These were so popular in the nineteenth century that the word 'stove' became synonymous with cast iron stoves. Although they are believed to be invented in America, their origin is actually traced back to the French era. They became highly popular due to several advantages of cast iron over other materials. They instantly replaced the more delicate and beautiful ceramic stoves.
Cast iron was the most favored material for making stoves before steel, which replaced it in the twentieth century. It is basically an iron with 3 to 4 percent carbon, and less than 6 percent silica. This mixture is cast in molds and subjected to heat treatment. The process converts the carbon into graphite and gives the cast iron its desirable properties. Stoves made using this material are strong and can handle very high temperatures without being affected.
The makers of these stoves were scattered all across western Europe. Each stove maker had his own style or pattern. However, the French manufacturer Jean-Baptiste André Godin was the most renowned of all of them. He was the first to recognize the potential of cast iron as a material for making stoves and fireplaces, and started mass producing them in foundries. Several others followed his example and soon they became a part of every house in Europe.
Since they were manufactured in foundries on a large-scale, they lacked the finesse one would associate with an antique item. On the other hand, the previous ceramic stoves were custom-made for palaces and mansions. They were great masterpieces with beautiful adornments and delicate structure. The ceramic ones had a great capacity to absorb and store heat, but the delicate material could not withstand high temperatures. They are considered as a rarity and fetch a very good value as an antique item.
However, the makers soon introduced fine designs and patterns in the cast iron stoves as well. Some skilled artistes started making designs as beautiful and intricate as that on the ceramic ones. Furthermore, some other materials like copper, brass, nickel, etc., were used for adornments on them. Copper and brass were used for making the knobs or the doors of the oven, while nickel was mostly used in plating the parts of this stove. By the end of the nineteenth century, the makers learned the technique of making colorful stoves. Many of them even took inspiration from the French enamel and started decorating these stoves with colorful enamel.
As the cast iron stoves and fireplaces were manufactured in the foundries, and that too on a large-scale, there is actually no scarcity of these items. Still, they are very much in demand from people who love to collect authentic antique items. They are easily available in the antique shops or on the websites dealing in antiques.