There’s more to this stamp than meets the eye.
Starting around 1960, French copper cookware began carrying “Made in France” stamped into the copper. From what I can gather, this was due to country-of-origin labeling requirements for the European Economic Community (the precursor to the EU) formed in 1957.
Some makers and stores had the word “France” already in their name or logo but others had to redesign their stamp or add a separate stamp to meet the labeling requirement. Sur La Table, for example, does not have the word France in its logo and so needed the additional origin marking on its imported copper. Mauviel, ramping up to mass production during this time, seems to have decided to stamp “Made in France” on everything, which may explain why pots stamped “Williams Sonoma France” sometimes have a separate, apparently superfluous, origin stamp.
Can these “Made in France” stamps be used to identify copper that is not stamped by its maker?
- Part 1 is a summary of my findings: the “Made in France” stamps I have observed, their key differentiating characteristics, and a few notes on usage.
- Part 2 is the evidence: photos of pans of known make with the corresponding Made in France stamp, and the same stamp on other unidentified pans that I think are by the same maker.
Part 1: Summary of findings
Part 2: The evidence
Reader Bryan P. has shared with me two examples of pots stamped for two New York cookware stores that are most likely late 19th to early 20th century. The pots themselves are almost certainly truly French in origin; it seems possible that the stores added the stamps to make clear that the copper was imported from France and therefore especially valuable.
The “Charles C. Ruegger” stamp dates the pot to sometime between 1874 and 1929 (after which he opened Bazar Français). The housewares store Lewis & Conger was founded in 1891 and seems to have operated into the 1950s (though I haven’t yet discovered its end date). Both of these date ranges suggest that the pots were stamped well before 1957.
I have two examples. The store stamps are different but the “Made in France” portion seems strikingly (no pun intended) similar. Note the curiously curled letter r in France — it is identical on each pot. My guess is the two stores were buying from the same importer.
Typographically, it’s most similar to the two-line “short M” version you will see below — the point of the M goes only halfway to the baseline. However, the letter C in this stamp is boxy-looking, while the “short M” version below has a rounded C.
Update: There may be a second one-line stamp without the boxy C — see below. So far I’ve seen it on a Havard-made piece.
So far the only maker stamp I’ve seen with this version of “Made in France” stamp is Gaillard. I believe this version of Gaillard stamp is late in the firm’s history, towards the end of its existence in the 1970s to early 1980s. But I don’t know if Gaillard still operated its factory by then. The latest confirmation I have of a Gaillard factory in Paris is 1956.
With store stamp
This stamp is pretty tiny so you may need to click into the photos and zoom in to see them. Note the boxy-looking letter C.
No maker or store stamp
These are all definitely the same stamp — note the same boxy C.
Update: I think there’s a second one-line stamp out there without the boxy C. I’ve seen it on the lid of a suspected Havard piece. I don’t have a the best quality photo of it, but here it is.
I’m going to keep an eye out for more examples.
There are two distinctive characteristics of this stamp:
- Clipping/curvature of M, N, F, and E as though they were forced into an oval outline
- Point of M descends ¾ to the baseline but does not quite touch
The key thing about this stamp is that it looks as though it has been squeezed into an oval shape. Once you know to look for this effect, this stamp becomes easy to spot. Note, however, that copper stamps are sometimes applied with uneven force that can make some letters look thinned out, so try not to mistake a careless lopsided stamp for the true Mauviel rounded stamp. When in doubt, look for the point of the M: on this stamp, it does not quite touch the baseline.
With maker stamp
I have only seen this stamp style accompanied by a Mauviel stamp. I believe these stamps were put on items for sale at the Mauviel factory store in Villedieu-les-Poêles. Note that there are two Mauviel stamp styles in this series — one with an oval cartouche, and one without.
With store stamp
This group of store stamps tells me a few things. First, the oval Crate and Barrel, Dehillerin, and Verbeelen store stamps look very similar to the oval Mauviel Villedieu stamp above; this leads me to wonder if the Mauviel factory had the store stamps made up in the same style as its own maker stamp at the time.
Second, the Sur La Table store stamp is the current Sur La Table logo, not the “SLT” monogram version that I suspect is older. This would date use of this stamp to later than the two-line short-M version you will see below.
Finally, I’ve noticed that the brass handles in use in this series all have rounded baseplates. Compare them to the spade-shaped baseplates in the rectangular version below. (Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, of course, as I will keep an eye out for other examples to disprove this.)
No maker or store stamp
This stamp is easy to confuse with the oval shape version, so here are the key things to look for.
- No exterior clipping of letters
- Point of the M touches the baseline
The challenge is that these stamps are often applied with unequal force, so one side of the stamp can be deeper than the other, or the outer edges can appear faint. A mis-applied stamp can make the vertical strokes of the M, N, and F fade away, which might make you think it’s the oval version above. When in doubt, look at the M: in this stamp, the center point of the M touches the baseline (“long M”), which is a key difference from the oval version.
With maker stamp
I happen to have several examples of this stamp with a maker stamp: all five of my daily-use 1980s-era Gaillard saucepans. I’m including all five of them to give you a good overview of variations in the appearance of the same stamp across multiple pans. Reader Stephen Whalen has also contributed a photo of this stamp on a Jacquotot pan with the 77 Rue Damesme address (its location sometime after WWII).
What’s slightly disconcerting to me, however, is that I found additional examples marked Villedieu. I thought Gaillard and Jacquotot were Parisian chaudronneries; how could the same stamp show up on copper marked for Villedieu? Did Gaillard and Jacquotot move production to Villedieu, at some point, or begin sourcing copper from Villedieu to be sold under their own brand, as the stores did? Or could this stamp have been in use by multiple factories?
With store stamp
I see some patterns in the manufacture of these pieces. Some of the brass-handled saucepans have a distinctive spade-shaped baseplate, while the shallow skillets use a rounded version. Perhaps this handle style is another characteristic of the factory that used this stamp.
No maker or store stamp
As above, I see more spade-shaped brass baseplates on the saucepans in this set, while the skillets have rounded baseplates.
Two-line, rectangular shape, short M
It can be tough to tell this one from the other two-line rectangular versions, so look closely for its distinctive characteristics:
- Rectangular with no exterior clipping/curvature of letters
- Point of the M descends ½ of the way to the baseline
You’re going to think I am completely crazy here, but I think there are two different sub-types of this stamp. They both have the same M but the character weight and width — I know, I know — are different. One version has thin font but with wide character width, and the other has a slightly thicker font but narrower characters.
Could this be the same stamp used with different degrees of force? I’ve been driving myself nuts over this. Before you decide, take a look at the examples below — I had them all grouped together for a while as examples of the same stamp, but the wide version just leaps out in photos. It almost looks engraved in some instances. There are too many examples for this stamp to have been an aberration and I’ve concluded that it is a different stamp from the other.
But why would two stamps exist that are almost exactly identical? The most plausible explanation I can think of is that one was an authorized duplicate of the other — one got lost or damaged and had to be replaced, or perhaps a second factory started work for the same customer and was given a duplicate stamp to use. The alternative is that it’s a deliberate copy, but I find it hard to imagine that the French makers would put up with that — there’s quite a lot of modèle deposée assertions and suchlike going on with the Villedieu makers, so I know they were paying attention to protecting their designs. A distant third possibility is counterfeiting but I don’t see quality differences between the sets of example pots. I would think that counterfeit pieces would have thin copper, rolled rims, lightweight handles, sloppy riveting, et cetera, which I do not see among the examples I’ve found — they all look legit French to me.
Take a look and let me know what you think in the comments.
Wide: With maker stamp
I have seen this wide version stamped for Atelier du Cuivre.
Wide: With store stamp
I’ve only found one example of this stamp alongside a store stamp, and it’s for Sur La Table. Note that this a monogram version of their logo and not the present-day “Sur La Table” script logo. This leads me to suspect that this stamp is earlier than that on the other Sur La Table stamped pieces shown above.
Wide: No maker or store stamp
Stylistically, these pots are all over the map. I’m not sure what ties them together other than the stamp.
Narrow: With maker stamp
I have only seen this version stamped by Mauviel. As above, I think this maker stamp was put on pieces that Mauviel sold from its factory store in Villedieu.
Narrow: No maker or store stamp
This is a fairly rare stamp. It’s easy to distinguish from the others, of course, given its typographical layout.
With maker stamp
The examples I have of this stamp are accompanied by stamps for Atelier du Cuivre and Lecellier. I believe Lecellier operated its own factory, and perhaps Atelier du Cuivre sourced copper from them for a period of time.
As is usually the case when I dig into an issue like this, I answer some questions while coming away with new ones. You can of course draw your own conclusions from what I present above as well as from your own experience, but I offer these ideas.
- I’m not sure what the one-line stamp signifies. The only attribution I’ve seen is to Gaillard. I know Gaillard maintained a factory in Paris at least until 1956, so they continued to make their own copper probably into the 1960s at least.
- The two-line oval-shaped stamp is pretty much a dead giveaway that the piece is Mauviel. This stamp is very distinctive once you know what to look for, so I am fairly confident in saying that whenever you see this stamp, it’s Mauviel.
- I’m not sure about the two-line “long M” stamp. My examples are stamped for Gaillard, but also generically for Villedieu. It may be that these were made by Mauviel (or Multiform, a machine shop in Villedieu), stamped, and then handed over for finishing.
- The two-line “short M” stamp, wide version, is likely Atelier du Cuivre, but there is a lot of variation across the pots and pans I see. It’s possible this stamp was used for other Villedieu makers as well.
- The two-line “short M” stamp, narrow version, is likely Mauviel.
- The three-line stamp is a Villedieu stamp. I suspect it was used by Lecellier, but I am looking for more information.
I welcome any information you can contribute — let me know in the comments or by email.