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  • Writer's pictureLizzie Hessek

Tricks of the Trade: Between Fine China and a Hard Plate

Hello! Since it is still too hot to bake in Philadelphia, we are once again skipping our regularly scheduled broadcast of Baking + Beer and replacing it with a lesson straight out of Mrs. Lucy Staley's classic book New Trends in Table Settings... and Period Designs, Too. Oh, yes, I am obsessed.

This is an excellent lesson, though, and really quite simple. Tell me, how many times in the past week have you asked yourself, "Is this china set really as fine as they say it is?" Perhaps you were browsing your local tableware store (I pop into Manor Home whenever I am blue and pretend that I can afford the fine china - or should I say "presumed fine china?"). Maybe you were looking at your inherited set of plates and teacups with newfound skepticism. It's possible that you were snooping around a friend's cupboards in order to judge them based on their formal dinnerware. That's weird, but maybe that's the truth. In any case, the questions remains: when you are evaluating ceramic dinnerware, how can you tell if it is "fine china" or simply "mediocre china." Don't worry, friends. Lucy Staley has the answer.

Before you buy fine china, hold a piece up to the light. If it is truly fine, you will be able to see the silhouette of your fingers behind the plate. This is true for basic fine china as well as bone china (which contains the ash of cow bones in order to give the china a warm white hue. Contrary to popular belief, the bone ash has nothing to do with making the china stronger. The more you know!) If the plate is opaque when light is shining on it, it's no good. Just drop it on the floor and walk away.

I wanted to put this test to the test. I was particularly interested in the fine-ness of my own inherited china set. Below you see a plate from Royal Albert's 1985 collection called "Satin Rose." This is before we turned the light on behind it.

I have owned this china set since my parents said to themselves, "Wow, this is really, truly not our style," and I said, "I will take it and I will use it every day!" So now Rachel and I use these plates and the accompanying countess-shaped teacups every day. But are they actually fine bone china, as the label on the bottom says? Or are they impostors stealthily making their way through the generations by being passed from people who eventually realize they are really, really not their taste to people who say, "Wow, I will never be able to afford fine china, so I will take those?" It was finally time to find out.

First, we tested out Lucy Staley's theory with a gravy boat plate that I know for certain is fine china because Noritake is a well known brand.

Fingers everywhere!

(Innuendo intended!)

Ok, this test seems like it works. Let's try on another plate in our cupboard:

Now you can see no fingers! That is probably because this plate is made from plastic, bought from Target, and certainly not fine china in any way, shape, or form. In case there was any doubt before, the Hand Test has given us full faith in this plate's crappiness.

I was curious about the next piece - a dessert plate from Fragonard. These plates are definitely ceramic and definitely super gorgeous (I adore the design), but are they fine china? What does the Hand Test say?

Nope! Despite being the best thing I own, these great plates are not fine china.

Ok, back to Royal Albert. This is the moment of truth. Have we been eating off of fine china all these years, or is our whole life a sham?














Yahoo! That's a big ol' high five behind that plate!

Now you know - the next time you question the quality of the china before you, be the douche bag that holds the plate up to the light.

Now here is some Queer Martha Behind the Scene for you:

Rachel loves helping me out, I swear. Her arms were pretty tired at this point in the photo shoot and I kept saying, "Just one more! That last one was too fuzzy!" This is true love, my friends.


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