The Chinese were the first to make the type of dinnerware we call “china” today (though technically it is porcelain). Up until the fifteenth century, Europeans were eating off of wooden trenchers and large slabs of bread. It was not until the early 1700’s that they started to manufacture china in Europe.
In addition to china, there is also “bone china.” While regular china is just made with clay, bone china is made with clay and bone ash to strengthen the porcelain. Most of the bone ash is made from cattle bones. True fine china is hard and will produce a ringing sound when tapped.
Because of daily use, everyday dinnerware is usually made of stronger materials such as stoneware, earthen ware, and iron stone. One of the more valuable types of everyday dinnerware is transfer ware (Blue Willow is a popular and valuable pattern). Transfer ware is made by inking a metal plate with a design and then transferring that design to paper. The paper is then applied to the dish and when the ink is set the paper is removed. Blue and white are the most common colors, but many other colors are used, including black and brown.
These dishes can be quite valuable. Look for plates marked Staffordshire, Spod, and Wedgewood. One of my favorite types of transfer ware is “Flow Blue” (see image to the left) which originated around 1830 in England. Manufacturers discovered that by letting the blue ink spread (flow), they could cover defects in the printing and seams. It also added a sort of Romantic element and became very popular in its day.
Updated 10 months ago by Kimberly Curry
Giving new life to Goodwill finds extends the life of the item and makes for a sustainable choice. Not only will you be saving money, but you will be saving our planet by diverting products from landfills.