What different types of dinnerware are available?
Bone China is a very fine soft paste clay that is made from several key ingredients including bone ash. The result is a beautiful, high translucency whit with warm, ivory tones. Considered by many to be the finest quality of china, it has great strength and very high chip resistance.
The key ingredient of porcelain, kaolin, is what makes it so extraordinary. Fired at the highest temperatures, porcelain combines a stark white appearance with incredible durability to make timeless pieces that will last in beauty and reliability for years to come.
Most bone china and porcelain items are dishwasher and microwave safe. Hand washing is recommended for larger hand painted collections or items with gold or platinum decoration. Items with metallic decoration should not be microwaved.
Stoneware is ideal for casual dining. It is fired at very high temperatures to produce pieces which are durable and quite chip resistant. Available in a numerous range of colours, some pieces also have beautiful crackled finish. Stoneware is dishwasher, microwave, oven and freezer safe.
Earthenware is fired at relatively low temperatures. This type of pottery is more porous and less translucent than whiter porcelain or bone china. These pieces are relatively thick and heavy. Their natural colours range from buff to red depending on the clay used. Most characteristic of earthenware is that it is likely to crackle as the clay expands and contracts. Earthenware is dishwasher safe and most are microwave safe on low to medium settings. Sudden temperature changes should be avoided.
How can I assess quality in the dinnerware I select?
You may determine the quality of bone china and porcelain with a few tests:
Hold the piece up to the light. You should be able to see the shadow of your hand behind the porcelain.
Flick the piece with your finger and listen for a resonant ring.
Examine the colour and make sure that the glaze is even. The finish should be smooth and lustrous.
What dinnerware styles are available?
Dinnerware can be broken down into formal and casual. You then can choose among solid (one colour, no pattern), banded, patterned and hand painted. Many people choose to have at least one casual collection for everyday use and one formal collection for special occasions.
Formal collections are usually 5 piece place settings. A set consists of dinner plate, salad or dessert plate, bread and butter plate and teacup and saucer. Casual collections are normally 4 piece settings which consist of a dinner plate, salad plate bowl and mug.
The size of plates in these settings varies by manufacturer but are generally:
Presentation Plate – 12” diameter
Dinner Plate – 10.5” diameter
Dessert Plate – 8.5” diameter
Salad Plate – 7.5” diameter
Bread Butter Plate – 6.75” diameter
Presentation plates or chargers are oversized plates designed to add colour and style to the table setting. These are usually removed before the main course is served. They can be used as buffet platters since they can hold larger amount of food. You may need several presentation plates. Perhaps 2 or 3 serving dishes, 2 serving bowls, 1 covered casserole dish, 1 cake stand on tea/coffee service (including teapot, coffee pot, creamer and sugar bowl).