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Handing Down the Family Dishes

Nov 9, 2012

by Chappell Ellison

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

“Would you want these some day?” my mom asked, holding out two cream-colored dishes, edged in turquoise and gold leaf. The dishes were part of my grandmother’s vast china service, a wedding gift that’s spent roughly 98% of its life packed away in an antique hutch. While I knew that those fine, delicate plates would never seem right in my cramped, spartan apartment, it seems impossible to turn down a family heirloom.

This situation isn’t rare — many young women are faced with a porcelain inheritance. But large sets of china, often handed down through maternal lines, haven’t proven to be so useful in recent years. “For most young households, the necessity of such large sets is questionable, which explains why so many of them sit unused in china cupboards to be handed down unscratched to the next generation,” says design historian Shax Riegler in Dish: 813 Colorful, Wonderful Dinner Plates. Today, we have fewer and fewer reasons to break out the china. Part of this is because china services are going the way of formal dining rooms, disappearing in our relaxed society.

Surprisingly, the family dining room and the full china service haven’t been around that long. Up until the middle of the 19th century, meals were eaten in the French style; guests helped themselves to the array of prepared dishes spread on the table, transferring food to their own plates. This meant that guests had only one or two plates during an entire meal. This dinning method gave way to the more familiar Russian-style service, where servants delivered plated meals to each guest. This shift in dining habits during the 1850s demanded more unique dishware; hostesses requested tiny plates for desserts, and even specially designed tureens for asparagus.

Today we’re opting for more open home plans, knocking down the dining room walls and serving family meals in the kitchen. Instead of fine china we use inexpensive services, perhaps even found at an estate sale. Yet there’s still something about the tradition of fine china that we just can’t shake. Even if your idea of cooking is ordering pizza, a set of dishes can still be important to your own identity and home. “Many women who aspire to be a good hostess still seem to covet a set of new or heirloom painted and gilded dishes, the very embodiment of grace and tradition,” adds Riegler.

Fine china may not make sense in the relaxed atmosphere of your home, but it doesn’t mean you have to shun the dishware you inherited. There are many ways to make use of your grandmother’s china, even if it’s chipped or broken. A serving bowl transforms into a simple planter for a succulent; a set of saucers makes for a patterned wall decoration. Our relationship to dishware is constantly changing, but it remains a common every day object that reminds us of home, family and tradition.

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3 Featured Comments

  • EdelweissPost

    Patrick from EdelweissPost said 4 years ago Featured

    I embrace the idea of using fine dishware for everyday occasions, casual get-togethers with guests. Not only is an heirloom actually being utilized and creating new memories, I think something magical happens when you combine the sacred family china with something as casual as a pizza party - the juxtapositioning of old/fancy and new/informal makes a statement about who you are. It is art.

  • princessjainascloset

    Jillian Bruyere from princessjainascloset said 4 years ago Featured

    Bone china is more durable that most people suspect. I use mine every day and see no downside to doing that. It's lighter than a lot of the cheaper dinnerware out there, which I appreciate when washing it and stacking it in the cupboard. And I actually chose my china with the intention of getting a pattern that would work with my mom's china when/if I inherit it. In my opinion, as someone who used to work in a china department/gift registry, fine china is the same as a great pot set or really good knives. Sure there are lots of people out there for whom good pots or knives are not a priority, but if you're someone who is interested in cooking (or setting a table), then once you start doing your research you realize that it's nice to get the best. For me it's worth it to have a nice china set instead of getting a new set of Walmart of Ikea dishes every two years as they break or start to look run down. And if the china is a family heirloom and reminds you of family every time you use it? Even better!

  • saltcityspice

    Katrina from saltandginger said 4 years ago Featured

    My grandmother left me her fine silverware and it's a treasured gift - true that it spends most of its time packed away, but every time I use it, I'm reminded of big Thanksgiving dinners at her house and the way she carefully cleaned and polished each piece by hand. For me, the memories attached to heirloom pieces are usually more important than the items having a dedicated purpose in my modern life.

95 comments

  • myvintagecrush

    Kathleen from myvintagecrush said 4 years ago

    I've been known to sip water from my fanciest china teacup sets just to feel happy :) I love the juxtaposition of relaxed lifestyle and fancy schmancy china! It's there to use!

  • maggiesraggedyinn

    Mary Robertson from MaggiesInn said 4 years ago

    I have a few pieces of Mom's old soup bowls. They are so beautiful and I wish there had been more. I know young people are not as interested in keeping the old stuff, but my advice is to store them some place and one day you will take them out and treasure them for they will be filled with memories.

  • pollymakes

    Polly Tucknott from PollyTucknott said 4 years ago

    I can't see a brown glass tea set or plate without being instantly transported back to tea time at Grannie's. I don't own any but the memory is enough. I don't feel the need to add add add when I can also remember ; my mother has a beautiful gold plated cappuccino spoon set from her wedding that has never been used in 34 years, it can't be an heirloom if it's never seen or used.

  • EdelweissPost

    Patrick from EdelweissPost said 4 years ago Featured

    I embrace the idea of using fine dishware for everyday occasions, casual get-togethers with guests. Not only is an heirloom actually being utilized and creating new memories, I think something magical happens when you combine the sacred family china with something as casual as a pizza party - the juxtapositioning of old/fancy and new/informal makes a statement about who you are. It is art.

  • ShabbyNChic

    ShabbyNChic from ShabbyNChic said 4 years ago

    I have inherited 2 sets. Besides the history, they are just too beautiful to pass up! I take mine out every Thanksgiving and have a plan one day to make them a set we use more. I think space becomes an issue as well. I just don't have room for 2 sets of dishes in my kitchen at all times. Practicality wins at as well I think...we can use china in a microwave! I love finding discarded pieces from other people's sets and upcycling them into something we would use today, like pedestal dishes or using the bowls as snack or trinket dishes. So much better than plastic!

  • sherrytruitt

    sherry truitt from sherrytruitt said 4 years ago

    I inherited my grandma Sunna's Spring Willow china. Who could resist Pussy Willows? More importantly though, every time I have an occasion to use it, I think of her. Should I end up with half the grace and widsom she had, I would be a very lucky woman indeed. I sometimes find myself having a cup of tea from one of her cups, when something is bothering me. I soon find myself thinking of her and simpler times.

  • alleylinda

    Linda Alley said 4 years ago

    I think the key is to USE whatever we have. There is nothing that is too valuable or precious when we remember that these are only "things" that will one day pass out of our hands - broken or not. I heard a great idea: If an item has sentimental value to you, take a photo of it and put these types of photos in a special album. Maybe add a paragraph or two about where you obtained it and why it is meaningful to you. Then if the item is lost or broken, the memory is still there. In the meantime, you've had a lot of enjoyment out of USING it.

  • elizabethfrederick3

    elizabeth frederick from sewingatwisteria said 4 years ago

    My sister has my Moms and she uses them. Every time I eat off them I think of Mom. They should be used and loved and if the chip,I'm sorry but it does not take away from them.

  • violetsobsession

    Violet from violetsobsession said 4 years ago

    I love old fine china! As a matter of fact, I hunt for it on a regular basis. Theres nothing better then eating dinner on plates with a history! So break out grandmas china, and say hello to your family :)

  • princessjainascloset

    Jillian Bruyere from princessjainascloset said 4 years ago Featured

    Bone china is more durable that most people suspect. I use mine every day and see no downside to doing that. It's lighter than a lot of the cheaper dinnerware out there, which I appreciate when washing it and stacking it in the cupboard. And I actually chose my china with the intention of getting a pattern that would work with my mom's china when/if I inherit it. In my opinion, as someone who used to work in a china department/gift registry, fine china is the same as a great pot set or really good knives. Sure there are lots of people out there for whom good pots or knives are not a priority, but if you're someone who is interested in cooking (or setting a table), then once you start doing your research you realize that it's nice to get the best. For me it's worth it to have a nice china set instead of getting a new set of Walmart of Ikea dishes every two years as they break or start to look run down. And if the china is a family heirloom and reminds you of family every time you use it? Even better!

  • Aurelas

    Christie Bradley from Aurelas said 4 years ago

    I love the dishes my granny left me, even though I don't use them. We do use the ones that my husband's grandmother left, but they are mostly not a matched set or anything. I thought it was funny that the article describes us as just now getting rid of the dining room and eating in the kitchen, using dishes purchased second hand. In poor families like mine there never was a dining room and getting dishes secondhand or from buying detergent was perfectly normal, and still is! We grew up with all sorts of silverware (none of it actually silver) and none of our heirloom china is really what anyone would call fine! We love it because despite its lack of value it is beautiful or (as in the case of the stuff my husband's grandmother left behind) because it belonged to someone we love.

  • LineaLina

    Susanne Major from LineaLina said 4 years ago

    The ones that we have have to be washed carefully by hand. So we don't use them that often. But when we do it, it is always a special feeling!

  • pelecypods2

    pelecypods2 from pelecypods2 said 4 years ago

    Unfortunate my mother and her children including myself broke most of her dinner set. Mother is still holding on to the one plate that dad liked to eat off. My daughter has my grandmothers set of dishes that came out of detergent boxes that you bought each week at the grocery store. They are beautiful but does she ever use them, no.

  • saltcityspice

    Katrina from saltandginger said 4 years ago Featured

    My grandmother left me her fine silverware and it's a treasured gift - true that it spends most of its time packed away, but every time I use it, I'm reminded of big Thanksgiving dinners at her house and the way she carefully cleaned and polished each piece by hand. For me, the memories attached to heirloom pieces are usually more important than the items having a dedicated purpose in my modern life.

  • Aurelas

    Christie Bradley from Aurelas said 4 years ago

    Sorry to weigh in again, but needed to add that for some of us, it's necessary to pass down the dishes. I bought a few when we were married but we would not have anywhere near enough to eat off of if we had not inherited so many!

  • ikabags

    IKA PARIS from ikabags said 4 years ago

    I have four special dinner set , at all is vintage ! I am washing carefully with hand after using , yes always special feeling , and after dinner one cup of coffee or the . I have one coffee cup very special too, because shop owners makes one cup in 21 days, but your coffee can wait 30 minutes hot :)

  • HandiworkinGirls

    HandiworkinGirls from HandiworkinGirls said 4 years ago

    We use it for special occasions - birthdays, anniversaries, and specially-declared family holidays, in addition to the usual like Thanksgiving and Christmas. It makes the meal feel more spectacular, even if it's a simple buffet-style affair. And handwashing is always easier with the extra hands!

  • hoarderrehab

    Kennedy Miranda from HoarderRehab said 4 years ago

    As a hoarder, I had many dish set collections going all at once, even with two different 8-12 plate sets of my extensive Grandmother's china collection. She had a celery green band Noritake set and a white silver edged set collected from gas station, grocery and dime store give-a ways from back in the day when gasoline was 10 cents a gallon! I found that I used her dishes more than the ones I collected. I use them everyday! Friends used to be surprised to be served with them, but are still delighted whether it be for an invited meal or drop by tea. As a recovering Hoarder, I've been letting go of my dish set collections slowly but surely. And it's not as painful this time... Thanks to etsy and it's wonderful etsyians! Thank you Chappell for another inspiring article and thank you etsy for giving me a safe place to disperse my hoard into good homes!

  • esspressions

    Sandra from Esspressions said 4 years ago

    It is not just a question of usability. Owning an item which is in your family for generations is something special. In my family, the tradition is to pass very old gold coins, I believe they are more than 5 generations in our family to females on their wedding day. I got them from my grandmother and will pass them to next generation for sure.

  • hburl

    Hollis Burl said 4 years ago

    I've built my own mix and match vintage china collection, using a general color scheme of turquoise/aqua/gold/white/cream. These are the only dishes I own and I display them in a beautiful hutch in my kitchen, use them every day, for everything, and plop them in the dishwasher with ease. Life is short -- eat off pretty dishes, always!

  • CelticVisions

    Jodi Kelman from CelticVisions said 4 years ago

    Growing up we always used my parents wedding china for holidays and other large family gatherings. It signified a special occasion even if it was just a bunch of us getting together just to get together. I plan on using mine the same way once I find a china hutch I like to keep it in and we start having more holidays at our home instead of at our parents homes.

  • BambuEarth

    Amber from BambuEarth said 4 years ago

    I've always thought fine china was sort of silly - sitting in a hutch longing for someone to use it. My grandmother has her china right along side her everyday dish ware. She never uses is just for herself, but she'll set the table with the beautifully painted dishes if there is even one or two of us over for lunch. It's like even one visitor or a small gathering of company is special enough to her and it makes us feel special, too. If she ever passes it down to me, her china will be right along side my regular 'ole dish ware, too, just waiting for a visitor.

  • karenleanneking

    Karen from KLKingDesigns said 4 years ago

    I loved my Grandmother's china. I had a gorgeous 10 place set, and used them everyday. Being forced to move, I had them in storage at my brother's. He sold them! I have never recovered from that. I have not seen any as lovely and as "Me' as those. There are other heirloom items being carefully guarded. One is the "fish set". 5 luncheon plates, and a long oval platter. All handpainted underwater scenes, signed by the artists- several members of one family dated 1903. The are in perfect condition. They are priceless in my eyes, and a link to my family's heritage. Along with a few other treasures, they will soon be displayed in a specially chosen glass cabinet. And NEVER used!

  • baconsquarefarm

    baconsquarefarm from baconsquarefarm said 4 years ago

    This summer gave our daughter my mom's dishes and silverware ~ she was thrilled as she remembers her grandmother fondly and sips tea from the cups to feel close to the woman who meant alot to her growing up. I have things from my grandparents that I treasure dearly and they give a peace when looking or using them, really hard to explain not good with words....

  • TresorsDesMers

    Michele from QUATREFOILandPEACOCK said 4 years ago

    I don't use the fine china as much as I like BUT I do use my great grandmothers silverware-everyday! Mater of Fact it is the ONLY silverware in the drawer! The silver has such warmth, is smooth and feels great in my hand and it honorers her memory and fabulous style everyday! Take it out and use it! That was what it was meant for.....Everyday is Special!!!

  • Parachute425

    Terry from Parachute425 said 4 years ago

    Polly Tucknott from PollyTucknott says: . . . it can't be an heirloom if it's never seen or used. ________________________________ Interesting thought.

  • PomDecors

    ElleJay from 20thCenturyKitchen said 4 years ago

    I am only second generation Amercian, and I never had a tradition of "fine china". It looks alien to me. I love love love old casual china and dinnerware, though.

  • urbancottage1

    Christine from urbancottage1 said 4 years ago

    Well, I am the odd woman here - I gave away all the antiques and china to dear family and friends who treasure, appreciate and would care for and use these items as I would not. I did keep a hot chocolate pot - set which my grandmother carefully broght to the US as a young woman, which had been her mother's. A lot of years in Architecture cured me of hording anything. It is the visusal memories I hold dear.

  • Ebrown2503

    Eleanore from FiberBeads said 4 years ago

    My single Aunt Eva, when she was dying, said 'Who will love my chicken dishes?' --believe me it's a full set, complete with platters, creamer, sugar, teapot, coffee pot...you get the idea. I take them out at Thanksgiving time, display them and I walk around the house shamelessly murmuring 'Who will love my chicken dishes?' I only have 2 sons, so this is going to be a big job and will take a long time to send the message. My death bed won't be near enough time for someone to hear my plea ;O)

  • Parsellettas

    Judy Jennings-Gunther from Parsellettas said 4 years ago

    I am lucky enough to have inherited my grandma's china (I have 4 sisters) It puts a smile on my face every time I see it which is daily since I have open shelving. When we have family or friends over I love to use it with our inherited sterling flatware. It automatically makes the event more special. We don't have a dishwasher, so having to wash anything by hand is my MO anyway. I think it is important to use/wear special things. I have my grandma's Swarovski Crystal AB necklace that I will wear to yoga. I just sparkle away while doing my downward dogs.....thinking of her

  • bellasparty

    bellasparty from bellasparty said 4 years ago

    Beautiful dishes! I have a collection of antique tea sets that I just love!!

  • tamilopez

    Tami Lopez from TamiLopezDesigns said 4 years ago

    These collections are a sweet part of our family histories. It is wonderful that in our high-tech society, we still treasure these simple identities from our past. This was a really heartwarming feature. Thank you so much! How timely!!!

  • BriarRose264

    Elizabeth said 4 years ago

    Call me crazy but I use most of my "good" china and flatware every day. What's the point of having it if it never sees the light of day (the same goes for my grand mother, a seriously fancy lady). Sure I've broken a few pieces here and there and I usually cry about it, but the enjoyment I get from using them far outweighs the sadness of losing a plate now ad again!

  • pouch

    pouch from pouch said 4 years ago

    can't resist vintage/antique china, I have loads of the stuff, perhaps one day I will find a cabinet to display it all in!!

  • SnowFallStudios

    Kristen from SnowFallStudio said 4 years ago

    We've inherited several sets of china from family members. Even with four children and a relaxed household, I make a point to use them! The kids love to use the fancy dishes on holidays and birthdays or whenever one of them does something truly special.

  • PennyBirchWilliams

    Penny Birch-Williams from PennyBirchWilliams said 4 years ago

    I inherited my parents china 17 years ago, and it has been packed in boxes in the garage for all but a few occasions, sadly. I don't have space to keep in inside; there is just so much of it. We only used it for holidays in our family, and when I do see it I'm so reminded of those times, now long past, and how at the time it seemed like we would all be celebrating together forever. With time comes change and loss, so cherish the wonderful moments together and keep them in your memory and heart. Take lots of photos and video. It all goes by too quickly. It's wonderful to have keepsakes, like china, to remember the people and moments together.

  • genisepark

    Genise Park from genisepark said 4 years ago

    Never even heard of that idea of passing the dishes down. Didn't happen here!

  • bedouin

    Nicole from bedouin said 4 years ago

    We have a terrific set passed down to us that sits behind glass in the dining hutch. It gets used for holidays with fond memories and yum food !!

  • leeannasjewerybox

    Leeanna from LeeannasJewelryBox said 4 years ago

    I love that quote, "the very embodiment of grace and tradition,” by Riegler. I can really relate to that feeling. This article did make me lean towards the gold gilded and doily missy tucked deep down inside of me. It made me realize I do need some' fancy' in my life, not just give in to the all practical side of my existence.

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat said 4 years ago

    As an only child I will come in for the family china, but to be quite honest I don't want it. The dinner plates, side plates & dessert bowls will be useful, but soup bowls, fish plates, fruit plates, serving dishes, gravy boat, sauce boat, soup tureen & all the rest will simply take up space without ever getting used. Also, it has to be hand washed, which I won't do, so the platinum band will wear off the pieces I use. Because it's plain white, it isn't even pretty enough to hang on the wall. There are other heirlooms I covet, & will be plessed to inherit one day (in the far distant future hopefully) but the dinner service definitely isn't one of them! Fortunately, my mother understands this, so she will probably leave it to someone else!

  • lkmccray

    Linzee from lkmccray said 4 years ago

    Earlier this year my mother gave me a set of sterling silver spoons that she'd bought in 1976 from a 91-year-old family friend. My mom also included a letter from the woman, who said she was clearing out her possessions at the end of her life (then lived to be 104)! The letter tells the story of the spoons, which she inherited from her parents who were married on New Year's Day in 1872. "They were used in my my own home 3 times per day for almost 50 years and show no great wear," she wrote. They've been wrapped up and sitting on my counter since I got them because I've been saving them for something "special," but this post and the comments are a wonderful reminder to get them out and use them 3 times a day, once again.

  • ZorroPlateado

    Carole from ZorroPlateado said 4 years ago

    I have my grandmothers china. It reminds me so much as the one pictured in this feature,,pink floral pattern. I have the china packed away, but after reading all the comments I think I will unpack them and use them more often!

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 4 years ago

    Interesting! I'm not burdened with family china, I get to choose my own pieces. Much more fun that way.

  • fmccalla

    Faith Saunders from KeepsakesByFaith said 4 years ago

    i'll take them just for the memories but, I also do use them on special occasions.

  • ArigigiArt

    Gina from ArigigiArt said 4 years ago

    People you are really in love with your China. It seams that China dishes is great theme. Such a long comments today!

  • gilstrapdesigns

    Debra Gilstrap from gilstrapdesigns said 4 years ago

    I know with my mother's china we get to eat out of it on Thanksgiving and I love that tradition and my mother has always loved getting out her fine china and silver from her china cabinet and my grandmother's china is my china even though I still don't' really have any place to keep it so it's at my mother's house but I can't wait until I finally bring it home. I've always and still do want a formal dining room for those special dinners and dinner parties even though when I have a dinner it's buffet style I'm still going to use my china. I guess I still think that it is so special to me to eat on my mother's good china during the holidays it's just such a tradition with us and I once that I love and someday my grandmother's china will be my daughter's china and my mother's china will go to my granddaughter.

  • TheLittleRagamuffin

    Jenny from TheLittleRagamuffin said 4 years ago

    My husband and I moved into a house passed down through my family since 1904, and along with the house came the china. I break it out every Thanksgiving and it is amazing the stories that plates and silver can bring out of my mother who used these very dishes throughout her childhood when she celebrated Thanksgivings in this same house when her great-aunt and uncle lived here. Each Thanksgiving we hear a new story about Aunt Margaret, inspired by the same dishes she once ate off of. Even if they're in storage the rest of the year, taking them out for their day in the sun is worth every tale they inspire.

  • PattiTrostle

    Patti Trostle from PattiTrostle said 4 years ago

    I have my Grandmother's china and my Mother's china. I use them myself once in a while but they mean so much to me I don't want to break anything. I do bring them out for holiday get togethers. I want to pass them on to my son and his wife someday.

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage said 4 years ago

    Great article! The patterns of china are endless. So many to choose from, but I do love my Arabia china!

  • AcrylicPixie

    AcrylicPixie from StitchingPixie said 4 years ago

    Now I'm wondering what happened to my Nana's Rosenthal soup bowls. She would buy large cans of Campbell's chicken noodle soup----the one kind that my three sisters and I could all agree on--- and serve the heated-up soup in those special bowls.

  • JKistlerStudios

    Jennifer Kistler from JKistlerStudios said 4 years ago

    It doesn't make sense for me, because we don't have room to store any more dishes, and I'll be honest, I only want dishes that can go in the dishwasher. I'm far too simple and practical for a huge set of fancy dishes! I have a few special decorative plates, most of which were handed down to me, that are meaningful as they have images of the Mayflower and my ancestors John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. They hang on my dining room wall, and I enjoy those very much!

  • katherinedugas

    Katherine Dugas said 4 years ago

    I'm going to be inheriting a set of china from my grandmother, who has been working very hard to have a set for each of her granddaughters (no boys in our family!) She also collects depression glass, and I already have the teacups and saucers that she got tired of storing. My mother also has china, her own and *her* grandmothers. I seem to be the only daughter who is really interested in keeping it, even if the patterns aren't my favorite the stories behind them make them too dear to let go! I don't know how I'll ever use them all. The other challenge is the fact that I fell in love with a china pattern that suits my style better than the sets my mother or grandmother has. My walls are going to be filled with china, and the china is going to be use for every occasion, because I refuse to let them gather dust and be forgotten in storage!

  • iammieCLAYshop

    iammieCLAYshop from iammieCLAYshop said 4 years ago

    Interesting article! We have some of those dishes, too. :)

  • MinaMinette

    Jan Penn from MinaMinette said 4 years ago

    About 20 years ago, when I was relocating my husband and young family to a rental home in readiness for a remodel, I considered letting go of the boxes of china that had been handed down to me by an aunt, and to her by her aunt. I knew that I would feel terribly guilty if I did it, and that's the only reason I didn't. In the last 5 years I've gotten extremely interested in genealogy, not only the names of my ancestors, but their stories. I've learned so much about my aunt and great-aunt since then, and now I am so glad that I have the china that meant so much to each of them!

  • ThreeBarDGifts

    Monica from ThreeBarDGifts said 4 years ago

    My grandma gave me a new set of china several years ago. The manufacturer's name is the same as her last name! It's kind of neat to look at the back of each piece and see it printed there! I get them out when we celebrate Thanksgiving at our house, but mostly they stay put away for me to pass down some day.

  • TheBeautyofBoredom

    Gracie from TheBeautyofBoredom said 4 years ago

    I haven't really ever thought about this. Perhaps one day my mom or one of my grandmothers will offer me china. If they do, I would probably only use it ever so often, as by the time they give this to me I except to already have a full set of dishes.

  • alivicwil

    Alisa Williams said 4 years ago

    Both of my grandparents have passed in recent months, and the 4 women (two granddaughters and our mums, who were daughter-in-law) have begun to sort through the china cabinet. I'm in my early 30s, and about to be married; my cousin is early-20s, and living at home still. We appear to have quite different priorities when it comes to keeping things that were Grandma's. While my cousin is happy to keep things she can use, I'm keen to save as many precious things as possible - yes, to use, but also to keep on a shelf, and to one day show my children (and grand-children) - "these belonged to my Grandma - and her mum." I just need to research how to care for these precious things - for the first time in my life, I own bone china, bone-handled knives and silver (probably ESPN?) spoons...

  • OceansideCastle

    Laura from OceansideCastle said 4 years ago

    A fun read; both the article and the comments! IMO anything that connects one with family, heritage, history or loved ones is precious. It feeds our soul and I consider that sense of connectedness invaluable; especially since extended families are too often uncommon nowadays. Floral bone china, Grandpa's pipe, or the big yellow metal Tonka truck you had as a kid. None of these things are really practical are they? Of course not, but precious? Oh yes!

  • JennasRedRhino

    Jennifer Schmidt from TheCatBall said 4 years ago

    My mom was ahead of her times, I guess. Instead of using inherited china (which was probably all broken in domestic disputes anyway), my mother had an artisan make our entire set of dishes. She would have loved Etsy.

  • mirabellamorello

    mirabellamorello from mirabellamorello said 4 years ago

    We inherited my mother's house, along with her extensive dish and glass collections. And, because the house had belonged to her aunt and had been passed on to my mother, my aunt had left many of her possessions as well. I would love to say that I have kept it all, but realistically, we will have no one to leave it to and would not use all of it. So, I have kept somethings that I loved, even though they didn't match, but now have an beautifully eclectic, but smaller (much smaller!) collection that I love to use! We don't use these dishes everyday, but we have them for our holidays and other special occasions. I have sold (and continue to sell) the rest through my vintage shop here on Etsy. It makes me very happy when someone tells me that they had grown up using dishes like the ones they are buying. I have my pictures of these lovely items that I have taken for the shop and someone else ends up with something they will actually use! Knowing that most of the things my mother owned were kept in boxes and were never really used at all, I consider the current situation with these lovely things a clear win-win for myself and for my customers!

  • L2Country

    L2Country from L2Country said 4 years ago

    I always enjoy reading your weekly articles...TXS, Chapelle ....anyhow, it is so rue about what you said.....My philosophy is to go ahead and finally use the family china....even if it requires some hand-washing. For example, I am trying to use my family's inherited china as often as I can...and you know what---it's really fun to do that!~~Lina at L2Country

  • FreakyPeas

    FreakyPeas from FreakyPeas said 4 years ago

    I have to break out my grandmothers teacups now!

  • joydidit

    Joy Cain from joydidit said 4 years ago

    I have my grandmother's everyday dishes. White with pink leaves in the center and a silver band around the outside of each dish. Who knew there were so many different kinds of bowls? I remember using these dishes every day when we visited her. I get them out when the family is together. I also have my other grandmother's good set in storage. The funny thing about my modern dishes, and they are Pfalsgraff, is they chip if you look at them funny. I think older dishes last longer.

  • GoldenSpiralDesigns

    Lola Ocian from GoldenSpiralDesigns said 4 years ago

    Ha ha... Won't be getting any china from Grandma, alas. But my mom loves to mail me a random kitchen utensil that was in the kitchen when I was growing up. My favorite is a worn-down wooden spoon that is the perfect size and shape for the mixing bowl. They sure don't make em like they used to!

  • EnterpriseAmericana

    Enterprise Americana from EnterpriseAmericana said 4 years ago

    When I was a little boy I used to admire a set of ruby glasses and pitcher that my great-grandmother had. At the end of her life in her failing health both mental and physical she managed to leave specific instruction that I was to get that set. I'm about a month away from finishing my formal dining room and I'm waiting with great anticipation to get them out and use them. I grew up like most people, in the eat in kitchen. There was a dining room at my grandparents for holidays only. My children however will grow up eating in a formal dining room since I'm about to abandon the EIK as we renovate this house.

  • TanteAnnies

    Tante Annie from TanteAnnies said 4 years ago

    My Nana blessed me with her over-sized hand-painted buffet plates and embossed and decorated dessert plates while most of my cousins inherited the full sets. Over the years those plates have been used at many parties and teas! Guests always enjoy using the plates and comparing the different flowers on each of the dessert plates. She also gave me her engagement party tea cups and saucers - each a from a different pattern! Thank you Nana for knowing that the full sets of china would not fit my lifestyle!!! But here is an idea for those big sets you inherited...use them! Mix and match with your own service, use the big plates for buffet parties or servers under your own plates, use the tiny plates for cocktail parties. And those medium plates? Bring them out with dessert for a special touch, even if you are all sitting around in the den. If you have any type of event, think about using some of the plates to serve appetizers or cheese and crackers. But definitely use them! A friend was saving his large collection of expensive crystal glasses for a special event and it all went away in a sparkly pile during an earthquake. You never know...

  • FauldsForge

    Heather McGuire from FauldsForge said 4 years ago

    I think I started collecting china when I was in high school because I knew there would be nothing passed down. Every piece of my grandmother's wedding china broke, save for a small sugar bowl and a few teacups in "Prairie Flowers" pattern. While it does make me sad to have lost the evidence of what I'm sure were lovely meals in her house, I feel as though by acquiring the odd piece of china here and there at different points in my life I have a stronger connection to every plate I own. I don't just eat off a lovely plate, I eat off "the plate that I pointed out in an antique store back in 10th grade that my mother secretly bought and saved for Christmas that year", or "the teacup my now fiance bought me when we just started dating". It makes for some very grounded meals.

  • ShastaLakeShop

    RoseMary Walter from TheShastaLakeShop said 4 years ago

    Fine china dishes are much more practical than the semi porcelain or pottery dishes that are being sold today. They are made from a finer clay, and fired at a higher temperature, hence are more resistant to chipping and cracking. I use mine many times a year and put them in the dishwasher on the gentle cycle and carefully distribute them. No apparent fading yet. (I've been doing this for about 40 years). If your dishes are hand painted over the glaze then they will fade, but most are painted under the glaze. The only thing likely to fade is the gold or platinum rims. Sterling silver can go in the dishwasher also, just not with stainless steel as it will harm the stainless steel! I know this goes against the current wisdom, but I have been in the retail business of china since I worked in my Dad's shop at age 12. Have learned a bit and hate hand washing unnecessarily. Also if you break a piece you can, with diligence, find a match online. I completed my "wedding" china set after almost 50 years by coming across an online dealer who had all the pieces I needed. Don't be afraid to use your fine things. I really feel sad when I buy for my shops a beautiful set of fine china that is completely unused. Someone saved it for "good" and that time never came. I only hope that someone will discover it and love it.

  • GardenofYve

    Danielle Yve from GardenofYve said 4 years ago

    I love the link to 10 things to do with your grandmother's china. I've also seen really cool mosaics made from broken plates.

  • CoreandMantle

    Alayna from CoreandMantle said 4 years ago

    I think it is also true that extended family is less and less an actual 'thing' in America. I know very few people who have a close, let alone existent relationship with their grandparents or aunts and uncles. It's pleasant to think of a time when family didn't just mean brother/sister mother, father. It's important to pass on family tradtions, but I think a lot of people don't really have them anymore, but each little family makes their own...

  • vevela2012

    emma zhang from vevela2012 said 4 years ago

    great!!!! There are many beautiful bracelet and necklace , you are welcome to buy: https://www.etsy.com/listing/113455181/karma-gods-blessing-braceletsilver

  • NannyMadeandfound

    Melinda from sixtybeansVntg said 4 years ago

    I love using china and have some beautiful pieces handed down to me from my grandmother.... from HER grandmother. We have incorporated an eclectic mix of beautiful pieces to use for our family thanksgiving dinner, along with a beautiful blue and white Wedgewood platter, also from her family.... that dates back to the civil war. Priceless

  • buddhacat444

    Dana from BuddhaCatCreations said 4 years ago

    yesterday, I SCORED 38 pieces of lovely china at the Goodwill for $9.99!!! *SQUEEE!* I'm sure this beautiful set has been sitting in someone's cupboard or closet as they are like new! We will have lovely china for our Thanksgiving table!

  • connash1

    Connie Nash from OldStones said 4 years ago

    Use that china! I mix it with different patterns for an interesting table. Serving pieces can be used to hold fresh fruit. When my sister comes to visit, she always feels special having her tea in a real English china cup. My daughter will get my fine china, and she has already gotten my grandmother's silver. Luckily, she thinks it's cool.

  • LCooperDesigns

    LC Cooper from LeMaisonBelle said 4 years ago

    My wedding china sat unused in the original gift boxes for almost 10 years. After unpacking from a move, I pulled out a plate...and it hit me - why have something so beautiful and not use it. I unpacked it all, and threw away the boxes so I wouldn't be tempted to box it all up again. Since then, we use it on a regular basis, and I've even added to the service. Sure, it would cost $60 to replace a plate if I break it, but to me, it's worth every cent.

  • LittleWrenPottery

    Victoria Baker from LittleWrenPottery said 4 years ago

    I must admit I do have a love of the elegant formal dining settings, they're so ornate. They're usually beautifully balanced and wafer thin when it comes to porcelain.

  • CynsibleCreations

    Cyn from CynsibleCreations said 4 years ago

    I agree that bone china is worth every penny. It give me the feel goods.

  • AudreyKerchnerPhotog

    Aud Kerchner from AudreyKerchnerstudio said 4 years ago

    My uncle offered me my grandmothers china. Even though I will probably never use it I said yes, because it was something she picked out that she really cherished and that makes me cherish it. I never met her she died when my dad and uncle were just boys. So for him to offer it to me is also a gift. I think that is why we keep handing these sets down, maybe not so much to use them, but to stay connected.

  • LostInTheValley

    LostInTheValley from LostInTheValleyPhoto said 4 years ago

    I love anything old! That being said, I too have a hutch filled with precious dishware that rarely sees the light of day. It reminds me of my Grandmother every time I glance over at its full to the brim shelves! When its my turn to host a holiday, I break it out of its protective cocoon! There is something to be said for a nicely set table.

  • EmSewCrazy

    Emily from EmSewCrazy said 4 years ago

    I have a gold plated teacup and saucer that I think my Grandmother got in Germany. She would have a quiet cup of tea with us granddaughters. It was so special to be able to drink from the beautiful cup and have that moment with her.

  • kamchan

    Camiile Kay said 4 years ago

    I recently inherited a set of plates/dishes from my parents that they had gotten around the time of their wedding. It isn't exactly the huge-porcelain-perfect dining set from generations past, since we used these when I was growing up almost every day. Anyhow, I really liked being able to move into my apartment with something from my family - they're sturdy yet elegant dishes and bowls. Although there are more than I generally need, it's sentimental and practical. I'm glad to have them :)

  • JillianReneDecor

    Jillian Carmine from JillianReneDecor said 4 years ago

    I wouldn't think of diminishing that tradition. Those dishes serve meals prepared with love. They are special because the meal is special - they embody family and intangible memories. My grandmother has passed, but every Thanksgiving and Christmas you can feel her presence as the oyster dressing and collard greens are served.

  • bobbieyarrusso

    Bobbie Yarrusso from DamiensDen said 4 years ago

    I have some of the everyday serving bowls and other serving dishes that belonged to my Mom and my Grandmother. I know they aren't worth anything but they remind me of the many holiday dinners.

  • CharLeeJaye

    Chandrell Bennett from CharlieJayes said 4 years ago

    My great aunt "SiFlora" (short for Sister Flora in the south) china has been handed down for generations. We only bring it out on special occasions. This makes me want to bring it out a little more. After all, every chance we get to sit together as a family is special.

  • Pixie2428

    Doris C. from SewBeautifulbyDC said 4 years ago

    I was given my grandmother-in-law's China set many years ago. My husband and I have been offered another China set recently. We didn't take that set. We don't use China that often. We figured that one set was fine for us. It does make a dinner feel more special when you set the table with a family China dish set. I recall one evening when I set the table with the special China dish set. My oldest son asked; "Who's coming to dinner ?" I answered, no one. It's just us. He replied; " Why is the nice China set out ? " We always used it during the holidays. One day I just felt like using them to bring back memories. It was nice.

  • PinwheelStudio

    Whitney from PinwheelStudio said 4 years ago

    I have a combination of pieces from my grandmothers, which my mom and I share, depending on who needs it for events and occasions. But I think it is having this connection to my own family history, and to a greater domestic and social history, that makes these pieces so important to me. As I use these pieces, I think of my grandmother and her strength and classiness and I am inspired to follow in her footsteps. She handled a successful career and still hosted countless social occasions and raised three kids. Quite the example to remember, and I do every time I use something that she gave me. I think it's important to pull out these pieces not just for events, but also just for the fun and significance of old memories and stories and the importance of making new memories and stories. It's like the entertaining pieces have their own little family oral tradition.

  • emilianapatriotou

    Emiliana Patriotou from CushionsandMore said 4 years ago

    A few years ago I almost bought an entire collection of Christophle fine bone china dinner set and somehow in the last instance thought not to do it. I have had countless dinners at my house over the years since then, and I have to tell you the best of them were those that had the most casual dinner sets. I don"t regret not buying the set and whilst I appreciate everything valuable especially family heirlooms (my home is full of them), then again certain valuable moments such as great and special dinners with family and friends don't depend on the bone china you use. But, as I have inherited one set myself too, from my grandmother, I have it stored away and will probably dig it out when my kids are older at some special Christmas lunch! Or should I use it earlier to serve pizza? :)

  • MysticRayne422

    Danielle Winn said 4 years ago

    I absolutley LOVE the Amithyist and Crystal triple teardrop Earrings! They are truley Beautiful!!! :)

  • simonesolomon1

    Simone Solomon from SimoneCeramics said 4 years ago

    Cant wait for the day I will get my inhereted set from my beloved damish greny, A set of whait porcelain with the most belicet panted wild roses on:-) hope my sister wont bit me to it!

  • ansluasi

    ansluasi from OnceUponABookshop said 4 years ago

    We tend to follow the casual trend on most days, but in our family, holidays like Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving are formal, dress up occassions. I get to break our the stemware and china handed down to me from my great-grandparents, we light candles and somehow, dinner is transformed. I look across the table at my handsome husband, freshly scrubbed and oh so fine in his favorite vest and dress shirt, and I fall in love all over again. It's true that I will spend an inordinate amount of time carefully washing, drying and re-storing it all, not to mention polishing the silver, but it is totally worth it for the Cinderella magic of that moment. And each time I bring out the finery, it feels as though all the beloved faces, now long gone, that once smiled at each other over that same tableware are somehow smiling at me as well.

  • LuxeVogue

    Mary Y from LuxeVogue said 4 years ago

    would love to have a teacup set or lovely china of my own one day.

  • lauraprill

    Laura Prill from lauraprill said 4 years ago

    The answer to your question for me is "yes" but there that bittersweet knowledge that the one I loved is gone. But mostly it's a sweet thing, to have something that they touched and used.

  • mandalarain

    mandala rain from mandalarain said 4 years ago

    Antique China often has dangerously high levels of lead. Beware

  • mandalarain

    mandala rain from mandalarain said 4 years ago

    Makes me sad because i built up a collection of a vintage china pattern that i loved and used for everyday but after doing research on this, i put it away and bought all glass dinnerware. I have young kids its just not worth the risk to me.

  • JoyceAlice2

    JoyceAlice from JoyceAlice2 said 4 years ago

    So interesting reading different viewpoints on this topic. My mother never had any fine china. They came through the Depression, but her mother never cared about "fancy" things anyway. But my mother longed for beautiful china. In my senior year of high school, my sister and I took a big part of our savings from our after-school jobs and got her a whole set of Franciscan Desert Rose. Her face when she opened the big box is one of my fondest memories. She was very happy. My sister has the set now and uses it for company and special occasions.

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