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Dinnerware Buying Guide

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Dinnerware Set

Choosing a set of dinnerware is a big decision, since it’s something you’ll use on a daily basis and for special occasions—everything from a morning bowl of cereal to a holiday dinner with family and friends. 

Finding a dinnerware pattern you love is important, but factors such as weight and durability should also play a role in your selection. This buying guide includes a basic overview of materials, design, and durability so you can shop with confidence. 


How much to buy dinnerware(and to spend)?

Before you start shopping, decide how many place settings to get and how much you want to spend. We recommend four to six place settings for a two-person household, and eight to 12 settings for a household of four or five. If you entertain only occasionally, you can go with a smaller main set for everyday use and pick up a handful of cheap plates for when your guest list swells.

Dinnerware can cost anywhere from a few dollars per piece to hundreds of dollars for a five-piece set of fine china, depending on the quality. Sometimes pieces are cheaper bundled in a complete place setting or a box set, so be sure to weigh your options. You can find a decent, good-quality place setting for $30 to $60, which is the price range where you begin to see better materials and craftsmanship. Keep in mind that most retailers reduce the price of the individual place setting when you buy multiple settings.

Stoneware Solid Color 16pcs Dinner Sets

 Stoneware Solid Color 16pcs Dinner Sets

You can find dinnerware sold piece by piece (open stock), as individual place settings, or in preassembled box sets. Some dinnerware collections are available all three ways.

Generally we prefer open-stock sets because they offer you the flexibility to pick and choose the pieces, such as a few extra plates for big holiday dinners. And you can replace a single chipped or broken plate without buying another complete place setting. Buying open stock also lets you add pieces like bread and butter plates (if they’re available in the collection) outside the main place setting.

Place settings typically include three, four, or five pieces. Many place settings are also available open stock, and some collections include additional serving pieces sold separately. Some retailers reduce the price of dinnerware when you purchase a full place setting, so doing that is often less expensive than buying pieces open stock. Every manufacturer assembles collections differently, so be sure to double-check what's in each place setting before you buy, and choose one that’s appropriate for your lifestyle. 


Know your materials

To ensure you know what you’re buying, get familiar with the materials used in dinnerware.

Dinner Set

Dinner Set

Ceramics

Manufacturers can make ceramics using a variety of materials, but not all materials are equally durable. We recommend getting porcelain, bone china, or stoneware for everyday use because such pieces are affordable, easy to care for, and sturdy.

We recommend starting with one set of dinnerware that’s casual enough for morning cereal but still elegant enough for a dinner party.

A note for the newly engaged: Our research showed that couples often regret registering for a set of expensive fine china because they don’t use it often enough, it takes up too much space, and the style can become dated. We recommend starting with one set of dinnerware that’s casual enough for morning cereal but still elegant enough for a dinner party.


Porcelain, a type of china, is the most common type of dinnerware. It primarily consists of a combination of clay, feldspar, and quartz, fired in kilns at very high temperatures. Porcelain varies a lot in weight and color—basic whiteware can range from bright white to blue-gray. Bluish porcelain can look odd next to pure-white linens or serving pieces, so when you go shopping for white porcelain dinnerware, we recommend bringing a white napkin into stores to see how the colors compare. Porcelain is also sold in a wide range of colored glazes.


If you want to get more information about the best best material for dinner plates, welcome to contact us today or request a quote.  


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Pick the right set for your lifestyle

Before you settle on a set of dinnerware, we recommend looking at it in person to determine if the weight, size, shape, and pattern of each piece is right for you (we have a checklist of things to look for in-store at the end of this guide). Avoid buying superfluous pieces you won’t use, and stick to what’s appropriate for your eating habits and lifestyle.


Find a comfortable weight

Dinnerware varies considerably in weight, so we recommend handling sample sets of different materials and thicknesses to get a sense of what you like best. It’s also a good idea to pick up a stack of plates or bowls to see how heavy they’ll be when you’re retrieving them from a cupboard. Keep in mind that heavier dinnerware isn’t necessarily higher-quality or more durable. Bone china is lightweight and slightly translucent when you hold it up to the light, but it’s just as durable as thicker porcelain or stoneware.

Dinner Set

Dinner Set

Consider the size and shape of each piece

As you handle sets in the store, also pay attention to the size and shape of each item. Choose pieces that are the appropriate size and shape for your eating habits and cupboard space.


Before committing to a set of dinnerware, compare it with the size of your existing flatware to be sure the proportions agree with you (it might help to bring your flatware into the store with you). If your plates dwarf your forks and knives or vice versa, they can make for an odd-looking place setting. Also, measure your cupboard space to be sure your dinnerware will fit. Shelf risers are handy for maximizing space in small cupboards.


Beyond general size considerations, here are the factors to consider for each piece:

Plates: Wider rims reduce the overall capacity of a plate’s surface, which is nice if you’re looking to decrease food-portion sizes. If you want a lot of negative space on your plate or more room for larger servings of food, we recommend getting plates with narrower rims. Some rimless, coupe-style plates slope slightly from the outer edge inward, which causes sauces to pool in the center of the plate. If that bothers you, get plates with flat surfaces.

Bowls: Some dinnerware collections offer several styles and sizes of bowls. Decide if you want shallow soup bowls (sometimes called pasta bowls, low bowls, or soup plates) or deep cereal bowls (sometimes called rice bowls). Cereal bowls are more casual than soup bowls, but their larger capacity makes them more all-purpose; they’re great for small salads, pasta, grains, soups, and stews. Soup bowls can be too shallow for a bowl of Cheerios and are better suited to stews, pasta, and risotto.


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