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Registering for my first fine china...oh my!

  • Pei Jul 23, 2007 12:54 PM

I have to say, the thought of receiving my first set of fine china is one of the greatest thrills of planning a wedding. I know, I know, it's not about the gifts. But china excites me way more than dresses and veils, I'll tell you that!

Anyway, I need some advice about what china to register for. Here's what I'd like:

-high quality, beautifully translucent, lustrous china
-no intricate designs, just something all white with an interesting texture, or a simple designed in platinum.
-a reliable brand that will be around for a few years in case I break a piece or two over time

What I've seen so far and liked are Lenox, Mikasa, and some Crate and Barrel designs, but I know nothing about long term quality of any of the products. Waterford makes some pretty china, but it's so expensive. Is it worth it? I would like to be able to see the actual products before purchasing, so please no solely on line recommendations.

I would appreciate all advice about what to look for, where to shop (I'm in Los Angeles), and what kinds of prices to keep in mind. I will definitely comparison shop before I make a final decision, I just need guidance finding the perfect set!

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  1. My first question would be, is this fine china that you want to use everyday, or fine china that you anticipate using for dinner parties/special occasions?

    I have Villery & Boch for everyday, and it has held up very well (despite being discontinued - fortunately I find replacements on ebay). My "fine china" is Bernardaud, which I adore - the pattern I chose is white, with a cobalt ring, trimmed w/ gold.

    But, your answers to the questions will probably help people advise you better.

    Edit - as I posted on another thread - this is what I would buy were I starting from scratch:

    http://www.replacements.com/webquote/...

    5 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      Thanks!

      I am looking for special occassion china. I'm the type to call it a special occassion if even two people come over for dinner, though, because otherwise when would I ever get to use everything? I want something beautiful but I'm not going to delude myself that I'm the kind of person to cherish my china forever and leave it to my grandchildren. I want it to be nice enough for people to notice, to make my food look beautiful, and to eventually be replaced as I break them or change my preferences a few decades from now.

      My every day dishes are 50 cent ceramic bowls and plates from IKEA. I know, I know, I should grow up. But every day china is easy to find at outlets and sales, and meant to be scratched up and broken.

      1. re: Pei

        Skip the Crate & Barrel--while the dishes may be quality, the pattern will be impossible to find when you decide you need five more place settings for your grandson's college graduation luncheon. Stick with a china manufacturer, and your pattern is likely to be in production for a longer period of time, which means greater availability on the secondhand/resale market. You're smart to choose a primarily white or ivory pattern (you never know what color you might decide to paint the dining room five houses from now), and if the lack of color bothers you in a few years, you can always add color with chargers.

        I like textured rims (basketweave, etc) and I don't like metal rimming, which makes the china less dishwasher-friendly. All that said, I don't own fine china. My ridiculously large collection of Portmeirion stoneware is as fancy as it gets at my house! Eventually, I'll probably buy a used service from Replacements or similar, but right now I have no more storage space, so it will have to wait.

        1. re: Hungry Celeste

          "Stick with a china manufacturer, and your pattern is likely to be in production for a longer period of time"

          When I got married we registered for C&B everyday dishes and this Wedgwood Clio set of dishes (and we received everything):

          http://www.chefscorner.com/web/catalo...

          While the C&B pattern (Maison) is one of their signature plain white sets and they never get rid of them, the Wedgwood set was discontinued about a year after our wedding. Luckily we received all 12 place settings, plus many serving pieces. And with the internet, it's fairly easy to get extras if need be. I've thought about ordering more of my Wedgwood dishes, since we often have more than 12 people for holidays, but I have a set of dishes that were my grandmothers and those complement the Wedgwood when placed alternately at the table.

          I always loved this Bernardaud Naxos pattern for everyday, but when I got married, I thought that they were too expensive and nobody would buy them....

          http://www1.macys.com/catalog/product...

          1. re: valerie

            Unfortunately, as you point out, the issue of patterns being discontinued is just as prevalent with china manufacturers. I had that problem with my Bernardaud, as well as with the V&B - first they discontinued Manoir, by reissuing it as Chambord - same shape, different shade of cream, then discontinued the latter. One thing I did discover years ago on a trip to Paris, is that Bernardaud may discontinue a pattern in the stores, but if they still have odd pieces - or the "decals" for the pattern - in stock, you can order from them directly. This was the case with my Bernardaud Pergola tea service. With my other Bernardaud pattern (which actually doesn't say Bernardaud on the back, but Ancienne Manufacture Royale), Decor Florian, they made more for me - it has a simple gold and dark blue rim. Now, this was in the pre-Euro days, but it was much, much cheaper than the pieces I bought in the US, even w/ import tax and fed ex shipping.

      2. re: MMRuth

        I also love my Bernardaud (Athena Platinum Navy). We have the Orrefors Intermezzo stemware (with a cobalt tear drop in the stem), and it looks beautiful with the china.

        If you are close to a Bloomingdale's or Bloomingdale's home store, I liked their selection best of the major department stores.

      3. What you are lookin for is bone china. Royal Doulton, Royal Worcester, Coalport, Wedgwood etc. I know Lenox has tried to produce and sell bone china but keep going back to their fine china with the cream body. The bone china is usually made in Europe.

        Go into the china dept. of a large dept. store and let them know that you would like to play with different combinations. Stemware, flatware and china and keep mixing it around until you find something you would like. If you have a fairly plain china, then you might want something more ornate in flatware or stemware. In china avoid any that has colors that are trendy and hot right now, they like shoulder pads of the 80's and will be dated in less than 10 years. Buy classic design and make sure it is open stock.

        MM Ruth and I are both table top junkies as is jillp when she posts. I was a china etc buyer and then a china dept manager as was Jill. So we have seen a lot of patterns come and go. Replacements is a good source if you need to replace a piece and your pattern is discontinued but they do no one any favors on price. Caplans in Monteral (they ship...I've dealt with them for over 30 years, Barrons, Ross Simons, larger Bed Bath and Beyons stores have a good selection of china and all of those coupons and others routinely discount it all. http://www.dinnerwaredepot.com/shop is a fun site and they do have good sales and discounts. It is a fun thing to do, take your time and make up your own mind. Unless you are really quick to decide it may take 2-3 stores and tries to find what is just right.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Candy

          You can also get china pieces much more reasonably that replacements on EBay. My sister recently bought me some vintage fine china -- she'd seen a set on craigslist, but by the time she'd decided to get it for me it was gone, so she went online and cobbled together about ten place settings, a couple of platters and a large serving bowl. Since then I've picked up a creamer, and I'm eyeing a gravy boat -- $9!

          1. re: MakingSense

            I've had a Paypal account for years, and I use it for all kinds of things. I'm terrible at sitting down with my checkbook and paying bills, so I pay as many as possible of them electronically, and I pay my gardener via Paypal.

            Look at it this way: if you send someone a personal check you're giving them a lot more information than you do using Paypal: your banking information is all printed on the check, as is your name and address, and usually your phone number. I've even seen people who pre-print their driver's license number on their check. It's a lot easier for someone to steal your identity using the info on a paper check than it is to hack Paypal. Contrary to what you see on TV, most the vast majority of criminals just aren't that smart. For every one who has both the desire and the skills to take advantage of the new technology, there are dozens who will steal from you the good old fashioned way, by taking physical objects (cash, credit cards, and checks). When my identity was stolen, it was from someone who took my drivers license and checks from my checkbook -- no computer skills required!

            Anyway, the point is that EBay doesn't "make" you do anything. Strongly encourage, yes. Compell, no.

            To get back to the topic, I just bought that gravy boat, plus a large serving bowl and two more dinner plates (can you ever have too many dinner plates or serving bowls?) from the same seller (saving on the shipping). I've had my new china for less than six months and I've already used it twice, and plan to use it at every opportunity, even though it has to be hand-washed.

        2. Take a look at Wedgwood. I got married last year and registered for their "Night and Day" pattern. It's all white, has a very cool border texture/design (some are checkered, some ribs). There are a few accent pieces in black. Wedgwood has been around a long time, excellent quality, and they go on sale at Macy's and Bloomingdales on a regular basis. This pattern is considered "casual china" but it is fine bone china. Only thing that's a little weird is that the cup and saucer are a little thicker than I'd expect.

          But I love it!

          1. You've actually got a lot right off the bat - simple designs, something lasting so they'll be replacement parts and high quality. I recommend the British route - Royal Doulton's French Quarter pattern is incredibly close to what you're describing - if you want pattern on top of the platinum band, RD carries Gordon Ramsay's line and his platinum has some good ridge texture. In addition, the bigger the name, the easier it's going to be to find pieces in the future. Established china makers like RD don't retire often and if they do, you will find the pieces on retired china sites (places like dinnerware depot). However, your desire for something simple does put you in the "least likely to be retired" column.

            As far as where to buy and/or register, don't limit yourself to one place. You may limit yourself to telling friends about 1 or 2 places, but this is the time to clean up. Most major stores will have some type of "table top" plan. Basically a store will offer you 10-15% off of items as you complete your registry. Good stores will also tell you when their major clearance sales take place - so suddenly your fine china is 20% off with a compounded 10-15% off on top of that - register at a place where you don't have their card and you can take 10% more off on top of that.

            It's fantastic the first time you have a chance to have out the china and serve dinner on it. Even better to know that you took some time to splurge and get something that's really nice for the two of you with a bit of the wedding money. Congratulations!

            3 Replies
            1. re: Stephmo

              I found that when I got married my now husband said, we'll never get all the china... well, we did. because although I registered for it at macy's, Barrons and ross simons had it significantly cheaper and sometimes included a free soup bowl. so the older generation of ladies went that route, hence a rather complete set, then I used the fill out coupon and the extra credits from macys to finish the set once it went on sale. if you do go to macys, make sure you work with different associates till you find one that is helpful, I have worked with several non-helpful ones which made it rather frustration.... also on a side note, I was beyond excited to get my first set of china and in the last year, have used it probably a dozen times so far.

              1. re: Mel

                That's my huge qualm about registering somewhere like Macy's. I know for a fact that it's going to be overpriced, even if it happens to be on sale. I'm the kind of person that will be very cross if I see my china at an outlet somewhere for half off, even if I received all of them as presents!

                But looking is half the fun. Maybe if I find a set I love at a discount place I can have my mom spread the word to the older generation ladies that we're closest to that that's what I really want.

                Thanks again for the advice, everyone. Let the hunt begin.

                So far I'm enjoying the Royal Doulton Precious Platinum set, but my it's pricey: http://www.amazon.com/Royal-Doulton-P...

                1. re: Pei

                  Ross Simon is a great idea - v. good prices. The other thing I would suggest is think about what pieces you really think that you'll use. I didn't get tea cups and saucers of my "dinner party" pattern, since I rarely serve tea after dinner. I did register for a tea set in another pattern - a much more "frou frou" looking pattern - for those rare occasions when I have a tea party (smile), and ended up buying a set of demitasse cups later on.

            2. I can vouch for the durability and availability of Wedgewood and Royal Doulton! I use my mother's and grandmother's sets to this day. Granny used her Wedgewood every day, and I'm sure they never saw the inside of a dishwasher... so we're talking heavy use and plenty of handling. Some pieces from her pattern (Florentine Turquoise) are still available from the manufacturer. Although Mom's RD Arcadia pattern was discontinued nearly 50 years ago, many pieces are available through aftermarket dealers.

              A caveat regarding bargain hunting: the good stuff rarely goes for cheap, and there is plenty of couterfeit china out there. I bought a replacement bowl on vacation which turned out to be about 5 shades too light when I put it next to the real thing. By all means, look for a good price, but stick to authorized dealers (usually on the manufacturer's website).

              Good luck in your search Pei, and let the board know what you decided on!

              One other suggestion, if you want to find out which patterns will be around, why not call the manufacturers customer service department?

              1. I have Villeroy and Boch, my only set, which I use every day. The pattern I have is Petite Fluer. It's beautiful, and I have never tired of it after having it for 18 years. I can tell you that it does pay to buy quality china. BTW: Villeroy also makes bone china. I love mine, it rarely chips, and of the pieces that have, they have replaced them free of charge. My sister bought some Mikasa for every day, and it has chipped quite a bit and she hates it. She bought a beautiful Christian Dior pattern for her bone china. It was expensive, and has not held up well. The gold on some of the dishes is getting light, despite the fact that it is rarely used, never put in the dishwasher, and is not in direct sunlight.
                Villeroy is an old German manufacturer, and the quality is excellent. I am very pleased with the product and it is put in the dishwasher every day.
                Crate and Barrel and others of that type do not offer the quality of a Villeroy or a Wedgewood, for example. Ebay is not a bad idea, once you figure out what you want. I also see that Ross Simons has a good selection of china in their catalog.

                3 Replies
                1. re: mschow

                  I have Villeroy and Boch for my "everyday" set - the Manoir pattern, which is the same shape as the Petite Fleur - has held up incredibly well, and I've add no problems replacing pieces using EBay. (I wanted Petite Fleur, but my husband balked at the flowers, and in retrospect, I'm glad, since our decor has changed a great deal over the years.)

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    One of my greatest regrets is not cashing in when the Villeroy & Boch closed down in San Francisco. I knew I would regret it, but I just didn't have the money to throw down or the space to keep any china. But it's good to know they hold up--I do like their designs.

                    And good call about not needing to get everything in a certain pattern, Ruth! I want the frou frou English garden type tea cups for the occassional tea party. I was thinking about getting a small set with a nice pot and four cups and saucers, then adding to them when I come across cute second hand china. I love the idea of each cup and saucer being unique and having a story.

                    1. re: Pei

                      You know what - I've had those regrets in my life as well (now just over 40), and the reality is, if you don't have the money, you don't have the money (and that was the case with me on more than one occasion), so no point in having regrets. I'll try and locate a photo of my tea set pattern (yet another discontinued one, sadly). Saw your post below about Riedel - lucky you - we just did a big stock taking and managed to take advantage of a local sale to restock.

                2. Do do do get bone china! Nothing else compares! We use Wedgewood Signet Gold - pure white with a very thin gold line. They also do a signet platinum if you prefer. I like that the plates do not compete with the food (which is, as we all know, the real reason for the plates after all). I also like that the simplicity of the plates allows me to mix in other patterns if I wish. I have some antique plates that are more floral that I occasionally use and other, seasonal, designs that don't clash with the Wedgewood. They also look amazing on gold chargers if I've doing an over-the-top table set up!!

                  We use 'not fine' Noritake china for everyday. It's a lot more durable than the pottery plates you think of as being cheap. They aren't so cheap in the long run if you add in the breakage cost. We give our two year old the Noritake and it holds up fine.

                  We did register at Macy's and were unhappy with their return policies. Maybe they have changed (this was over ten years ago) but we got 7 extra places settings (many people bought on the day of the wedding and the computer was not updating fast enough to reflect the sales). We weren't unhappy - we swapped the extra place settings for serving pieces (which people are less likely to buy). But they gave us a hard time about it and it took a year to straighten it all out. They do have lots of sales though. Take into account where your guests are from - many people like to shop in person and having a store with multiple outlets is helpful for them.

                  Now - what are you doing about crystal?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: lupaglupa

                    One thing at a time! We have one (very generous) friend who has been singlehandedly building our Riedel collection for the last few years, so we'll probably add to or complete that.

                    1. re: Pei

                      Okay stemware is taken care of. What are you doing about flatware? I wish I could come and hold you hand and walk you through this. This is big money. I have done it with many brides feel free to contact me directly or ask me for other experts. i would never push my own opinions on you and whacky me has 3 sterling patterns and all very different. If you e-mail me and want to talk about some of this stuff I can give you a toll free #

                      1. re: Candy

                        Thanks Candy! That is so sweet of your. I'm not anywhere close to a final decision, but please let me know your e-mail and I'll probably give you a ring after I've done my leg work!

                  2. I have bernadaud louvre and it is GORGEOUS! timeless - it had just come out 9 years ago when i got married but looks fabulous now and will forever. it's hard to get sick of, high quality, easy to change the style of with accesories, table decorations, etc, and food looks great on it. plus it's just cool that it's all designs from the louvre.
                    definitely check it out - i love that others like their bernadaud as well.
                    i definitely recommend picking on online site as well for registering as that is where bargains can be found. we used nat schwartz but i don't think they exist the same way anymore. my brother just got married 2 weeks ago and just used upscale gallery.com

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: AMFM

                      p.s. a good double check is to go to someplace like replacements.com and see if they carry the ones you're interested in. that way you'd know before you break them!

                    2. Check out Geary's on Beverly Drive for selection. The prices are high but you can make an appt any they'll help you with flatware, stemware, etc. They have the biggest selection of fine china in WLA, I think. A lot of what they carry is available elsewhere but they'll be able to help you mix/match the best. We got Villeroy dishes for every day and Spode fine china. They also helped me mix/match some waterford china with my spode because the spode serving pieces were so costly.

                      1. Bernardaud Louvre. Beautiful Limoges porcelain. Bas-relief texture evoking the various architectural motifs on the Louvre Museum in Paris. Timeless. Classic. All the pieces you will ever need, including bakeware. Hands down, the winner.

                        1. I just wanted to chime in that i have Medard de Noblat porcelain and love it! I am not sure where you would purchace it in Los Angeles (I registered for mine at Michael C Fina in New York), but i'm certain you could find it. Their patterns are beautiful, timeless, and most of them have unique touches. It's pricy, but i love mine. http://www.medarddenoblat.com/