(Mostly) gone are the days where brides-to-be would head to the store, pick out their new china pattern, and receive a set of upscale dinnerware for her new home. Here in Birmingham, many of us have at least one set of china that’s been passed down, so I wanted to know—what do we do with it now?
A Longstanding Tradition
I remember going to my grandmother’s house for the holidays and knowing which set of dishes we were supposed to use when. She had the Christmas china, the Thanksgiving china, and the Easter china that she kept on display in a cabinet.
We had a china cabinet in our dining room at my parents’ house that was filled with my mother’s mother’s china, and her mother’s china. It’s the kind of thing that’s passed down from generation to generation, but let’s be honest—while it’s beautiful, it’s not exactly the most useful (or space-efficient) heirloom.
As a 20-something woman who loves hosting, even I don’t see myself breaking out the fine antique china for my friends anytime soon. Plus, moving it from one apartment or city to another seems a bit cumbersome and risky.
If you’re like me and enjoy deep-diving on subjects like this, here are some interesting articles I found on the subject:
- “6 Reasons Southerners Love China So Darn Much” by Southern Living
- “What’s the Difference Between Fine China & Dinnerware?” by Scully and Scully
Is China Going Out of Style?
Well, if I could ask my grandmother, she’d probably say that gracious hosting never goes out of style, and serving up a home-cooked meal on beautiful dinnerware is part of being a great hostess.
The fact remains that newlyweds and new homeowners aren’t ranking fine china high on their list of priorities. Think about it—when’s the last time you saw a fine china pattern on a wedding registry?
Even though there are china collectors today, our once-valuable familial troves of porcelain and silver simply aren’t worth that much these days. Sets that retailed at over $500 decades ago might be snagged for $75, and that’s even in perfect condition.
So What Do We Do With It?
Well, it all depends on what your goal is. Are you just trying to get rid of it to save some space? Do you want to maintain the sentimental value without finding room for a whole china cabinet? Do you want it to go to good use? Here are a few of your options.
Birmingham has no shortage of awesome vintage, thrift and antique shops. You can donate your china to many of them, or, if you have a good bit, try your hand at renting out a booth and selling it yourself.
Make something with it.
One thing I’ve considered is taking a couple of pieces from the different sets I’ll inherit and making some sort of upcycled display. I went to one of my favorite websites to find some inspiration: Etsy. People are making everything from jewelry to succulent planters and more.
Re-home it online.
There are several different Facebook groups around the Birmingham area in which you could post your china. You might be able to trade it, sell it or give it to an artist. Here are a few to check out:
Of course, our increasingly casual society could take the formality out of fine china. Imagine—you bring takeout to a friend’s house for movie night and they get out gorgeous patterned dishes to load up with Pad Thai.
I’m not saying it’s going to become a new trend, but I’m not saying I’d be mad if it did.