Sunday, June 17, 2012

Wedding Band China

For many years I've collected Paris Porcelain.  I inherited some that was passed down from my great grandmother Giggy, but I've added a lot more over time.


Made in France in the 19th century, what is today known as Paris Porcelain was highly popular in this country in the decades leading up to and following the Civil War.  Millions of pieces of it were shipped to America, often in blanks awaiting decoration.  Much of it was painted after it arrived on the shores of the young nation, and was most frequently decorated with gold rims and circles within the interior, as shown in the photographs accompanying this essay.  Known commonly as "Wedding Band China," a name prompted both by its decoration and the frequent giving of it to newly married couples, this type of Paris Porcelain makes a regular appearance at our meals at Darlington House.

I recall seeing an article many years ago in Martha Stewart Living magazine about collecting Wedding Band China, but I've not been able to locate the issue.  We didn't start saving issues of the magazine until the spring of 1998, shortly before we bought Darlington.


Why do I collect this china, you might ask, Dear Reader?  Because I have fond memories of eating off of it as a child in the house I grew up in, and because it is (or once was) readily available on the East Coast at (generally) very reasonable prices.  Also, it sits right in the middle of our collecting period for such things.  Furthermore, having stacks of it on hand is most convenient when throwing large buffet parties.

Wedding Band China can be found at tag sales, at yard sales, in junk shops, in group shoppes, and on eBay.  As these things go, it is usually quite inexpensive, and can often be picked up for less than ten dollars a dinner plate, and sometimes for substantially less.  At such prices, who cares if a plate chips or cracks?  Buy extra for breakage!

Yesterday, when out and about in the town near Darlington where we do much of our shopping, we came across a table piled high with Wedding Band China sitting in front of an antiques dealer's shop.  Pawing through the assortment of offerings on his Saturday sidewalk sale table we came up with nearly two dozen plates in varying sizes that we were able to buy for only one hundred dollars, or less than five dollars a plate.  Try coming away with that kind of bargain at Crate and Barrel, Dear Reader!


With but a quick sudsy scrub our once dusty plates were gleamingly clean, and they are now safely stowed in the dining room cupboard at Darlingon House, awaiting their next act.  And, to that end, just today at luncheon (eating off of two of our new/old plates, I might add) Boy and I hatched a plan to host a large bruncheon party in the not-too-distant future, where our expanded pile of plates will be a most useful and pleasing addition.

Reggie urges you, Dear Reader, to keep an eagle-eye out for Wedding Band China and to amass stacks of it to use at large buffet parties, as we do at Darlington House.

Photographs by Boy Fenwick

62 comments:

  1. I love wedding band china and I have been adding to my grandmother's casual, California Ivy pattern. It is a campy, midcentury pattern on thick porcelain. Last week, I added to my serving pieces. It is also a bargain on eBay. I plan on adding more plates soon.

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    1. Hello Kerry, Isn't eBay a great source for filling out one's patterns? I also use Replacements Ltd., too. Reggie

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  2. Hello Reggie, do you know if the gold rims can be refreshed? I inherited my great grandmother' s Haviland china, c. 1900', which was so heavily used the gold rims wore away. Would you use it or hide it?

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    1. Hello Marion,
      I suppose the rims could be refreshed, but I haven't looked into doing so. I think nothing of using china where the gold rims are worn, and enjoy setting my table with it. I like a bit of age, and that's a good thing since when I look in the mirror I see much evidence of it! Reggie

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    2. Unfortunately, I don't think the rims can be refreshed. Although gold is fired at a very low temperature, putting an older plate into a kiln probably would result it it's exploding. The accumulation of moisture into the clay body through microscopic cracks would probably not stand up to even a low temp. firing.

      Artificial gold applications just can't reproduce the quality of the original gold, unfortunately.

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    3. Thank you, CAFA -- the words of a true expert! RD

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  3. The gold band in white porcelain is a true classic and wonderful to "stretch" more expensive, smaller sets of elaborately decorated pieces. I also have many dozens of place settings of clear glass, a great improvement over disposable (which is not used) but not nearly as elegant as "wedding band".

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    1. Hello TDC: When you use clear glass, is it for the main plate or auxhialary ones? We have glass plates and bowls, too, which we (mostly) use when serving dessert. I have a set of plates in amythst glass, which I love, and also a set of plates and bowls (which I am convinced are actually finger bowls) in colorless cut glass that we use for ice cream, to glittering effect. RD

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  4. Hello Reggie,

    What a splendid find indeed, and one that would make my knees weak if I were to run across such a sight! I just took a look through my collection of Martha's magazines and the article to which you refer was included in Issue 25, December 1994/January 1995.

    I have a little obsession with Paris Porcelain myself, particularly the simpler decorated pieces such as Wedding Band porcelain. It is elegantly understated and really quite timeless. Do you have any of the earlier Wedding Band pieces with the faceted edges? Those are my absolute favorites and I have many pieces that I enjoy using at our dinner parties and luncheons. The faceted teacups have a very clean and modern appearance. It is hard to believe they were manufactured in the first half of the nineteenth century.

    By the way, Wedding Band porcelain is very hard to come by on the West Coast. I've been stuck at (unlucky) 13 dinner plates for a number of years now (at least compared
    to soup bowls which I've managed to collect two dozen at the last count).

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    1. Hello LizaE: Thank you for the heads up on the issue number. No wonder I couldn't find it, as it was published years before I started saving back issues of the magazine! I have an entire set of the faceted PP you mention, but mine is undecorated (pure white) and was also inherited from my GG-mother. Do troll eBay for Wedding Band china, as I see it there regularly. RD

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  5. my savvy Mother-in-law has given me a few serving pieces of french porcelain over the years....goes well with my herend golden edge and Queen Victoria. Love the juxtaposition of high and low, makes entertaining much more interesting. Thank you for the history of these pieces

    Hope you will share your bruncheon...your guests will be excited to receive the invitation I'm sure

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    1. JCW: Yes, Paris Porcelain "goes" with many other different patterns, and is quite versatile. We have lots of serving pieces in it, too, but they didn't make it into today's post. Reggie

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  6. Hello Reggie
    What a wonderful price for so many pieces of china.
    I do not have any wedding band china but have a large collection of Crown Darby, Spode pink tower and wild strawberry by Wedgewood, which we use at our dinner parties. I have 12 place setttings for each and change them about depending on the season.

    I have run out of storage otherwise I would add some wedding band china.

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  7. Hello Helen, You are fortunate to have so many place settings of the china you describe. And I can commiserate on the storage front. Several years ago, when we found the large set of Paris Porcelain I linked this piece to, we had to buy additional rolling storage for it to sit on in our basement, as our cupboards were full to bursting on the main floor of the house! RD

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    1. Ah, lucky you to have a basement, Reggie. Among the many things I dislike about living in California is the lack of basements. Storing extra china in the garage just would not be the same as putting it in a nice basement cupboard! I, too, have run out of space, having 12 place settings of Pickard's Washington pattern, 12 of a Christmas pattern, and various bits and pieces inherited from my grandmother.

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    2. Hello SL: Yes, we are lucky to have a nice, clean, and dry basement (which it most definitely wasn't before we renovated it, but that is a topic for another day). I am somewhat embarassed that I must resort to storing our overflow china (among other things) in our basement, but I justify doing so by the near absence of closets in our Federal-era house. At least that's what I tell myself! Reggie

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  8. Hi Reggie
    A very chic set ! I myself go for the Royal Doulton with the hand-painted periwinkles ;)

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    1. Hello Anon: Aren't these the same plates you mentioned here once before? I'm not familiar with this pattern...RD

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    2. Dear RD
      I don't think I have mentioned it before .. This is Hyacinth's pattern in Keeping Up Appearances ..

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    3. Hello Reggie, I believe this is a reference to Mrs Bouquet's favorite china on the British sitcom "Keeping Up Appearances". I'm sure if you've ever seen the show you would not soon forget her.

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    4. Okay, now I understand. Most amusing, indeed! Of course one loves Mrs. Bucket, er Bouquet...! RD

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  9. I'm always drawn to simple white china, and the gilded edge is the icing on the cake. I have gilded edging on a Royal Worcester pattern, but unfortunately it doesn't like the dishwasher, (or rather it doesn't like them). I suppose I should just think "to hell with it", and stick them in, but instead I use a simple white with blue rim service, which survives the modern convenience quite well. Other bits of beauty such as the silver (flatware) and the glass (Waterford) are also very unforgiven in the dishwasher, and those I cherish too much to inflict the machine on them. So it's by hand.

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  10. Dear Columnist: Yes, the dirty little secret about china with gilding on it is it mustn't be put in today's dishwashers, which strip the gilding most efficiently, a combination of blistering heat and modern detergent. And the sorry truth is that one must wash it by hand, along with other vintage and antique china, crystal, and silver. We do have modern, unadorned white china by Reynaud that we use "every day" for that very reason. We got it because I found myself becoming resentful at all the dishes to do when all we used (or had) couldn't go in the dishwasher. Today, though, I rather enjoy handwashing our dishes, when required, as it is but a small price to pay for enjoying their use. Of course I would prefer it if I had someone "in" full time as I would gladly surrender such a chore, but I haven't found a way to engineer that, given that we are only at Darlington (usually) on weekends, and not always regularly... Reggie

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  11. I was lucky enough to buy a full service for 12 from the Royal Worcester factory in the UK during the early 80s. The factory sales shop also sold experimental pieces and odd overruns, etc. I bought two small casseroles that were completely covered with plain gold. Also, some other 12 inch plates with various gold trims. They work wonderfully as serving plates. I also have a few odd pieces of early (1960s) Noritake with gold trim. They blend right in and are really quality porcelain pieces.

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    1. Very nice! I am sure they are lovely -- RD

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  12. Wonderful. We have amassed quite the collection of Royal Copenhagen china and what I love about the dishes the most are the numbers on the bottom of the dish which is easy to keep track of size and style when scouting.
    I do have a few serving pieces that I adore. I wish I could find one of the old coffee servers.
    Love the idea of your brunch on those gorgeous plates. We never do paper.
    pve

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    1. I love the all-white Royal Copenhagen, also the RC decorated with blue. My stepmother has a large service of the latter. It is gorgeous! Paper? What is paper? I am not familiar with this word when to comes to plates... RD

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    2. I have some of the RC in blue & white... blue half lace? my favourite pieces from them is the little double-handled covered cold soups.

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  13. Hello Reggie, I was interested to read that your faceted set is undecorated. I've never come across any of those pieces, although I do own a wonderful faceted Paris Porcelain confiturier that is undecorated.

    I've done some serious damage on eBay over the years and was shocked recently when I received an email from eBay congratulating me on my 15 years of shopping with them. 15 years - simply mad!!!

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    1. I have had to exercize great self control when it comes to eBay. It can become a ruinous habit! But, like heroin is (I am told) so seductive and delicious...until the PayPal account comesd due! RD

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  14. Just today I was thinking, why do I use china for everyday dining?
    I keep chipping it.

    Oh two quick questions, am planning next year's birthday.
    The Hamptons or Nantucket?
    Fly into NYC - night at The Carlyle but which hotel in Boston on the way back?

    Hubs and I are agreed-what Reggie says goes.

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    1. Hello Tabitha:
      Thank you for your comment. I am afraid that I haven't been to the Hamptons in 15 or more years, so am not the best person to ask on that score... However, I try and go to Nantucket every summer, as I love it so. If I were to stay in an inn or hotel there, I would recommend Cliffside Beach Club & Hotel www.cliffsidebeach.com. It is low key and chic, and off the beaten path, but close enough to town, too. Not exactly Eden Roc, but then Nantucket isn't the south of France! As far as Boston goes, we gave up staying anywhere else but the Four Seasons, as it is just about perfect so why bother with the alternatives! And you can't go wrong at the Carlyle, either, home to my most favorite watering hole, Bemelman's Bar. Excellent choice m'dear! Thanks ever so, Reggie

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    2. Tabs: Thanks to you, Boy and I are now staying at the Cliffside for a four nights later this summer. We weren't planning on a Nantucket sojourn at all this summer, called away by other choices. But reading (and responding to) your email inspired us, and we decided we would be miserable without at least a long weekend on the island. So, with you as inspiration we are now happily doing exactly that! Oh, and if you are in NY, JetBlue has convenient direct flights to Nantucket from JFK, that only take about an hour start to finish... Thanks! Reggie

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    3. Wonderful stuff Reggie, I think it's Nantucket for next year's birthday! We'd have a night at the Carlyle then and then 5 days on the island and round it off with a night in Boston.

      Hope you and boy have a wonderful trip!

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    4. Well, this sounds to be the perfect trip. Book-ending a visit to the island with stays at two of my most favorite hotels in America. I may do a post after our trip to Nantucket later this summer, so you can decide whether the Cliffside is up to snuff. Thanks, RD

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  15. Is "bruncheon" actually a word?

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  16. I love wedding band china and I'm lucky to have a set of my grandmother's. In the summer it's fun to mix it with white cabbage dinnerware and in the winter with darker patterns of old Limoge. Thanks for a great post!

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    1. Hello Cynna: Thank you for your comment. Yes, this china does mix and match beautifully. It is a versatile addition to one's table settings. Reggie

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  17. The Contessa is on it!!!!!!!!!!If I find should I let you know?Gold & White.......just the perfect plate.

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  18. Happy hunting, my dear Contessa! RD

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  19. We love this! It's so chic...for buffets and everyday.
    Hope you, Boy, and Pompey are well and enjoying summer.
    xo E + J

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    1. Dear E+J: We have but a small collection compared to your vast holdings, I recall... Hope you are well! RD

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  20. Such a classic. My plate selection has dwindled. Hmm. I should search out an occasion to augment.

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    1. Dear LPC: As I understand from LizaE, such china is not so easily found on the left coast, unlike here in the land of your forebears where it remains (comparatively) plentiful. An excuse, I believe, for at least one more of your (hopefully) many trips back east...RD

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  21. When a friend of mine married in the 1960s her Connecticut socialite grandmother told her that all she needed to entertain was 100 plates and 100 forks. (Of course that doesn't cover serving dishes and cups/glasses.) The grandmother said that with this she could serve one course to 100 guests, two courses to 50 guests, etc, etc. My friend asked, "What about the soup course," and that's when the practical old Yankee came out of her grandmother: "Too much trouble, dear." This woman had obviously entertained frequently in her time, and understood the benefit of keeping the hardware simple, allowing her to focus on things like the guest list. And I have no doubt this grandmother would have loved having a vast collection of Paris porcelain!

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    1. Great story my dear, thanks for sharing it! Imagine having 100 to dinner...Boggles the mind. Never mind the china and the silver, what about the staff! RD

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  22. When my grandparents were married, they received a set of new-old China which I believe was similar to this, and which they told me was all wrapped in newspapers of Civil War date. Unfortunately, I don't have either the china or the newspapers.

    By the way, do all of your pieces have the same type of burnished gold band? Somewhere I have some similar plates with a Gothic trefoil design in the band--I can't remember whether the relief design was in the porcelain or just in the gold part. I think they are English and with an ivory instead of a white background.
    --Road to Parnassus

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    1. Hello Parnassa,
      How marvelous it would be to be given a set wrapped in Civil War era newspapers, as your grandparents were. One of my cousins told me a story related by an Aunt of hers (no relation of mine) of inheriting barrels and barrels of Chinese Export porcelain that had never been unpacked from when it was shipped from China. Now, that would have been something to unpack! As far as your plates go, they sound to be English, as you posit. Thanks, Reggie

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  23. Love the stuff. Can't get enough of it! Thank you for your post.

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  24. What a treat to find your blog. On the subject of M. Stewart. The publisher's deliberate lack of indexing the content at all on any level ( except for a separate published index printed once) now who paid extra for that?? That would be perhaps highly valued if found, but it was not a product they could sell advertising in I suppose . My collection starts in 1993. And well I did not subscribe year after year since the early 2000s as well, to me, it drifted from its original voice.

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    1. Hello Anon 2:17:
      Yes, it would be most helpful for MSL to publish indexes of what has appeared in the magazine over the years. I, too, recall one having been published many years ago, but nothing since then. Thanks for your comment. Reggie

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  25. LOVE the Wedding Band China! After years of trying to find a proper accompaniment to my "Carlyle" by Royal Doulton, I decided this Parisian Porcelain was the perfect choice, (and as you, Reggie, have mentioned), a most affordable complement. Indeed, it can stand alone by it's own simple and refined virtues, but also partners so well with many other fine patterns...traditional and contemporary.

    This may sound horrible... but when our young Godson, or other young children came to luncheon or dinner, we often provided them with a Wedding Band service, rather than a more expensive choice... I'm proud to say our Godson is now older, and dines on the finest I have to offer.

    Reggie, your postings are the highlight of many of my days.

    Dwayne in Raleigh, NC

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    1. Hello Dwayne,
      Thank you for your comment. It is not "horrible," as you say, to choose one's china according to one's guests. We do the same at Darlington! Reggie

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  26. what markings does the french porcelain have so I know what to look for when hunting for some (Los Angeles is not the best place for such fun). thank you

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    1. Hello rsalo,
      Most of the porcelain is unmarked, but some of it will be marked "Lemoges" for the area in which much of it was produced. Later versions will include the names of the manufacturer, such as "Haviland." Reggie

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  27. Too funny! Between the previous post on salts and this you could be channeling my partner who has collected Old Paris for years. One note of caution -- the gilt was produced using mercury. The safest way to clean it is handwashing in cold water. Avoid hot water and heavy scrubbing as it will damage the gilt and potentially release small amounts of mercury.

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  28. I have seen and been tempted by this china for years- My favorite is the stuff which has been monogrammed, mostly in unreadable script- One can truthfully say it is old family china,one just doesn't need to say whose old family-

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  29. Pile of plates indeed! Oh dahhling you speak to the weakness in my heart: Porcelains! as the very clever Marques de Sant'Ana always says (quoting Deede Brooks): "furniture makes us comfortable, art makes us worldly, but porcelains make us civilized!"
    I ahhdore the entertaining possibilities that new porcelain finds create in us!

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  30. I too have loved the wedding band china since I was a little girl. My great aunt gave a very large set of the china to my mom, and I will inherit it. Our set includes dinner, salad, and dessert plates, cups and saucers for 18, as well as several sizes of platters, covered serving pieces, and pitchers. Our covered serving pieces and pitchers are adorned with the rope and anchor theme.

    I am a big fan of your blog, and I always look forward to your posts!

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