Last Updated on April 20, 2021
One of the most important things to buy when you get your own place is one of the many types of dishware. No matter what your daily routine looks like, you’ve gotta have plates and other dishes for your home. When it comes to hosting holiday meals, brunches, and dinner parties, you probably want something a bit fancier. For daily meals with your kids, something durable and easy to clean is a must. No matter what your needs are, there are a ton of styles of dishware for you to choose from.
Dishware has come a long way since the floral glass plates you remember using at your grandma’s house. Nowadays, dishes come in all types of materials, from the usual glass and ceramic to melamine and Corel. Regardless of your personal style and needs, you’ll be able to get a stylish and durable set of dishware that you can use for day to day meals with your family as well as gorgeous china that you can display in a curio cabinet until a truly special occasion arises.
One of the most important things you need to think about when shopping for dishware is what materials it is constructed from. The wide range of materials that dishes can be made out of has really improved over the years. Traditionally, plates have been made from glass, ceramic, and stoneware. These options are just fine for most people. They’re easily accessible and fairly affordable, but they aren’t the only choices you have left anymore! In addition to the traditional fragile materials you may be used to, there are also plenty of durable options that are much less likely to break.
Ceramic dishware is more than just a single type of material, it actually has a handful of variations that fall under the ceramics category. For those that are familiar with ceramics and pottery from your high school art class, you’ve probably got a basic understanding of what we’re referring to.
Generally speaking, ceramic dishes, figurines, cups, vases, etc. are made from clay that is glazed and then baked or “fired” in a really big oven called a kiln. The kiln reaches temperatures the oven in your kitchen can’t even touch. After several hours of baking and cooling, the clay has cured and the matte paint that was applied is shiny and vividly colored. There are several types of dishware that fall under ceramics, including china, earthenware, and stoneware. Each of them goes through a similar baking process.
If you’re looking for something fancy, china is the way to go. It is elegant, decorative, and quite delicate. For dinner parties where you want to truly impress your guests, serving the perfect meal on a beautiful set of china is a great way to put your best foot forward.
China is the type of dishware that you pass along to your children and hope they continue the tradition. This is the stuff that you saw in your grandma’s curio cabinet growing up. China is made from a blend of a few items: kaolin, feldspar, clay, and quartz. The composition combined with the heat of firing it gives you non-absorbent and strong dishware that is very white and translucent.
In addition to regular china, there are a few variants that you may have heard of.
- Fine China
Fine china, also known as porcelain china, features the most decorative and colorful patterns and designs. As you can imagine, such high-quality pieces do come with a heftier price tag, but a beautiful set of fine china is an investment into your family, as they will be passed along for generations to come.
Here in the United States, we call this type of dishware “fine china”, however, this is not a universal term. Americans refer to these places as fine china while Europeans call them porcelain. No matter which terminology you choose to go with, porcelain and china are the same things.
- Bone China
The final style of china actually does get its name from the use of bone in the construction of the plates. The process of making bone china includes adding bone ash which is from incinerated animal bones. Typically, the calcified bone that is used is bone from a cow. The addition of the bone does a great job of making the dishware nice and sturdy. Bone is nice and tough, and when mixed into the plate material, it makes the plates even more resilient and durable.
Because of the strength of the calcified bone, these plates can be made so that they’re thinner while still being plenty strong enough. In addition to how strong they are, the bone also gives the plates a milky-white look. Another term you may hear when discussing high-end dishware with your peers is “ivory china”. While the name is a bit off-putting, there is actually no ivory involved. Ivory china is another term for bone china since the bone gives it a touch of ivory coloring.
Stoneware is one of the oldest types of ceramic dishware in existence. The origins of stoneware stretch back further than those of porcelain china. Although it is frequently lumped into the same category as porcelain, it is not the same thing. There are some similarities but overall, the number of unique attributes allows stoneware to stand alone in its own category.
One of the biggest differences is the coloring of the dishes. Porcelain tends to have a more translucent look to it, while stoneware is opaque. Porcelain goes through a full vitrification process, while stoneware only experiences a partial process. Stoneware’s cooking process stops before it changes into a more glass-like substance. Another benefit to stoneware is that it looks less delicate and it is less likely to be scratched.
Stoneware is constructed from clay. Some pieces are made from non-refractory fire clay, while others are made with clay that can be found outside in nature. You can usually tell what kind of clay was used since stoneware made from natural clay has a slightly dirty appearance, giving it a rustic look. Many people prefer natural clay for the style as well as because it isn’t man-made.
Like with China, stoneware is merely a category and can be further broken down into more detailed classifications. You’ll see electrical stoneware, thermal stoneware, and chemical stoneware. While those categories do exist, they aren’t used for dishware. For dishware, you’ll be dealing with either fine stoneware or traditional stoneware.
- Traditional Stoneware
Traditional stoneware is made from dense and inexpensive clay. The pieces are made from a fine-grained secondary plastic clay which has an opaque finish once fired. This style of clay is used for inexpensive dishes and larger pieces such as vases.
- Fine Stoneware
As one would expect, fine stoneware is made with ceramic that is carefully selected and prepared with more care. The delicate process used to make fine stoneware pieces gives a much more high-end finish. Fine stoneware is often found in your local home good stores, department stores, and even in stores with locally made art wares.
If you love the idea of stoneware but it just isn’t rustic enough for your tastes, you would probably love earthenware dishes. These dishes are made from clay that is coarse and porous, necessitating it to be glazed. The coat of glaze on the earthenware allows it to hold drinks, soups, and other liquids without it soaking into the material. Earthenware can be enjoyed as it is purchased or you can certainly customize the pieces with your own signature style.
As with the other categories of dishware, earthenware can also be broken down into a few sub-categories. The two main types of earthenware were named in reference to the glaze utilized by the individual pieces.
While you would probably think that creamware is glazed with a cream-colored glaze, that isn’t the case at all. Creamware gets its name from the natural cream color of the earthenware itself. The glaze that is used is translucent and allows the natural hue of the clay to shine through, unaltered, and completely the original color.
- Tin-Enameled Earthenware
This style of earthenware is covered with an opaque white tin glaze. While the glaze is white, you aren’t stuck with just white. It can be colored, allowing custom and unique designs. In addition to tin-enameled earthenware, it is also referred to as tin-glazed, delftware, faience, and majolica.
Something that earthenware artists really enjoy about this style of glaze is that the glaze can be colored and it doesn’t run during the firing process. You’ll get nice, crisp lines, giving your pieces a cleaner and more defined style.
For those that want a set of elegant dishes but don’t necessarily care about a nice set of china, glass dishes are a great alternative to ceramic. Glass dishes have a fancier look to them than most casual dishes but they’re also not super expensive dishes that belong on display rather than in use.
Glass dishes are more fragile than what you may be comfortable allowing your kids to use on a daily basis but for occasions when you have friends and family over for a nice meal, glass is a fantastic alternative to ceramic and china. Modern glass dishware is all borosilicate glass, which shows colors clearer and is safer to use than older varieties of soft leaded glass. There are several subcategories, so let’s take a closer look at what your options are when shopping for a new set of glass dishware.
A. Clear Glass
When you hear the word “glass”, what do you envision? If you imagine clear, colorless glass, you are not alone. The icy looking glass is more common than you’d think. You can purchase plates, bowls, cups, and mugs in the clear, colorless glass. While there isn’t any color and they are nearly invisible in the right lighting conditions, these dishes offer a ton of style and class.
A great place to find clear glass dishes is your local flea market. You can also find them at garage sales and estate sales, as many people sell the after going through their parents’ or grandparents’ belongings. Many clear glass dishes have raised or etched designs, while others have painted designs.
If you want to create a custom set of dishes for yourself or as a gift for a friend or loved one, using clear glass dishes as a canvas gives you a really great base for some truly impressive artwork. From classic floral designs to modern custom artwork, you can make something really cool on a clear glass plate.
B. Colored Glass
Colored glass can occur naturally when certain elements are found within the glass. Otherwise, you can also find man-made colored glass. There are sets of glass dishware that contain the same element which gives the dishes consistent coloring throughout the entire dishware set.
Naturally, colored glass got that way due to a very scientific process involving elements and compounds found in the periodic table. After researching what elements give which colors, scientists have been able to use the elements to give the glass the colors they desire.
With several color options available, you as the consumer can pick out the perfect dishes for your home. Depending on the theme or color scheme of your kitchen, you can find the best dishware for your kitchen. You can do blues and teal for a beach theme.
Modern colored glass is much safer to use than older colored glass, due to the change from leaded glass to borosilicate. This change has helped to make colored glass safer to buy and use without fears of lead contamination of your food or drink.
C. Multi-Colored Glass
If you want a more artistic and colorful set of dishes, the multi-colored glass would be a great choice. These dishes are artistic, whimsical, and unique. If you’re not into the traditional white or cream-colored dishes, the multi-colored glass would be perfect for you.
Multi-colored glass doesn’t mean you have to go with a dishware set that is rainbow-colored. You can get a more monochromatic set that has various shades of blues, reds, greens, or any other color you like. You also can get plates that are mainly one color that just have a burst of an accent color somewhere. If you want something truly fancy and unique, you can get multicolored plates that have clear, defined designs on them. Just as with single color glass dishware, multicolored glass dishware is now much safer to use thanks to the elimination of lead crystal.
D. Recycled Glass
For those that are more environmentally conscious, recycled glass dishware would be a smart choice. Glass is one of the most easily recycled substances so it only makes sense that you would want to buy as many recycled glass items rather than first-generation glass. Recycled glass dinnerware has a unique “bumpy” appearance that is sure to turn heads and start conversations. Very few glass creations are textured like recycled glass dishes, bowls, and plates.
Not only are recycled glass plates more Earth-friendly, but the plates are also just as gorgeous as a plate made from regular glass that hasn’t been recycled. You can get clear colorless glass dishware set as well as dishes in all of the other colors. Having stylish dishes and helping the planet is a win-win!
If you’re looking for another eco-friendly option, bamboo dishes are an amazing choice! Bamboo dishes are a relatively new option that you can choose from, they’ve grown exponentially in popularity over recent years. The biggest perk that people really enjoy about them is that bamboo is environmentally friendly. Not only is bamboo natural and biodegradable, but it also has a really fast regeneration rate.
The first benefit of these dishes is that they are reusable. Many people hear bamboo or other similar materials and think they won’t last a long time but that isn’t true. Bamboo can be washed many times and used over and over. The only downside is that they need to be hand washed and dried to eliminate the risk of water damage.
Bamboo is technically a grass, but it has a rustic yet elegant look that looks very similar to wood. No matter what the occasion, bamboo dishes will look great and fit the bill. Bamboo dishes are stain-resistant, lightweight, and stylish. Each piece will have a unique grain pattern to it, which is another great feature of bamboo.
The final major perk to using bamboo is that it’s kid-friendly. Bamboo plates are perfect for families with kids for a few reasons. First, bamboo is much sturdier than plastic. While plastic plates typically won’t shatter if you drop them on the floor, they can break and you don’t want your kids to get hurt by being pinched, cut, or scratched on broken plastic. Bamboo is also very sturdy and will be able to handle how rough kids are when they eat. Whether they slam their plates on the table, drop them, or they try to scratch them up with their forks, bamboo plates will be able to last. Finally, because bamboo is natural and the plates don’t contain harsh chemicals, you don’t have to worry that your kids are going to be ingesting any harmful chemicals from their dishware.
Are you looking for plastic-like dishes that are sturdy and safe for the whole family? Melamine dishware items are an excellent choice for your home. Melamine is probably one of those things that you’ve heard of or seen but wasn’t sure what it was called. Melamine is an organic base chemical often used in plastics. Melamine is great because it is colorful, looks cool, and comes in plenty of designs and patterns.
While melamine is fairly popular, there is a big of a negative connotation that comes along with the dishware. For a sandwich or something cold, it is safe enough for anyone to use but there are some concerns from people all over the world as well as the FDA. According to the FDA, melamine dishes are typically a safe option, they do warn that heating up highly acidic foods in the microwave could prove unsafe. As long as you’re not using it for heating up spaghetti or other acidic foods, you should be good to go.
Choosing the Right Dishware
When it comes to picking the best dishware, there are three major points that will impact which is right for you. The way they look, how they’ll be used, and how sturdy they are are all key factors to think about while shopping around for your new set of dishes.
One of the first things to think about before you commit to any particular style of dishware is how sturdy it is. If you are looking for something you can use for daily meals with your partner and kids, you’ll definitely want a more durable material such as melamine. If you are looking for a special occasion dishware set that will be stored in a cabinet when not in use, you may want one of the many types of China.
Something many people don’t consider when shopping around for new dishware is how heavy it’s going to be. Ceramic and stoneware are going to be on the heavier end, while China isn’t quite so heavy. If you have issues with hand and arm strength, it would be in your best interest to look for a lighter option, such as Corel or melamine, both of which are lightweight, thin, and very sturdy.
If the main point on your must-haves list is that your dishware is fancy and worthy of display, you can choose from several really attractive options. Depending on the overall feel of the rest of your home, you can go with a beachy glass dishware set, a hand-painted floral set of fine China, or a whimsical speckled melamine. Due to the wide range of dishes that exist, you can find something that will fit your style perfectly.
One of the most long-standing family traditions is passing down heirlooms through the generations, from knick-knacks to religious texts to dishware and silverware sets. Sure, you will probably be using the dishes you choose for meals with the family or for special occasions, but if you’re planning on saving these dishes for your kids, be sure to get something durable and a style that will look great as time goes on.
Practicality of Dishes
One of the things that many people look for when shopping for a new set of dishes is something that is going to match the style of their space. While aesthetics are important to many, it is more important that your dishes are going to be practical and meet your needs. If you have kids, you will definitely want to make sure the dishes you choose are safe for your kids to do, as well as being sturdy enough to handle everything they’re going to put them through. There are a couple of other things to think about when choosing your dishes.
1. Dishwasher Safe Dishes
If you are lucky enough to live in a home with a dishwasher, buying dishwasher safe dishes is important, unless you prefer to hand wash. One of the biggest selling points for a lot of dishes as well as food storage containers is that they are dishwasher safe. Being able to toss your dishes in the machine and get them clean is super convenient for sure but you should think about the wear and tear that your dishes will be going through by going through the dishwasher.
If your plates are more delicate or they have an artistic design on them, you may want to opt-out of using the dishwasher every time the dishes are used so you don’t risk fading the paintings and designs on them. Being dishwasher safe mainly refers to maintaining the durability and integrity of the plate, not necessarily preserving artistic qualities. Think about the unwanted scratching that can occur within the dishwasher, both from bits and pieces of food and from things that become loose and end up floating around in the dishwasher. For those that decide that they do want to use the dishwasher on their dishwasher safe dishware, always be sure to use a gentle detergent and use a gentle cycle.
When it comes to washing your dishes, always be sure to keep your bamboo and wooden dishes out of the dishwasher and clean them by hand. Waterlogged wood and bamboo can become warped or splintered, which you certainly don’t want to happen. Some bamboo will specify that it is top-shelf safe for the dishwasher, but always make sure it is dried extremely well, so as to eliminate the issues of mold or warping. Also, be especially careful when washing plastic and melamine dishes. If you’re unsure about whether or not something can be washed in the dishwasher, you can always check with the manufacturer.
2. Microwave Safe Dishes
Microwaves are one of those modern conveniences that many people take for granted. If you grew up with a microwave in your home and have always had access to microwave-safe dishes, then you may not be sure what to look for when it comes to buying your own dishes that you can use in your microwave. Realistically, most dishes that can be bought nowadays are going to be microwave safe, but how do you really know if that’s the case?
If the dishes that you purchased or were gifted have microwave-safe stamped on the bottom, then you can assume that the dishes can be used in the microwave. At least, they should be fine for a quick 30-second to one-minute reheat. The thing is, just like when using the dishwasher, the microwave can cause wear and tear on your dishes. Just because the dish is marked as dishwasher safe doesn’t mean it can be used in the microwave often or for longer periods of time. If you want to enjoy a meal on a special plate, such as the china from your wedding, it’s not a bad idea to nuke your food on a different plate and transfer it to your fancy plate.
There are a few styles of dishes that you should avoid putting in the microwave. One of the most important materials to keep out of the microwave is plastic. While there are some plastic plates, bowls, and food storage containers that say they are safe to use in the microwave, it’s best to keep them out of the microwave so you don’t have to worry about chemicals leaching into your food, especially if you have kids.
For decorative plates, especially those that have hand-painted designs, it’s best to keep them out of the dishwasher and microwave. It doesn’t take much time to hand wash a couple of items. Being able to preserve the decorative elements will allow you to enjoy the pretty dishware for longer. Some of the issues that can be caused by the microwave are peeling, warping, and bubbling of decorative elements and plastic in general.
Here are some frequently asked questions about dishware.
What materials are dishes made from?
Dishware is one of the most versatile products you can get for your home. While there are countless materials that you can make dishes out of, there are six main types. The main ones are earthenware, vitrified dishware, porcelain, stoneware, melamine, and bone china.
- Stoneware: Stoneware dishes are constructed from clay and they are fired between 2150° F and 2330° F. Ceramic dishware is often infused with glass which can strengthen the plates and make it more durable. These dishes are typically used for casual dining and can typically be used in the dishwasher and the microwave.
- Melamine: This is made from plastic and is intended to be both durable and sturdy. Melamine dishes should not be used in the microwave, especially if you are planning on heating up acidic foods. Most melamine dishes are BPA-free, but some of them are not free of BPA. Most melamine dishes are top-rack dishwasher safe.
- Vitrified dishware: Vitrified dishware has gone through a process that turns it into a strong and durable glass. These dishes are super difficult to break and some of the manufacturers even claim that their dishes will not chip or crack. One of the most popular brands of vitrified dishware is Corel.
- Porcelain: Similar to stoneware, porcelain dishes are thinner than the stoneware and can be decorated with silver and gold metal pieces. Some stoneware has engraved designs and others are plain. Porcelain is a bit more transparent than stoneware. As long as the dishes do not contain any metal embellishments, then they should be perfectly safe to use in the dishwasher and the microwave.
- Bone china: Bone china is a type of dishware that is made from a combination of porcelain and animal bone. This combination will give you a super sturdy and durable set of dishware, mainly due to the bone in the plates. The look of the dishes is slightly transparent with a milky effect. The bone used in bone china is typically cow bones.
- Earthenware: If you’re looking for a rustic and affordable dishware set, earthenware is a great option. While it is the most affordable choice, it is also the most fragile. Earthenware is made from clay and is somewhat porous. Due to the porosity, most earthenware dishes are glazes so they can hold soups and other wetter foods.
What is dishware?
Dishware pieces are the items that you use to serve and eat meals. This can be plates and bowls but dishware also refers to silverware, glassware, cutlery, and any other dishes that you would see sitting on the table. Dishware can be made out of a wide range of materials from ceramic to clay to glass to plastic to stainless steel and much more.
Is dishware recyclable?
Some dishware items are recyclable, although it does vary from facility to facility. Most recycling facilities will take glass in any form and color and many will also take ceramic. Glass is the most commonly recycled item on earth so you should have no problem having your glass items recycled, even if they are casserole dishes, plates, or cups.
How should I pack my dishes when I move?
The best rule to follow when it comes to packing your dishes for a move is there is never too much padding. You should use bubble wrap or newspaper to cushion your dishes, especially if they are glass, ceramic, or stoneware, as they can chip, crack, and shatter easily. Pack everything tightly so there is minimal wiggle room. If the dishes can move, then they are more likely to bump into each other and break. Another option for packing your dishes would be to use clothes in between pieces.
Can I paint my dishes?
Yes, you can certainly paint your dishes. Make sure to look into food-safe paints so you can still use the dishes for food purposes. Whether you want to make custom plates for a friend or relative or just for your personal use, painted dishes are a great choice. From flowers and butterflies to a simple color pattern, the possibilities are endless.
When it comes to finding the best type of dishware for your home, there are several things to think about. From the material to the style to the weight of the dishes, our guide is here to help. There are a ton of options that you can use in your home, depending on your needs and personal preferences.
If you want a fancy dishware set that you can pass down to your kids and that they can pass down to their kids, a set of china or hand painted glass dishes would be an excellent choice. If you’re looking for dishes you can use for day to day meals that are unlikely to break, melamine and bamboo are great choices.
From fancy to simple, there are a ton of options to choose from. No matter what your family’s needs and wants are, you’re sure to find a great set of dishware for your next family meal.