All about handles

All about brass handles

Can you look at the shape of a brass loop handle and tell who made the pot? Maybe, but it’s tricky. 

In the world of French vintage copper, there were chaudronneries, the coppersmiths, but also the dinanderies, the metalworking shops that made decorative items out of brass and bronze and, notably, the brass handles that were riveted onto many copper pots and pans. But here’s the thing: not all chaudronneries were also dinanderies. A coppersmith may not have had the capability to custom-cast brass as well, in which case it would have bought handles from another coppersmith or from an independent brass-works. (Brass handles are interchangeable between pots and pans of the same diameter, which is why different copper manufacturers could use the same handles.)

Which styles did the different coppersmiths use? Could an un-stamped pot with the exact same handle as a stamped pot be assumed to be from the same maker? I’m going to try to figure that out by looking at my brass-handled pots.

Comparative criteria

After spending quite some time photographing and comparing handles, I’m seeing three main types of handle with different sub-types within them. Here is what I am seeing that is different.

  • Handgrip flare: Whether and how much the handle prongs curve as they widen to form the handgrip portion of the handle. I find this to be the primary differentiator between the three types of handle I’ve seen.
  • Baseplate curve: The degree to which the baseplate curves downward.
  • Baseplate point: How smooth or pronounced is the decorative point on the underside of the baseplate.
  • Rivet position and angle: Where the rivet holes are positioned and what direction they seem to point.

Type I: Slight handgrip flare

In this style, the prongs curve slightly as they extend out prior to turning towards each other to form the handgrip.

19th century, likely Dehillerin

The rivet angles are a little different, but everything else about the shape of these handles is identical, including the pronounced baseplate point and curvature.

19th-20th century, Dehillerin

This is an interesting case. The baseplates look identical, but the pots themselves appear to be of different eras. The pot on the left carries an early Dehillerin stamp, making it late 19th to early 20th century; the pot on the right is stamped for Chomette Favor, a kitchenware store, and could be Dehillerin or another make. Importantly, however, the pot on the right also carries the “MADE IN FRANCE” stamp that came into use in the 1960s. It’s possible Dehillerin kept brass handle stock for decades; it’s also possible the “MADE IN FRANCE” stamp was a later addition to the pot. I don’t know. This is hard.

20th century, possible Mauviel

The shape and aspect of the rivets and the design of the baseplate point look identical to me. The baseplate point and curvature continue to soften relative to the ones above.

Oddballs

I think the pan on the left is Mauviel make but the baseplate is thinner than the others I have.

The one on the right is Matfer with the chef’s hat stamp they used from the 1940s to 1967, and it may be a custom Matfer design. Unfortunately I don’t have any other known Matfer pot against which to compare it.

Type II: Wide handgrip flare

In this style, the projecting handle prongs have a more pronounced outward curve as they widen for the handgrip.

19th century, Duval and Dehillerin

The rivet spacing, rivet aspects, and baseplate points and curvature on all of these look virtually identical to me. Duval was a coppersmith that went out of business in 1896, but they must have been either supplying or sharing a supplier with Dehillerin during the same period of time because the known Dehillerin handle is identical.

20th century, Mauviel and possibly others

This style is very similar to the 19th century style but the baseplate peak and curvature are both softened and the rivets are spaced slightly further apart. Within these major differences, I see multiple groups that I think are the result of different designs or casting runs.

Group I

I see a “droop” on the right side of the baseplate. I’m not sure whether it’s the rivet positioning or the shape of that side of the baseplate, but it’s on both of these pans.

Group II

These do not have the right-side droop as group I and the central rivet is positioned slightly higher to my eye. (These are cast pieces, not drilled, so the rivet holes are fixed.)

Group III

This set has no droop and has evenly spaced and positioned rivets.

Type III: No handgrip flare

This is the third type, easy to recognize because there is no curve or flare to the projecting handle prongs. The prongs extend from the base plate in a straight line until they turn sharply to form the handgrip.

20th century, Mauviel

The first two I suspect are actually bronze, and they are identical to me. The third is brass and the baseplate looks slightly fatter to me, but it’s 10 cm wide while the other two are 8cm and would have necessitated a different mold.

Conclusions

This is a poor study indeed, limited as it is to the pans I happen to have on hand, but it still is interesting to me. Here’s a gallery with one of each type so you can see the differences I saw.

I’m not surprised to see 20th century Mauviel- and Dehillerin-stamped pieces with identical handles, as Dehillerin became a heavy distributor for Mauviel after World War II. In fact I’m willing to assume that any piece with a handle identical to a known Mauviel piece is likely also Mauviel, so common is that mark.

I encourage you to keep looking. What do you see? What other handle types are there?

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