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. (Though this is hotly disputed!)
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.
Update: I think this stamp is Mauviel or another Villedieu maker. The “Gaillard Paris” and “E. DEHILLERIN PARIS” stamps of this era are store stamps, not maker’s marks; after WWII, these companies (along with Jacquotot) stopped making consumer-grade pots and pans to focus on the high-end restaurant market, and supplied Mauviel-made copper (or possibly other Villedieu makers) under their own name.
No 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. My hypothesis is that these Mauviel 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.
Update: I believe this stamp identifies Mauviel-made pieces. Even though it can appear alongside marks for Dehillerin, Jacquotot, or Gaillard, these companies had stopped making consumer-grade copper after WWII to focus on the restaurant and catering market. If a customer wanted smaller pots and pans, these companies turned to Mauviel (or perhaps another Villedieu maker) and stamped their name on it — just as if they were a store.
All five of my daily-use 1980s-era Gaillard saucepans carry this stamp. 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 after WWII).
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. I don’t know yet whether these differences signify different sources in Villedieu — Mauviel versus Havard versus Atelier du Cuivre versus Lecellier and so forth.
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
This stamp can appear quite different on different pans: on some the stamp is deep and the letters are substantial, while on others the stamp was applied with less force and the letters look thin, almost engraved rather than impressed. This puzzled me for quite some time until I realized something that should be obvious: I see the thin style on stainless-steel lined pans, and the thicker style on tinned pans. I think these are identical sister stamps but applied with different force according to the material of the pan wall.
Appearance on steel-lined pan
Appearance on tin-lined pan
I see this stamp on tin-lined and steel-lined pieces stamped for Mauviel and Atelier du Cuivre. My theory is that Atelier du Cuivre was buying unfinished pot bodies from Mauviel and finishing them with their own handles and stamp. Take a look and let me know what you think in the comments.
Steel-lined pans with store stamp
These two pans have store stamps: one for Sur La Table, and the other for Queen Anne Thriftway, a chain of grocery stores in the Seattle area of Washington state. (Queen Anne Thriftway changed its name to Metropolitan Market in 2003.) The older version of the Sur La Table insignia and the window of time for the “Queen Anne Thriftway” name suggest to me that these are 1990s to early 2000s.
Steel-lined pans with no maker or store stamp
If my theory is correct, these are steel-lined pans that were finished by Mauviel or Atelier du Cuivre but not given maker’s marks.
Tin-lined pans with maker stamp
These examples are stamped for Mauviel or Atelier du Cuivre.
Tin-lined pans with 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.
- The one-line stamp is almost certainly a Villedieu product, but I don’t know which one. It could be Mauviel or one of the other Villedieu makers.
- 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 is likely Mauviel or Atelier du Cuivre. The stamp can look different depending on whether it’s on a steel-lined or tin-lined piece. These pieces are likely identical in quality regardless of the maker’s mark.
- 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.