While today, eating soup or a salad out of a “bread bowl” might have some kitsch appeal, when tableware consisted entirely of very hard bread (a “trencher”) used to deliver food to mouth and then subsequently tossed to the dogs, it was decidedly less entertaining. But that was 500 years ago and things have changed since then – although not all that much in western civilization tableware since the 1700s. That’s when the European aristocracy discovered that China was using dinner plates, a German potter learned how to create the porcelain tableware, and companies such as Wedgwood, Royal Copenhagen, Royal Saxon and Spode launched their lines of “fine china.” A custom was born that persists to this day, with not much changing over time.

Traditionally a bride-to-be would get her dinnerware, for which she registered, from her parents and guests at her wedding. The tradition faded as couples began to set up homes – and dinnerware – prior to marriage, and as individual table settings became prohibitively costly. Today, after years of focus on function over form, china is again wildly popular, but with many people instead compiling their china over time, adding place settings and accessory pieces as possible.

Gilded edges and floral patterns have always been popular on china, but the number of patterns, colors, shapes, sizes and pieces can be quite staggering – or inspiring to enthusiasts. Some of the most popular lines today are Lenox, Wedgwood and Waterford, but there are numerous others including from famed designers such as Vera Wang and Kate Spade.

Regardless of choice in lines or patterns of china or the time invested in putting the collection together, rest assured that fine china is meant to stand the test of time. And, better yet, it doesn’t get fed to the dogs after dinner.

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