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Replacing Fine China

Updated on December 19, 2012
Vintage 1930s Bavaria china
Vintage 1930s Bavaria china | Source

Complete a Vintage China Set

Perhaps you've inherited a set of fine china from your grandmother or mother-in-law. Or perhaps you're browsing a local thrift shop and stumble upon a boxed set of fine china that looks old and valuable, but you can clearly see there are pieces missing from the set. Or maybe you were given a lovely set of china for a wedding gift, but now several years have passed and your set succumbed to age and curious toddlers. The problem remains the same: how do you replace fine china? How do you find that exact piece you need to complete a set of eight or replace a special bowl broken last Thanksgiving?

The internet has made many tasks easier, especially that of finding the perfect collectible, vintage or antique item. Now with the click of a digital camera and the click of a mouse, you can record the identification marks and pattern of your china and have an expert identify it. Better still, if you're in a hurry or want to save money, the many online guides can help you identify your china pattern and find replacement pieces on Etsy, eBay, and other sites. To get started, all you need is a digital camera and a magnifying glass.

Identify the Manufacturer and Pattern

The first step to finding replacement china for your set is to identify the manufacturer and pattern. When you flip a plate over, the manufacturer's mark is set in the center of the plate. Dinner plates usually contain the largest mark with the most detail, so if you have one, use that as your starting point. Note any symbols, words or numbers, and take a digital photograph of them or carefully record them. The order of any numbers and letters stamped onto the back of the plate is important; some manufacturers such as Wedgwood used a letter code to indicate the year of manufacture, and some companies changed the patterns slightly from year to year, so identifying the exact year of manufacture may be important for your particular china pattern.

If a country name is stamped on the back of the plate, chances are good it was made in the 20th century or later. Prior to this time, country codes were optional, but later on it became law that the country of origin had to be marked on the back.

If you see the word "Bavaria" on the back of the plate, you may need to do some additional research. Bavaria is a region in Germany that was the pottery center of that country for many years, so the word "Bavaria" may refer to a piece made in that region. It may also be the name of a manufacturer.

If you can easily identify the make or manufacturer of your plate, then you are well on your way to identifying the pattern. Use your digital camera and take pictures of the decorations on the rim of at least a few pieces in the set that you have. Carefully note which pieces you are missing. Standard sets contained place settings for 8 or 12 people and contained a dinner plate, salad or dessert plate, tea cup and saucer, and soup bowl. Common serving pieces include a large and small platter, a gravy boat with or without attached plate, and various covered and open serving dishes. Some older sets include a cheese or butter serving plate and finger bowls in which diners dipped their fingers in water to clean them before commencing with the meal. Salt cellars may also be part of older sets. These are commonly smaller bowls than finger bowls and may include a tiny spoon with which the diner sprinkled salt from the small dish upon his food.

Find Replacement Pieces

Using online directories such as Figurines and Sculptures or Replacements Ltd. online manufacturer look up, identify the pattern. Then you can begin shopping.

Replacements Ltd. offers pieces for both modern fine china sets and vintage ones. If you know the manufacturer, you can begin with that information and then locate the serving pieces you need to complete your set. The company also offers an identification service, but you'll have to mail them the information previously described and follow the directions listed on their website. It may take up to several weeks to get a reply, but it can be a useful and valuable service if you are unsure of the exact pattern you have.

Etsy.com offers both hand-made items and vintage items, and it is a good source for those who want to find just one or two pieces, or those who love old china and want to add to their collection of tea cups or mismatched china pieces. eBay is also a good source to find china, but you will need to know the exact manufacturer and pattern to identify pieces easily.

When purchasing vintage china, always ask the seller to ship it with insurance. Make sure you know and understand the condition it is in before purchasing it. Crazing, or tiny cracks in the china, may be common in older pieces, but you should know whether or not the piece exhibits such flaws before buying it.

Hand-wash all antique and vintage china to preserve its beauty, and store it in a cabinet away from curious children and rambunctious dogs. But do use it, because antique and vintage china is just too beautiful to leave for once-a-year occasions.

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