When I first got into the business of buying and selling antique iron beds, over 30 years ago, I use to bring container loads of iron beds over from England. They were plentiful and cheap. Little did I know what headaches I had created for myself. Here is a short, but concise tutorial on why you should, at all costs, stay away from British and European beds made back in the 1800’s.
The main difference between the beds being made here and in Europe is the iron ore and tubing that was used. The steal that was being produced in the Pittsburgh refineries back in the 1800’s was far superior to that being turned out in Europe. It was of a much higher quality. Consequently the casting, which were made of solid cast iron were much better than the metal mixtures the British used. So over the last 150 to 200 years, castings on our beds are like the day they were poured. Whereas the castings on some of the European beds shatter, break and can’t even stand up to a baking oven when finishes are applied and baked. I’ve actually had beds melt in to a pool of metal alloys.Castings on our beds were always detailed with good clarity. British beds usually used casting that were used more to secure the interior rods together than to be decorative.
The tubing on our beds were always thick wall steel tubing of a strong high grade. British beds used thin wall tubing with metal that tends to split at the seems.
The British used a lot of brass to bolster the ornateness of their beds. Unfortunately, here again, they used very thin brass of a low quality. Over the years it splits and falls apart. At first glance their beds may appear quite pretty……but take a much closer look at the things I’ve mentioned and you’ll see the troubles you’ll be inheriting with a British or European mad iron bed from the 1800’s.
Nice to know American made iron beds were superior back then to our European counterparts. As those pieces have become antiques…….it’s even more apparent how our beds have stood the test of time, whereas the beds being made across the pond have started to disintegrate in their old age.
One good thing about British made beds…….if you have small children they’ll love them because the bed will remind your child of their rhythm band in school. Plus…….. they’ll always know when Mommy and Daddy are “playing” in bed…….so will the neighbors.
British antique iron beds should really come with the disclaimer: Buyer Beware………