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When Buying New Dinnerware, Pick Your Material First

Buying New Dinnerware?  3 Points to Consider Before You Invest

A few months ago, I decided to take a good hard look at the motley collection of dinnerware residing in my cupboards. Out came two (out of an original 18!) dinner plates (stoneware, white with blue trim) that were part of our starter set when my husband and I got married more years ago than I care to remember.  This was followed by three salad plates of the same set, one with a rather large chip and another one with a purple stain I suspect is beet juice but could also be from one of the kids art experiments.  (That’s the last time I believe the claim “washes off easily with soap and water” from a cheap bottle of craft paint!)


Photo courtesy of Jessica Enig

Next came another four dinner plates (stoneware, with an Aztec motif in dull shades of brown and mustard).  These ones were a gift (read: castoffs) from my cousin when she moved houses.  After that, came loads of plastic stuff suitable only as a visual aid in a presentation of “Cartoon Characters of the Last 20 Years”.

And on it went: a steady and seemingly endless avalanche of mismatched plates, saucers, cups and utensils. Clearly, it was time to discard the truly awful, donate the rest to Goodwill, and invest in some new tableware for my home.

Once I started my quest, though, I was quickly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of products available, and if you too are in the market for new dishes, you know exactly what I mean.  There are so many things to consider: your style and taste, every day or special occasion, material, cost, and ease of care.


Pick Your Material First!  

While you might think picking a pattern you love is the most important first step, the surprising reality is the first thing you should look at is the material.  This will determine the quality, the ease of care and the price you’re comfortable with.

Stoneware, Porcelain, and Earthenware

Consider this: the most popular kinds of dinnerware are stoneware, porcelain, and earthenware all of which are made of clay.


But this is how they differ: stoneware and earthenware are fired at a very high temperature so they tend to be more scratch resistant than the other clay options.

You can find reasonably priced stoneware sets that are microwave and dishwasher safe.  Just be careful with the very cheap sets as they may contain dangerously high levels of lead!

Elegant and delicately beautiful, porcelain is made of very high quality clay but can be brittle and may break or chip easily.

Bone China and Glass

Bone china is a type of porcelain that has bone ash added to it, rendering it very strong and durable.  The one drawback with bone china is that it tends to be more expensive.


But it is so versatile and comes in so many beautiful patterns that the investment may be worth it to you. Another popular option is glass dinnerware.  Strong, beautiful and easy-to-care-for, it never goes out of style.

Whatever you chose, here’s two more pieces of advice.  Find out from the manufacturer if you can easily find replacements because no matter what your dishes are made of – some will inevitably break!  And secondly, diligently follow the manufacturer’s care instructions to give your dinnerware the chance to have a long, happy and healthy life in your home!

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