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Antique China can Fulfill the Bride’s ‘Something Old, Something New’ Custom

by Reyne Haines (06/20/12).

A place setting of Limoges Theodore Haviland china with pink floral sprays and green leaves. These dishes, which date to the early 1900s, would be “something old” but can be considered good as new. They’d make a nice choice for a bride’s china pattern.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

This tradition comes from an Old English rhyme that is, in its entirety, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something Blue, a sixpence in your Shoe.” The first four items the bride either carries with her or adds to her wedding outfit to represent good luck. They are often given to the bride by her mother, sister or other relatives. Sometimes the bride will acquire these items on her own, or she might receive them from her bridal party.

A dinner plate, a salad plate and a bread and butter plate in Tiffany & Co.’s Audubon pattern.

Something old represents continuity; something new represents high hopes for the future; something borrowed symbolizes borrowed happiness; and something blue stands for fidelity, love and purity. The sixpence part (which we rarely hear in the U.S.) represents . . . you guessed it, prosperity.

Every new bride needs formal china to use at dinner parties and Christmas’ to come. Special events call for special things. This leads me back to the “something old, something new” part of the rhyme. Have you considered having a vintage dinnerware pattern as your something old and making it new again?

Vintage china can be a good thing for many reasons. First, you don’t have to worry about your best friend choosing the same pattern (much like the dread of being seen wearing the same dress). It certainly makes for interesting conversation when you are asked “where did you get this great dinnerware?” Second, it can still be found in mint condition, just as if it was made yesterday. Third, what better way to recycle?

If those reasons weren’t enough, going with antique china is not only often very affordable (then your guests have money left over to pitch in for that fabulous latte machine for the kitchen you’ve been eyeing!), but there are thousands of patterns, periods and companies to choose from to reflect your style.

There were numerous German, English, French and American companies creating complete lines of dinnerware as far back as the early 1800s (and some even before then). If you are concerned that buying vintage porcelain will not offer a broad array of service pieces, think again. In the 1800s to early 1900s, dinner was much more formal than it is today. You had a different stemware for each course of the meal (water, ice tea and wine), along with an array of dinner, salad, bread and dessert plates, dessert, soup and salad bowls, etc.

A few examples of the multitude of styles available:

Tiffany & Co.’s Audubon pattern – This is a white porcelain plate with a thick single color border with gold trim. This would be perfect for a more sophisticated, formal (even contemporary) look.
Limoges’s Bramble pattern– This pattern offers a scalloped edge with a floral motif in the center and around the outer rim.
Meissen’s Blue Onion pattern – A very popular pattern by this maker. It works well with a country or traditional style home.
Arabia’s Ruska pattern – An extremely popular Finnish design for the modern, less formal crowd.

A Limoges’ Bramble pattern creamer.

Six-inch berry bowls in the Meissen Blue Onion pattern.

Ruska pattern espresso cups and saucers from Arabia of Finland.

A final consideration when buying something vintage: At some point, this pattern might be handed down to your children, which in turn, might be handed down to theirs. You never know when you might be starting a family tradition.

So where can you locate a variety of vintage dinnerware to determine which pattern is right for you? Your local antique shop or show would be a good place to start. If you like shopping online, visit GoAntiques to get some ideas.

Reyne Haines is an appraiser with an expertise in 20th Century Decorative Arts. She hosts “The Art of Collecting” on KPRC in Houston, a weekly program spotlighting trends and news items in the world of antiques & collectibles, is a repeat guest on CBS’ “The Early Show” and can be heard on Martha Stewart Living Radio on Sirius Satellite Radio Network. She is also the author of the richly-illustrated book “Vintage Watches” published by Krause.

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