January 16, 2018

Set the Table - Buying and Collecting Dishes

I am sometimes asked by women or couples just starting out about buying dishes.

They want to know what they should buy.


This is what I am telling people.  It is something that nobody told me when I bought my first set of dishes.


Start with white dishes and buy what you can afford.

Buy a minimum of eight place settings.  If you are entertaining a large family or a lot of friends then you will need more.

Some dish patterns are open stock which means they will be available for you to purchase individual pieces and place settings for a few years.  

Be careful, though,  because when the manufacturer ceases to make the pattern they are no longer going to be available.

Not everyone can afford the finest bone china.  I couldn't. 

Over the years I decided that I wouldn't be able to buy the best so I settled on what I could afford.  

Often, it would be porcelain dishes that would prove to be best for me.  As time went by, I was able to purchase some bone china too.


I know that buying white dishes sounds boring, but, you will have many options with white dishes.

Buy dishes with pretty borders to add interest and texture.

Dress them up with tablecloths and napkins and other accessories like napkin rings, chargers, placemats, and candles.


Later, you can add to your collection by including some colour and pattern.

Blue and white dishes look especially good when they are paired with white dishes.

Bringing in another pattern and mixing them with the white dishes you already have is also a good way to increase the number of place settings you own.


Sometimes a manufacturer will offer a second salad plate in a different colour. 

Or, the salad plate will be offered either square or round.


Adding solid coloured plates is another option.


Experiment with various combinations to find a pleasing look.

You may find that putting together different styles or patterns will produce an unexpected, but pleasing combination.




If you are lucky, you may find a great set of dishes in a thrift store.

You may also inherit a set of dishes.

They can all be incorporated into your collection.  They may not all mix and match, but you will have choices of colour themes and seasonal themes.


A word about English china.

Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, and Johnson Bros. were traditionally
manufactured in England.

This is no longer the case.

In 1968 Wedgwood purchased a number of English potteries including Johnson Brothers.

Wedgwood merged with Waterford and became Waterford Wedgewood in 1987.

Later, Royal Doulton was brought into the group and became WWRD Holdings Ltd.  

In 2015  Fiskars Corp. acquired WWRD.

Some of these traditional patterned dishes are manufactured in Indonesia.

It is my understanding that Wedgewood still makes a couple of their high-end patterns in England.

Johnson Brothers are manufactured in China now.

With Johnson Brothers, the clue as to where it is manufactured is in the back stamp.


If the stamp says 'Made in England', then it was made in England.


If, however,  the back stamp says 'England' or 'England 1883', it is made in China.

If you are a purest and want only the dishes made in England, you can still find some patterns at places like Replacements.com, consignment shops, antique stores, etc.

I once found a set of unused bone china, 6-piece place setting for four, including soup bowls in a consignment shop for $125.00.  The lady who they belonged to saved them "for good" and never got to use them.

Don't save your dishes "for good" even if they are bone china.  Bone china is surprisingly durable.

I like to rotate my dishes according to seasons or holidays.  That way they are all used and nothing is kept just for company.


When it comes to serving pieces I try to collect white rather than coloured pieces.

I find white serving pieces will go with almost any table setting.

If you are considering Transferware - It all goes together.


That is to say that all brown and white transferware go together with each other no matter the pattern.

The same is true for blue and white, or green and white, or red and white.  

No matter what patterns you mix, they just all seem to go together if they are all in the same colour.



Very old dishes were made prior to dishwashers.  Keep in mind that these dishes will have to be hand washed because their finishes will not withstand the detergents used in dishwashers.




In Summary

- Buy what you can afford.
- Start with a set of white dishes.
- Try to find dishes with textured or scalloped borders to add interest.
- Buy Open Stock, but be aware that they can be discontinued after a few years.
- Use tablecloths, placemats, napkins and other tabletop accessories to add interest.
- Add patterned and solid-coloured dishes over time and as the budget allows.
- Mix and match to come up with some surprising combinations.
- Check back stamps.
- Look for affordable dishes in consignment shops, thrift shops, antique shops.
- Hand wash very old dishes.
- Buy white serving pieces.
- Use all your dishes.  Don't just store them for someone else to use.
- The most important of all is this - HAVE FUN!!! - Have fun collecting and chasing down and finding patterns.  Have fun finding or making tabletop accessories.  Have fun using your dishes.

Some of the Dish Patterns Used

Richmond, Devon Cottage, Old Britain Castles - Johnson Brothers
Antique Scroll, Spice Road, Sunflowers - Pier 1 Imports
Pheasants - The Victorian English Pottery
Denver Plaid - Pottery Barn

Thank you for stopping by.

This is an original Fair Meadow Place 'Set the Table - Buying and Collecting Dishes' Publication.

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