Most people will come across dinnerware and china in particular at some point in their lives. Maybe it’s for your wedding, maybe you’ve inherited a set from Grandma etc. Chances are you will be quite unfamiliar with the details, I mean we all know what a plate is and what a cup is, but beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess. Here are a couple of terms to get you started, words that will help you understand what you have and allow you to either add to your set, sell your china or just plain enjoy it better.
Every china piece was manufactured (obviously ;)). The manufacturer is also called the “brand”. For example if you have a piece of Lenox Autumn china, then Lenox manufactured this piece and Lenox is the “brand” name of the china piece.
Different china pieces have different designs on them. Then there are some that share the same design. For example, all Lenox Holiday pieces share the same holiday theme. That design is called a “pattern”. Every pattern has a name or a number, sometimes both. That allows people to look for more and discuss their pattern easily without fumbling at words to describe their pattern every time it comes up. Some patterns feature the same design but with slight variations, these are called multi-motif patterns. Herend Rothschild Bird is an example of a multi-motif pattern, the basic design is the same, birds on a tree, but there are 12 variations pertaining to the color and direction of the birds.
Afterward comes the “piece type”. There are all types of pieces. Plates, bowls, cups, serving pieces etc. While most people can differentiate between a plate and a bowl, figuring out which type of plate you have (dinner, salad, charger) or which bowl you need (soup, cereal, fruit) can be a bit more difficult. See our China Pieces guide for a great help in this area. Crystal patterns such as Waterford Powersocurt and Waterford Ashling have their own piece types such as goblets, champagne flutes, martinis and the like.
The brand and pattern names can most often be found on the backstamp. The backstamp is information written or etched on the back of most china pieces. Earlier pieces don’t have much in the way of this information so identifying them can be a chore. But as time went on, manufacturers added more information and in clearer, easier to read formats to help customers know what they have. Most patterns from the last 30 to 50 years are pretty easy to determine the brand and pattern. There is usually some internal corporate information on the backstamp as well, but it is easy to discern what you need to know and what is company goobldeygook.
Now that you know these basic pieces of information it should be easy to move forward with what you have in the direction you choose to go. Hopefully you want to buy more! 😉