Choosing Your Dinnerware 101

Ever been paralyzed by the overwhelming number of choices at a supermarket? The hundreds of toothpaste options at the pharmacy? Or, my personal biggest fear, the 40 options at the salad bar (also known as salad bar anxiety)? Searching for the right dinnerware set for your household can be an intimidating process as the bride and groom-to-be, or anyone for that matter. How could you possibly imagine what your home should look like now, let alone in 20 years? Here are some questions to help you find the right dinnerware for you and your home!

Should I register for casual or formal dinnerware? Perhaps both?

Decide what kind of dinnerware you will needWhat kind of entertaining do you envision having in your home? Can you picture formal dinners with your 40 closest cousins, or perhaps just intimate dinners and movies on the couch with your TV trays? Think about all the potential uses you see for your dinnerware. As we’ve stated in other blog posts, do not be afraid to register for more.

Think long-term in terms of your needs. Remember, these dishes should last you many, many years of happiness. The trend in the tableware industry today is to provide fashion that is durable and easily maintained, rather than fancy porcelain or china that is a higher maintenance product. Many of our brides and grooms are are looking for a higher-quality and more durable product that has the ability to be dressed up or used every day.

How do I determine the quality of the dinnerware?

There are a few things you should consider when searching for dinnerware:

1) Durability: If you are looking for the most durable dishes, you will want them to be oven-proof up to 500 degrees. The most durable dinnerware can sustain extreme temperatures (such as taking your dish out of the freezer and sticking it straight into the oven). You should also check for chip resiliency.
2) Artistry: Here, you are looking for the beauty of the piece, as well as the depth of color. Is the color consistent? Does the glazing look well-done and intentional? Of course, this is all subjective, but you will find the depth of color to be more piercing in more-well handcrafted dinnerware lines that you find in specialty stores such as La Bella Vita.

When in doubt, do your research! Go to the manufacturer’s website and learn about their product, search for reviews, or ask Barbara at La Bella Vita!

What material should I look for?

Learn how to determine what makes good dinnerwareThis depends upon your preference. What is the end purpose for your dinnerware? Are you most interested in the beauty of the pieces, like the Italians? Or are you more concerned about a heavier, more durable dinnerware set, like the Portuguese? Educate yourselves a bit on the similarities and differences between various types of dinnerware.

Not all clay is created equal. The Chinese were the original inventors of what we know today as “china,” which is clay made into porcelain dinnerware that is nonporous and usually translucent. In the mid 1700’s, the English created what is known as bone china, a mix of the porcelain from the Chinese and bone ash. Bone china is less brittle than porcelain.

What you find at La Bella Vita is a variety of items, including earthenware and stoneware. Earthenware consists of clay fired to a porous state at a lower temperature such as 1800 degrees and then glazed to hold liquids. Earthenware, found in brands such as Vietri, is more easily hand painted due to the more porous clay. Stoneware is clay fired at much higher temperatures and then glazed. In Portugal, for example, stoneware is made out of clay mixed with feldspar, a mineral that strengthens the clay, allowing it to be fired up as high as 3700 degrees. Jars, made from France, is stoneware that is fired at an extremely high temperature, and glazed in such a way that it creates a gorgeous crackling effect within the piece.

What is included in a 5-piece setting of dinnerware?

When you shop at a mass merchandising chain store or department store, the 5-piece setting usually includes a dinner plate, salad plate, cereal bowl, bread/butter plate and a coffee/saucer set. At specialty stores like La Bella Vita, everything is sold by the piece to help you personalize your registry to the highest level. This also allows for guests to have more price-point options when buying your gifts.

What is a charger, and do we need it?

The charger is a large plate for a butler so he/she has something upon which to set each serving! All kidding aside, it is simply a piece used for a fashion statement that goes underneath each course. It can dress up your table, but is not a necessity.

How many settings of dinnerware and flatware do we need?

We recommend ordering 12 sets of tableware. If you are registering, this is the time for people to buy for you. We would advise ordering a minimum of 8 sets, although the majority of our brides order 12, and many of them order 16 sets or more. Try to stay in multiples of four, as this is usually how manufacturers sell their products. Project ahead- don’t just think about your life today, but what you want it to be decades down the line.

What style and color should my dinnerware be?

Choose your color and style of dinnerwareOur advice? Check out fashion magazines. If you are coming to register at the store, the two of you should look at home magazines and cut out pictures that catch your eye. We find that we communicate better through pictures and visuals. Bring Barbara some examples of dishes or styles you like, and you can work together to create a vision of your ideal table setting.

Remember to consider beauty vs. durability when looking at styles. The color is up to you. Many brides and grooms choose white because they do not know what their home will look like. Do you care what food will look like on your plate? If so, consider this when choosing a color.
Image courtesy of thedalogs

How should I choose flatware?

Many people don’t want silver anymore, because with all the polishing necessary to care for it, silver is extremely high maintenance. The trend is to have high-quality flatware. Now you can find everything from 8 low-quality sets for under $40 to high-quality, extremely durable flatware that you can find in specialty stores like La Bella Vita. The highest quality stainless steel flatware will be 18/10. 18 refers to the percent of chromium content, and 10 refers to the percentage of nickel content. Make sure this is present in the flatware you choose, and look for the higher nickel content, which creates more luster. The chromium content helps with rust resistance.

What drives the price up in flatware is the strength of the metal and how it is constructed, as well as its density. You won’t find this publicized. Essentially what you want to know is- if you were to put a spoon in rock-hard ice cream, will it bend as you scoop it out? If so, you are not getting a high quality product. Do your research to find the better brands, most of which you will find in specialty stores. Opt for a heavier weight, and, when in doubt, talk to Barbara at La Bella Vita, the real expert!

What is the proper way to lay out my dinnerware and flatware?

This is how you should set your dinnerware settingSee the image to the left to help you set your place setting.

How should I care for my dinnerware and flatware?

Every reputable manufacturer has care instructions. Specialty stores like La Bella Vita stand by higher quality vendors for many years, and are protected against glazing defects, corrosion of flatware. Lower priced products tend not to have this insurance and quality guarantee.

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