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Monday, October 10, 2016

Ornamin Melmac Melamine History

Ornamin Melmac from Etsy
Vintage Creekside on Etsy has this lovely modern set that looks frozen in time for $35

Ornamin Melamine and Melmac Dinnerware

Ornamin, is it a fantastic melamine proprietary blend or a German trade name for Melmac?  I have traced vintage backstamps which may indicate production in the UK, Canada, Belgium, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland and even Arabic country Jordan, just to name a few with exports to other countries like India. Granted, take into account my "Shared Production Theory " below.  When speaking of "vintage" Ornamin or Ornamin Ware, I assume this to be a trade name just like Cyanamid's "Melmac", wherein only the manufacturers who paid for the licensing could mark their dishes or pieces with the official stamp. Early pieces may be marked "Ornamin Ware" or just "Ornamin ®" .   German Wikipedia indicates that Ornamin is a process used in production of pressed parts out of thermoset resin (and goes further to indicate the molded dishes/dinnerware.) The bombshell indicates "It was developed in 1953." Additionally, the internet shows a current factory in Germany producing Ornamin.  Translating their site, I was able to read about how they currently in 2016 make moulded picnic ware and camping dinnerware .

Ornamin Melmac made in Switzerland
Vintage Creekside's photo shows the original Made in Switzerland ink stamp!

Switzerland's Ornamin

Pieces have been found "Design Sleny" and ink stamped "Made in Switzerland" with thanks to Vintage Creekside who found a pretty much untouched set with the original ink stamp we can see the Swiss were producing it in one of their plastics factories.

Cross Creek Pokeweed brings us this Belgium Example of Ornamin 

Belgium Ornamin

Meanwhile six hours from Switzerland in Belgium, the COGEBI company was also producing Ornamin, circa 1958,  the most common designs seem to be these using Ornamin to produce promotional items such as ashtrays or souvenir trays.

Ornamin from Belgium
Backstamps show COGEBI, a Belgium Company made this, buy it here.

Thanks to Cross Creek Pokeweed, who took a great picture of the backstamp and did research on the plate, tracking it to the Compagne Generale Belge Des Isolants (Obviously a Belgium Company) we can trace the backstamp to the Belgium Manufacturer possibly making these in 1957 or early 1958 in time for the exposition!

Swedish Ornamin Backstamp
ScandiLicious Etsy shop found this proof of Swedish Production!

Swedish Ornamin 

In the same region as the above, Ornamin was being used to produce wares. In this case, Stif Lindberg produced this design for Gustavsberg circa 1960's-1970's. We can assume Stig was the designer who came up with this beautiful blue mod design and Gustavsberg was the provider of the dinnerware. The US equivalent would be Kaye Lamoyne (designer) producing for Branchell dinnerware company. So you see it is wonderful that ScandiLicious Etsy shop above was a great treasure hunter in finding something with not only a great backstamp but an original paper label to give us more clues to old production!

Ornamin Tray from Sweden
Ornamin tray from Sweden from Etsy Shop ScandiLicious

Shared Production Theory

Now, there is some speculation that Switzerland, Belgium and Sweden could have shared one manufacturer of the plastics, who marked different backstamps. This was not at all an impossibility especially since the regions were so close. In the USA it was not uncommon for a major plastics factory to take on production of several lines, using the company's proprietary backstamps. In other words, if a company in Brussels or even Great Britain was producing all the melamine for that region, they could have molded the dinnerware to specifications and changed out the backstamps considering each a specialized job.   I have deduced this due to a small rectangular character I see on some of the Great Britain pieces, which is illustrated below ***

Backstamp*** from ThingsNeedaHome for a great Ornamin Piece they are selling.

***Note the rectangular character between the words Great Britain.  I have seen this on some of the Australian pieces.   Could this be a shared production example? Was UK making the entire European's share of Ornamin?

Great Britain  & United Kingdom Production 

Great Britain Ashtray Ornamin
Queen Elizabeth Coin Tray or Ashtray Ornamin from Thingsneedahome

The triangular coin tray or ash tray mold seems to be very popular , and the ones I see most often. It was not uncommon for companies to use such things for promotional items.  The one above is clearly marked Great Britain for production, and below England depending on the Era of when the country was referred to as what...

Ornamin Trays
Ornamin Trays from England, find them at The Copper House on Etsy

Ornamin Melmac
Ornamin Clearly Shows English Backstamp for these Trays Pic:

The designs below are traced to Austrailia but production is questionable if Aussie or UK.

Ornamin Plate Melmac
Lovely Ornamin BBQ Plate from Australia for sale at 20thCenturyStuff


Ornamin was sold widely in Australia and the mid century modern designs may indicate the 50-60's.  I believe it was produced there as well, as there were some major Aussie companies producing plastics it would have been less expensive than importing it from UK yet some of the backstamps may indicate Great Britain's production and exporting to Australia depending on the design.

Ornamin Cocktail Tray from Etsy
Ornamin Cocktail Tray from Aussie Etsy shop Tickle and Finch

Canadian Ornamin

I have proof of course that Canada was producing their own Ornamin. Although Canada is ruled by Great Britain, clear backstamps show Canadian molding companies.

Ornamin Melmac
Ornamin Melmac Plate from KressHill on Etsy, cost $12.38 here.

A lot of it in my travels has been found and traced to Canada, but perhaps that's because I spend a lot of time in Maine, and thrift stores on the border seemingly have more Ornamin than I would find in my home town of Baltimore or when traveling up and down the East Coast.

Ornamin Melmac Cup theoddowl
The Odd Owl offers this adorable kids cup for $6.00 on Etsy marked Ornamin / Canadian Buttons Ltd

Canadian Buttons, Ltd company was known to produce it. This company was an early plastics manufacturer with listings dating back to 1920's, from celluloid items and buttons, later expanding to other plastics products. I assume production to have started sometime 60's for the designs shows above as they are circus items and most kids melmac sets came out 1958-1968 era.

Rarities in Ornamin / Ornamin Ware

Rare Ornamin Tray
Rare Ornamin tray , found at Retro Dazy


This is odd to say the least, but a backstamp indicating the Ornamin tray was produced in Jordan. Unsure if country Jordan has a leading plastics factory or if they commissioned this to show off the Arak beverage that is popular in Jordan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel. It reminds me of the old French spirits Absinthe in color, and is an anis beverage.   However, note the backstamp below, which clearly shows production in Jordan. Rare to say the least.

Ornamin Melamine Tray produced in Jordan
Rare Ornamin Backstamp made in Jordan?  Pic:

Exports to India

I have also found evidence where it's being imported to India circa 1965 listed in a magazine called "The Illustrated Weekly of India" Vol 86 circa 1965 advertising it with this :

"It looks like the most delicate china, but your heart is not in your mouth every time your using it! Ornamin, the new wonder in tableware, resists breaking, chipping and cracking!"

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Current Ornamin

Modern Day Ornamin
Modern Day Ornamin found at, produced in Germany.
They design , mold and produce tableware at

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