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Using Vintage Dishes on the Table

I have a love of vintage dishware and mismatched plates. There is something about the beautiful patterns and artisty from old dishware. I love using them in my own place settings for holidays and even every day use. There are a few things to know about using vintage dishes safely on the table since they can have high levels of lead depending on the dish.

A table setting with vintage dishes and silver

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If you ever eat at my house you will find that none of my plates or cups match. I love using vintage plates and cups and even have my grandmother’s china we use every family holiday. Since old glazing techniques and materials were at a different standard than they are now,  you might wonder… are old dishes are safe to eat off of?

beautiful patterns on vintage plates

According to this article from the Smithsonian magazine, old ware such a ceramic and especially Fiestsaware can contain high levels of lead and high levels of lead can be in the decorations themselves.

Vintage plates and tea cups

So while searches turned up some unclear answers these are just a few tips (not a comprehensive list) I found while looking that you can do when using old ceramic dishware:

-Don’t use any dishware that has any cracks, scratches, chips, crazing (spidery cracks in the finish) or damage at all as that can cause any possible, underlying lead to leech through. Also , they are not recommended to use vintage dishware with food that need to be cut with a knife as that could scratch the finish on the plate.

-Never microwave vintage dishware and only microwave dishware that states it’s “microwave safe

-Don’t use acidic foods such as tomato sauce or soy sauce that could cause led to leach into the food.

-Test for lead with a lead check kit on any plates, dishware or cups in question. You can find some here on Amazon.

Vintage patterns on vintage dishes

If there is any question at all use the vintage plates only them only as decoration such as a plate wall, or display, or use a modern white or clear glass plate over the top to actually eat off and serve food on. Here are is more information from the Herald Media Newspaper about about using vintage plates for food use.

Having a vintage tea party

I think their uniqueness makes them even more beautiful, and I love using them, I just want to make sure my family does it safely, so checking them for lead is a priority. My grandmother’s porcelain set luckily tested negative for lead, but we don’t use any that have any damage, cracks or crazing.

Cheese on a plate

Vintage dishware is so well made and the patterns are so pretty and have some amazing patterns. Many of these are hand-painted as well. They are works of art on their own so even just using them as display is a great way to reuse them.

Vintage plates and silver place settings

Being able to safely use vintage dishes could be considered eco-friendly too, even if they are just for decoration underneath a modern plate they are still beautiful.

Tea party setting with vintage plates

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  1. Jen, I love that you don’t match your dishes!! You collection is just beautiful! Thanks for sharing some of them with us!!

  2. I try not to use paper goods for parties and use real “china”, glassware and my miss-matched collection of silverplate flatware. I also collect vintage napkins and use them. I think people appreciate the extra touches and it makes everyone feel special. (At least in my mind!)

  3. Oh Jen, you are a woman after my own heart. I have been setting holiday tables with mis matched china and glassware for ages. I love the look and everyone gets to pick their favorite or swap out between them. So much fun. Sea Witch

  4. When my Grandmother asked us to set the table we would race to her cabinet and choose the plate we wanted. All mixed and matched, she had an incredible collection of Willow, blues, reds, blacks, purples, nothing matched. My collection has grown so large over the years of English Transferware, and American, that I often don’t know where to store it. So this post touches me, and brings fond memories. Everything looks beautiful Jennifer. I love it.

  5. I’m so glad you posted about this. I recently inherited my grandmother’s china and a lot of it is mis-matched. I haven’t used them so far but now I’m going to bring them all out together. You’ve inspired me! 🙂

    If Work Permits

  6. It would be such a pleasure to be invited to your home for coffee and drink from mimatched cups and saucers! I could not even imagine you with a matchy matchy set of dishes! Take care sweetie.

  7. i do love imperfectly perfect tables. wanna know why? guests are instantly relaxed. i mean there’s a time and place for pristine white ironed linens and shiny shiny flatware and candelabra but if it makes folks nervous about messing it up…

    mismatched is so much cooler!


  8. Thanks for sharing your inspiration photos to remind us to relax when we entertain! I loved all your place settings, but especially loved the background tablecloth seen in all the photos! Can you share any info about it? Thanks!

  9. Oh, just beautiful, Jen!!! I have been wanting to do this for some time but I always chicken out! Did you collect up enough to set a table before you started mixing it up or did you just start introducing things in as you found them?


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