A cast iron tea kettle is a must-have if you are a tea enthusiast. However, purchasing this tea kettle or any other cast iron cookware also means that you have a responsibility to take care of them so that they can last longer and serve you well.
On the other hand, an antique cast iron kettle is even more special. They have survived the Japanese culture for centuries and are highly valuable for preparing tea.
How did it all begin? Why are they so valuable now?
This article will go through some details like a brief history of the cast iron kettle and the current antique cast iron kettle value. Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
Brief History of the Antique Cast Iron Kettle
The antique cast iron kettle has its origins in Japan. The Japanese word for cast iron kettle is Tetsubin, which translates to “iron pot”.
Tetsubins are cast iron tea kettles in Japan with a top handle and a short spout for pouring water. They are used to boil water, and most of them are handmade.
Tetsubins usually have different patterns and details that make them unique. An example of such patterns is the arare. The arare is a bumpy pattern of dots all around the body of the tea kettle.
Other patterns include hada, a rough pattern with an irregular textured surface, and a symbolic motif, which could depict different figures, birds, shapes, or trees.
Nobody is evident on the exact origins of Tetsubin, but there are many guesses as to where it might have originated.
According to the Encyclopedia of The Way of Tea (Genshoku Chado Daijiten), a Japanese illustrated tea encyclopedia, the cast iron tea kettle originated from a water kettle called tedorigama. This kettle was already famous in the 16th century.
Another theory is that Tetsubin was created as the teapot for brewing sencha tea. Sencha was a Japanese loose leaf green tea that was popular in the second part of the 17th century. Tetsubin cast iron tea kettle became famous thanks to the popularity of sencha.
No matter the origins of cast iron tea kettles, what is important is how relevant it became to boil water in Japanese tea ceremonies. The cast iron tea kettle is preferred to the kama, a cylindrical kettle, because of its portable body and short spout, making it convenient for pouring hot water.
Before the cast iron tea kettle became popular in Japanese culture, other kettles were used to boil water for tea during ceremonies. Some of them were made with bamboo, wicker, or wooden handles. However, they were usually ceramic or porcelain.
The cast iron kettle took some inspiration from these kettles but grew to be more popular than them. This is due to a common belief that water boiled using a cast iron kettle tastes better than water boiled using porcelain, brass, or other materials.
Another essential antique cast iron kettle that originated in Japan is the Tetsu kyusu. While the tetsubin is mainly used to boil water, the Tetsu kyusu brew tea.
How the Cast Iron Tea Kettle Is Made
The people of the Tohoku region are known as the creators of cast iron tea kettles like the tetsubin and the tetsu kyusu. This is due to their ancient history, which has much to do with forging iron weapons for fighting.
Most of the iron casters settled in this region and have been there ever since, creating iron cookware, like the iron pot for cooking, the cast iron frying pan for frying, and the iron kettle for boiling water and brewing tea.
In the Iwate Prefecture of Tohoku, some of the best iron casters have made iron kettles for centuries. It takes many crafters more than two years to get the details right. This includes designing, molding, and casting many handmade cast iron kettles.
All cast iron kettle designs start with a detailed sketch. This sketch is done on paper to give an idea of the details the tea kettle should have when it is completed. This sketch also helps them design the mold where the iron pot would be cast.
The mold is a gap where the molten iron is poured and allowed to form. It is made of three parts. These three parts are joined together, and a small gap is left at the top to allow the iron to be poured in for the kettle to form.
The mold’s core is destroyed with each use, but the outer mold can be reused up to three times, depending on the type of tea kettle molded. Any use beyond this would lead to the degradation of the quality of the iron kettle.
Many iron crafters have said that over 70% of the work in making cast iron kettles is building the mold. This is because the mold provides the complete details of a cast iron kettle.
The mold is made of materials with excellent thermal conductivity and heat resistance. Examples of such materials are steel, copper, or type A graphite.
During the creation of the mold, the crafter creates the arare. The crafter does this by putting dots on the inside of the mold so that when the iron is poured, the dents in the mold make the arare form.
Most cast iron tea kettles have 2000 or more dots on their surface. It takes more than three hours to put dents on the mold for a single tea kettle. The more dots, the higher the antique cast iron kettle value.
The mold’s core is coated with charcoal to make it easy to separate from the iron kettle.
When Were Cast Iron Kettles Used?
Cast iron cookware was made in many English blast ovens in the 17th century. Then, in 1707, Abraham Darby developed the technique that made kettles thinner and cheaper than their rivals.
Initially, Darby made cookware with brass, but later, he transitioned into using cast iron. Although the cast iron pot originated from Japan, Darby and the English were the first to mass produce it on a large scale and make it popular in many places globally.
List of Valuable Antique Cast Iron kettles
Here’s a list of some of the most valuable antique cast iron kettles you can find today.
15. Early 20th Century Japanese Meiji Antique Cast Iron Kettle
The antique cast iron kettle was made in Japan and reserves many of its traditional looks. It has a fine enamel coating and can be used over your stove. However, due to its age, most people will find a better use for it as an item in their private collection.
The design on the surface is a traditional motif, with beautiful flowers adorning the sides. It also had a cast iron lid and a small spout to quickly pour hot water from within. This design is handmade and still created every year by iron casters of the Tohoku region.
You can get this cast iron kettle to buy on eBay for a little above one hundred dollars plus shipping.
14. Antique Tetsubin Japanese small 5-inch Cast Iron Teapot
Are you looking for a small, portable antique cast iron tea kettle? This antique Tetsubin 5-inch teapot might be a good option for you.
It was handmade in Japan in a cubic shape with a circular lid and enamel coating. This kettle is only 5 inches wide and can contain small amounts of cold water to boil at a particular time. The original lid has a small, decorative lid release also made of cast iron.
If you are okay with using it for tea, it could work well, but you can also take it as a collectable for your private collection.
You can find out more about this cast iron kettle and buy it on eBay for less than $100 with shipping. You can also check antique Japanese stores to get the best offer.
13. Antique Blue Porcupine-Decorated Cast Iron Tea Kettle
If you are obsessed with arares on your cast iron kettle, this antique blue porcupine-decorated kettle might be a great pick.
It has the original tetsubin design, with a short spout and arare dots all over its surface. It also has an original lid and a protruding lid release to easily open and fill the kettle with water.
Finally, you can use it to serve hot water or, if you wish, as a collectible item for your collection. Either way, it is worth every dollar.
You can get this cast iron kettle on eBay for about $200 with shipping, or you could try buying it at an auction for the best offer.
12. 18th Century American Antique Cast Iron Kettle
Bet you didn’t know that some antique kettles were made in America, right? This one was.
Even more impressive than the origin is the details. It is entirely black and has a smooth, round exterior. In addition, it has a small spout, round lid, and protruding lid release.
It is one of the few cast iron tea kettles in the big category, as it can hold about 450 ml of water. It weighs about 2.7 pounds, and it has a water filter inside.
As expected, some of them might have some wear and tear on the side due to their age, but they are still good enough for your tea cravings. You can find one to buy at an antique store or on eBay for less than a hundred bucks with shipping. eBay will probably give you the best offer.
11. Nanbu Nambu Tekki Tetsubin Iron Tea Kettle
The Nanbu Nambu Tekki cast iron tea kettle is beautiful, with hundreds of rare dots all over its surface and a firm cast iron handle. It was specially crafted and handmade in Japan using the cast iron molding process described earlier.
It is about 5 inches wide and 6 inches high, including the handle.
It has an enamel coating inside and can still safely boil water for tea and other human needs. However, some prefer to keep it as a unique item in their private collection.
You can get it for about $100 plus shipping on eBay.
10. Antique Old Rare Cast Iron Enamel Tea Kettle
If you want to get an old-looking antique cast iron tea kettle for your collection, then this antique, rare enamel tea kettle is for you. Iron crafters in Belgium made it in Belgium long ago, so most of the existing ones have been used many times.
That does not mean that they have lost any quality. On the contrary, the cast iron is still solid, and the enamel coating ensures that the cast iron doesn’t break down at high temperatures and react with your water, keeping your water pure and safe.
You can find this item on e-commerce sites like eBay. It costs a couple of hundred dollars with shipping.
9. Antique Japanese Cast Iron Kettle Teapot with Copper Lid
This antique cast iron kettle offers a better design than many available today. Its surface is octagonal, entirely made with pure cast iron from Japan. It also has a cast iron handle and a copper lid with a protruding lid release to open the kettle.
It is a rare teapot, so it may not be as easy to find, but some people have had some luck purchasing it on e-commerce websites like eBay for a few hundred dollars plus shipping.
Depending on the condition of the one you buy, you may decide to use it to boil water, save it for your collection or give it as a gift to a friend. No matter what you choose, this teapot is worth every dollar.
8. Tetsu Kyusu Nanbu Nambu Tekki Antique Cast Iron Tea Kettle
If you love circular tea kettles, this tetsu kyusu iron tea kettle might be for you. This design was first handmade in Japan and has survived many years after.
Its flat, circular bottom ensures it can sit comfortably on any stove or trivet and has a spout designed to make pouring water easy for the user. It also has beautiful flowery designs on the surface, so if you love those expressive motifs, this is a good option for you.
This tea kettle is not as rare as other antiques. You can find them for sale on websites like eBay.
7. Vintage Cast Iron Tea Kettle
This one is a steam tea kettle that you can easily use for brewing tea. Although it is not ideal for boiling water for other uses, you can use it this way. This steam kettle also falls in the category of cast iron cookware that you can use for cooking soups or broths.
Another beautiful thing about this steam kettle is the spiral handle design, although it might not allow for the best grip.
Due to the age of this antique cast iron steam kettle, it is advisable to keep it solely as a collectible item for your personal collection instead of using it to brew tea. But, of course, you can always check for relatively new ones with little or no rust.
You can find these steam kettles on eBay for less than a hundred dollars plus shipping. In addition, you can find full details of the kettle there.
6. Early 20th Century Japanese Taisho Metalwork
This is another handmade and beautiful kettle design with origins in Japan. It has a smooth surface and a cast iron lid with no protruding lid release to open with ease. The bail handle is also made of cast iron, and although it is thinner than most, can still do the job perfectly.
It also has a flat bottom that makes it easy to sit on any stove, trivet, or tripod base without issues. It also has a short but wide spout that you can pour water or tea from without any hassle.
With luck, you could get one from an antique shop, but you can also get them from eBay or other websites that sell antiques.
5. Early 20th Century Antique Cast Iron Kettle
This antique cast iron tea kettle was handmade and has its origins in Japan. However, Iron crafters developed this one in New England.
Most of them are old, and have a lot of rust, so it might not be a great idea to use them for brewing your tea. Instead, you can have it painted black to improve the look of the kettle.
Because of its high value as a rare vintage kettle, it is usually more expensive than others. You can find them in ancient Japanese vintage stores if you are lucky, but you’ll most likely find them for sale in an online shop that sells antiques.
It costs a couple of hundred dollars to get them for yourself. You can also get full details on those shops.
4. Large Antique Cast Iron Kettle Romany Gypsy
This one was handmade by the iron crafters in Japan and is a large version of many cast iron tea kettles. It is big enough to boil water for tea for many people at a tea party. At the same time, it is well-balanced and can safely stay on a stand with a tripod base.
It has a large bail handle and is enamel-coated, so it can survive an open fire without reacting with your water. You can get complete details on a site that sells antiques.
Shipping costs might affect the price of this iron kettle a little, but it is generally not more than a few hundred dollars on an online shop like eBay. You might also be lucky to get it at an antique Japanese store or an auction for Japanese antiques.
3. Antique Cast Iron Kettle with Gate Mark and Bird Spout
Many think ancient Japanese iron crafters didn’t know how to change designs. Of course, that’s wrong.
Most of the antique iron kettles on sale now have designs that could rival the best cookware. This antique cast iron kettle with gate mark and bird spout is a good example.
To get the best offer for this iron pot, check listings on eBay or an antique Japanese store near you. Check for full details and pictures to ensure you don’t get conned. Depending on your location, you might have to pay for shipping on eBay, but it’s probably the best offer you’ll get.
You can have it painted if the rust is too much.
2. Early 20th Century Japanese Showa Antique Cast Iron Kettles
This antique cast iron kettle has a bail handle made of wrought iron. It is a good conductor of heat, just like others in this category, and balances well on the cooking stove, tripod stand, or trivet thanks to its flat base with a wide diameter.
This iron kettle can be found in an antique shop or sold on an e-commerce site like eBay. You will find details of the iron kettle on the site.
You can have it painted or coated with silver if it has too much rust.
1. 19th Century Tibetan Antique Cast Iron Kettle
These ancient Tibetan antique cast iron kettles are heavy and worth a lot of money. They are heavy and robust but don’t do well with the heat from an open fire. You might be lucky to get this cast iron kettle if they are sold at an auction.
Some of these cast iron kettles are worth thousands of dollars.
What Is an Antique Cast Iron Kettle Value? Price Guide
If you are considering buying or selling a cast iron kettle, you need to know the price, so you don’t get cheated.
Whether you buy from an antique cast iron kettle shop in San Francisco or New England, or you order an iron pot from Japan, knowing the value of the cast iron cooking material is the easiest way to estimate the price.
Here are a few measures to follow to determine if your kettle is antique cast iron.
Check the Markings on the Cast Iron Kettle
If your cast iron kettle has antique markings like arare dots or motifs, it is usually worth more than others with smooth surfaces.
Check if It Has Rust
A cast iron kettle with rust is often older and therefore more valuable than ones without rust. But, of course, a cast iron pot or kettle with rust could have been caused by salt.
Check if the Cast Iron Kettle Is Enamel-Coated
An enamel-coated cast iron pot or kettle can withstand heat without reacting with the water.
Where You Can Buy and Sell Your Cast Iron Kettle
You can buy your cast iron kettle or other cast iron cookware (pot & pan) at an antique Japanese shop or an eCommerce online shop/site like Amazon or eBay.
An antique shop is good because you don’t have to pay for shipping. Also, you can check the full details of the cast iron kettle, like its diameter and ability to withstand heat, if it has large copper rivets holding the bail handle.
You can also find one at an auction where Japanese antique cooking materials are sold.
An online shop like eBay allows you to check the price of the cast iron kettle and other cast iron cooking materials so that you are mentally aware before buying it. You can also see the best offer for your kettle and other materials on their listings page.
To do this, you need a search keyword, like “antique cast iron kettle.” The search result will show you all cast iron cooking materials in that category. Enter the page of the one you want and see full details about it.
You will also see cast iron cooking materials related to your own. You can go through others in the shop and make a decision that suits you perfectly.
However, the best way to use an online shop is to sell your cast iron cooking materials. First, you must create an account on the site and add your cast iron teapot or kettle to the listings on their online shop. Then, add complete details, along with your shipping price.
Antique cast iron kettles are essential because of their rich Japanese history and because they can withstand heat and properly boil water.
Cast iron kettles are also very beautiful. Their intricate details make them good collectible items if you are into stuff like that.
You can get a good cast iron kettle and other cast iron cooking materials in several places like an antique shop or online. Likewise, you can sell antique cast iron materials in these places mentioned above.