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