilding the company in this new post-war economy.
Stamped copper from this period is hard to find, but I found one pan that I suspect is from this era. The stamp says “Mauviel Villedieu” with the initials “A.M.” inside an oval cartouche, presumably for Armand Mauviel. (Also note the absence of the “Made in France” stamp that came into use in the 1970s or so.)
While copper was expensive and scarce, Armand Mauviel had the idea to convert the production lines from copper to aluminum, which was much less expensive and easier to source. These aluminum pans are dead ringers for Mauviel copper because they were made the same way. You can occasionally find these vintage aluminum pots and pans on eBay: they look like Mauviel copper but in black and white. I adore them. I own an aluminum stewpot stamped for Matfer for which I have an inexplicable attachment, and I’m fairly certain it was made by Mauviel.
1962-1985: Opening the U.S. market
According to Valérie, “Armand Mauviel, my grandfather, met our first American client in the 1960s.” That American client would have been Chuck Williams, whose visit to France in 1953 inspired him to open his first kitchenware store in Sonoma in 1956. In 1959, Williams returned to the Dehillerin store in Paris to source kitchenware and learned that the copper pots and pans came from Villedieu-les-Poeles, so he went to Villedieu and met Armand Mauviel. US interest in French cooking and cookware was a huge opportunity for Mauviel and Armand seized it. The two men forged a formidable retail partnership and Mauviel exported its first copper to Williams-Sonoma in 1962.
During that period of time, some 80% of Mauviel’s products were for restaurant supply and the remaining 20% for home cooks. The restaurant supply would have been direct sales or through the Dehillerin store in Paris; a substantial portion of that home market would have been exports to Williams-Sonoma, which sold exclusively to home cooks and high-end chefs, but there were several other US stores that imported Mauviel. I have an ongoing effort to catalog these stores and their custom store stamps so that you can recognize Mauviel work under another name.
Mauviel’s tin-lined copper pieces were available in two gammes (product lines).
- Sur table, “for the table,” was 1mm to 2mm thick in smooth finish. These pans were intended to carry already-cooked food from kitchen to table and provide a beautiful presentation.
- Extra-fort, “extra strong,” was 2mm to 3.5mm thick (or thicker) in hammered finish. These pans were intended for cooking use.
Note that there can be considerable variation in the thickness of extra-fort pans. (Even Mauviel’s current online retailers provide a range of thicknesses for pots in the same product line.) This can be frustrating for buyers, and if thickness matters to you, I encourage you to get a commitment from the seller so you can avoid disappointment.
Handles could be either brass or cast iron, depending on what the conventional wisdom decreed was best for the intended use of the pan. Brass heats up quickly with the copper body of the pan while cast iron is slower to heat up and can be more comfortable for bare hands. The broad loop handles on rondeaux, stockpots, stew pots, and other squat pieces were brass, as Mauviel presumes the cook would set the pot in place and not move it very frequently. But an extra-fort sauté pan, saucepan, or skillet would benefit from a long iron handle to stay cool as the cook grabbed it to stir, flip, or transfer food.
The exceptions were sur table pieces, which had brass handles. (The French word laiton means brass or bronze, and you will sometimes see Mauviel say these handles are “bronze” when they are actually brass.) These 2mm or thinner items were not intended for the stovetop at all, and so heat resistant handles were not a consideration.
Though the majority of Mauviel copper left the factory under another name, I did find examples of Mauviel stamps that I believe are from the 1960s to the 1980s. My guess is that these were sold at Villedieu at Mauviel’s factory store; the oval stamp looks earlier to me, as it recalls Mauviel’s earlier cartouche stamps, while the text-only stamp looks more modern in the all-text style of Mauviel’s store stamps of the 1980s to 2000s.
1985-2000: Copper, tin, nickel, and steel
Armand Mauviel retired in 1974 and passed control of the company to his son Gérard and his son-in-law Jean-Marie Le Guern. According to Valerie le Guern-Gilbert, “My father, Jean-Marie Le Guern, has developed a more industrial orientation and worked on international export.” Within a few years, Mauviel began expanding its product line beyond tinned copper and into new materials, and I mark this period as the beginning of the modern era for Mauviel.
Mauviel had always made tin-lined copper and by 1985 they had added nickel-lined copper as well. This necessitated new product names: “Cupretam” for the tinned copper and “Cupronil” for the nickeled. Cupretam continued in hammered extra-fort and smooth sur table lines. Cupronil pans were made for only about a decade and are more challenging to find (not least because many people fail to recognize them as nickel), but it appears that Mauviel produced Cupronil in sur table (2mm or less) and extra-fort grades up to 3.5mm (sometimes more), always in a smooth finish.
Jean-Marie Le Guern began working on a copper-steel bilaminate in 1989 and in 1995 released the Cuprinox line. (I cover these three lines in greater detail in their own post.) Cuprinox was available in the same two thickness grades: sur table was 1.6mm to 2mm thick with brass handles, while extra-fort was 2mm to 2.5mm thick with cast iron handles. Unlike tin- and nickel-lined copper, Cuprinox never exceeded 2.5mm in thickness.
During this period, Mauviel developed a more modern logo: the word Mauviel with an italicized e. This logo shows up on paper product inserts and stamped on pots. While Mauviel subsequently changed its logo in 2007 to “Mauviel 1830,” the italic-e copper stamp stayed in use for several years.
2000-2007: Yet more steel
Starting around the year 2000, Mauviel expanded the stainless-lined Cuprinox series from two to four lines.
- Extra-fort became simply Cuprinox, 2.5mm thick with cast iron handles
- Sur table became Cuprinox Sur table, 1.6mm thick with brass handles
- Cuprinox Gourmet was the first new line, 2mm thick with cast iron handles
- Cuprinox Style was the second new line, 2mm thick with a pouring lip and stainless steel or cast iron handles
Cuprinox Style is the most distinctive of these, with a pouring lip and the option for stainless steel handles. I’m very curious about this handle design. Was Mauviel re-using the casts for its iron handles, so that the steel handles looked exactly the same? Or were the handles a new design, perhaps borrowed from Mauviel’s stainless steel Induc’Inox line? If you have any of these lying around, please tell me what they look like.
2007-2011: Mauviel 1830 and the M’ series
Valérie Le Guern-Gilbert, daughter of Jean-Marie and granddaughter of Armand Mauviel, became president of Mauviel in 2006 and began a decade of design and merchandising changes across all the product lines.
First, Mauviel changed its brand name to Mauviel 1830, a deliberate move to evoke history. (You already know how I feel about the whole 1830 thing.) Then, Mauviel renamed all their product lines under a new M’ system of nomenclature.
- Tin-lined Cupretam became M’tradition.
- Stainless-lined Cuprinox became M’héritage.
- Specialty copper tools for patisserie and confectionary became M’passion.
- Tinned copper and aluminum barware became M’30.
Mauviel also revamped the stainless-steel Induc’Inox line and released several new lines of steel and aluminum cookware. (I don’t cover this stuff, but here are the names and types.)
- Stainless-steel Induc’Inox became M’cook and M’basic.
- The new M’stone line was made of black non-stick anodized aluminum.
- The new M’pure line was made of solid aluminum.
- The new M’steel line was made of carbon steel.
- The new M’plus line encompassed accessory products such as racks and stands.
This explosion in product offerings was accompanied by a major website overhaul. The prior Mauviel site was replaced in October 2007 with a placeholder site with sparse descriptions of the product lines and an apologetic “Site under construction” banner. It looks to me that the rebranding effort took over a year; the 2008 catalog — the first that Mauviel produced, to my knowledge — is a spartan affair that doesn’t mention any of the new products. Instead, it showcases surface finishes and handle types as shown below, with a smattering of evergreen tin-lined “specialty products” as eye candy.
In January 2009 the website redesign was complete and Mauviel’s French site (mauviel.com) relaunched with the new Mauviel 1830 branding. The U.S. site (mauvielusa.com) followed in December 2009, but the new product names took some time to percolate through to Mauviel’s U.S. retail partners. Pre-boxed sets of M’héritage copper pans showed up at Fante’s (www.fantes.com) in August 2009, but individual pots were still described without using the M’ names well into 2017. For its part, Williams-Sonoma ignored this terminology completely, as will be discussed below.
But the changes at Mauviel went deeper than just product names. Mauviel seems to have decided that home cooks weren’t much interested in tinned copper. While Mauviel continued to manufacture a full range of M’tradition tinned saucepans, sautés, rondeaux, and so forth, these products weren’t visible on Mauviel’s website or in its retail catalogue (with the one exception of the 2016 catalog). The tinned copper M’tradition line as advertised on the Mauviel website and catalogs offered only specialty items like daubières, large stockpots, bains maries, and so forth (again, with the single exception of the 2016 catalog). If you wanted to cook on tinned copper at home, you had to go through a retailer such as Williams-Sonoma or Dehillerin.
Mauviel’s retail focus seems to have been set squarely on streamlining and promoting its stainless-steel lined offerings. Cuprinox Gourmet (2mm with a straight edge and cast iron handles) was eliminated. The Cuprinox Style and Sur table lines were folded into the M’héritage designation and became options without distinct names:
- “Cast Iron Handles, Straight Edges, 2.5mm Thick Copper.” This is the original extra-fort Cuprinox, the top of the line stainless-steel series.
- “Cast Stainless Steel Handles, Non-drip Edges, 2mm Thick Copper.” This is the former Cuprinox Style with the pouring lip, but the option for cast iron handles has been removed.
- “Bronze Handles, Straight Edges, 1.2 to 2mm Thick Copper.” This is the former Cuprinox Sur table line.
From 2009 until 2011, Mauviel’s strategy to communicate the new M’héritage lines to the consumer (and retailer) was to keep it simple and focus on the handle material. The product lineup consisted of the three configurations of pan as shown below. If you wanted cast iron handles, it was going to be 2.5mm. If you wanted stainless steel handles, it was 2mm. If you wanted brass handles, it was 2mm or less.
2011 to present: M’héritage 150/250 series
In 2011, Mauviel expanded beyond the three M’héritage variants to offer more choices of handle and needed a better way to describe these options. They came up with a system of numbers and letters that would indicate a pan’s thickness and handle material.
The “M’héritage” name, or sometimes simply M’, would be followed by a number.
- 150 means the pot is 1.5mm thick.
- 250 means the pot is 2.5mm thick.
After the number is a letter.
- b indicates a brass handle.
- c indicates a cast iron handle.
- s indicates a polished stainless steel handle.
A “M’héritage 150b” or “M’150b” pan was 1.5mm thick with a brass handle, while a “M’héritage 250c” or “M’250c” was 2.5mm thick with a cast iron handle. (You may see some resellers forgo the M’ part and just call them 150b or 250c or whatever.) I think the numbers and letters make sense, but “heritage” and “tradition” have no obvious semantic mapping to stainless steel or tin and I find it hard to keep them straight. But what do I know? I’m just a person who buys a lot of copper cookware.
Williams-Sonoma seems to have paid only glancing attention to Mauviel’s evolving naming conventions. They never used M’héritage or M’tradition names on their website, preferring instead to use their own names as follows.
- Mauviel M365 was 1.5mm thick with polished stainless steel handles, equivalent to M’héritage 150s.
- “Mauviel copper” — an exclusive line — was “heavy gauge” 2mm with a pouring lip and brass handles, reminiscent of Cuprinox Style. There was no thickness equivalent in Mauviel’s M’150/250 series, so it looks like Williams-Sonoma worked with Mauviel to continue the 2mm thickness as an exclusive.
- Mauviel M’Pro or Professional was 2.5mm thick with cast iron handles, equivalent to M’héritage 250c.
On March 1, 2014, Williams-Sonoma abandoned the “M365” and “M’Pro” designations for the equivalent “M150s” and “M250c” terms, but still without the M’heritage moniker. But “Mauviel copper” — exclusively 2mm thick — stayed.
Dehillerin is a serious store for serious people. Dehillerin will assign the correct names and descriptions to kitchenware items. Mauviel copper pans that are lined with stainless steel are called Cuprinox. That was the way it was in 1995 and that is the way it is now.
Design iterations, 2007 to present
For the copper stamps, Mauviel has kept the same italic-e logo from the 2000s era with either “France” or “Made in France” as shown below. The stamp could be vertical or horizontal and I have yet to detect a significance in the orientation. Pans with stainless-steel handles already have “Mauviel 1830” embedded in the baseplate and seem only to have “Made in France” stamped on them.
Between 2014 and 2015, Mauviel began to migrate from the Mauviel italic-e stamp to the “MAUVIEL 1830 France” stamp. It’s difficult to see in the catalogs unless you spend as much time as I have peering at the pixellated photos, but it’s there.
Ironically, the clearest early photo evidence I have of this from Mauviel is from the back cover of the 2015 catalog. The photo shows a stack of pan bodies, presumably from the Mauviel workshop, that have been used as practice for the “MAUVIEL 1830 France” stamp. (The large single word “FRANCE” is used on the M’minis series, in case you’re wondering.) I also found some product listings from the current (April 2019) mauvielusa.com website where the “MAUVIEL 1830 France” stamp is clearly visible.
Rivet reductions, 2014-2015
I have a separate post with more detail on this because this is an issue worth discussing in depth and I’m trying to keep this post focused. But Mauviel has recently made a series of design changes to its handles that reduce the number of rivets. While this might not be a big deal for steel-lined pans with steel rivets, it may be a big deal for pans with copper rivets. Here’s what’s going on.
From 2014 to 2015, Mauviel updated its three-rivet “b” (brass) handles to two-rivet “b2” version. The new handles have “Mauviel 1830” imprinted on the baseplate.
From 2014 to 2015, Mauviel made additional unannounced changes to the design of its cast iron and brass handles to reduce them from three rivets to two. The overall shape of the baseplates does not seem to have changed significantly.
Cast iron handles to “electroplated cast iron finish,” 2015-present
This one is a doozy. From 2015 on, Mauviel stopped using cast iron handles. Instead, they took the same stainless steel handles in use for the 150s and other steel cookware lines and electroplated them with a matte black finish. This finish is referred to as “iron electroplated finish” and the handles are denoted c2. These handles are still making their way into the hands of consumers but early reports on Chowhound are that the “iron” finish can rub off.
This post has taken me three months to write and 100 revisions. It has spawned
three five spin-off posts. I really hope this is helpful information to you to help you figure out what you’re seeing online.
And as always, please help me make this more correct, for others like us who want to learn and make good buying decisions. Leave a comment or email me — thank you.
I pulled together all the Mauviel catalogues I could find. Here they are by year. The retail catalogs are what’s available for the home cook market; the food service catalogs are far more extensive, but many of the products can only be bought through commercial restaurant supply.
I’m indebted to a series of articles that filled in a lot of historical details on Mauviel.
- “On cuisine dans du Mauviel depuis 1830,” 03 October 2013.
- “La cuisine du monde mijote dans du Mauviel,” 19 January 2012.
- “Cuivre. La manufacture Mauviel, de la tradition à l’innovation,” 24 May 2017.
- “Dinanderie. A Villedieu-les-Poêles, Mauviel 1830 s’adapte et exporte,” 26 December 2016.
- “Mauviel ou l’art de travailler le cuivre culinaire,” 20 July 2015.
- “Qualité et sagacité, ingrédients de la longévité de Mauviel,” 01 February 2012.
- “Mauviel 1830: Z nadšení se rodí výjimečnost,” 08 October 2016.
- “Les boulettes marocaines de Valérie Le Guern Gilbert,” 30 January 2017.
I relied on the Internet Wayback Machine to look at archived websites for Mauviel, Williams-Sonoma, Fante’s, and other sites that I mention. This is how I got an idea of how Mauviel’s products were represented. This is not a perfect way to understand the history of this industry but it’s a start.
Well that didn’t take long. I think I figured out what the “mystery pan” is with the MAUVIEL 1830 France stamp and the strange handle: a new line called M’3S, triply copper/aluminum/stainless that was released in late 2018. I’m not 100% sure that it is, but a bunch of these pans have come onto eBay lately, and one seller says that’s what it is. So that explains the different handle style — it seems to be recycled from Mauviel M’360, a European line of all-stainless cookware circa 2012.
Here’s the mystery pan:
Also, I learned a little more about the timing of Chuck Williams’ visits to France in the 1950s, and corrected the dates accordingly.
In late May 2019 I amended the section on artisanal Mauviel to mention the series of pans they made for the Grands Magasins Du Louvre.