The Watts Blog

Commonly Misused and Confusing Dinnerware Terms

As a “china shop” we get lots of questions about dinnerware.  Here I will try to clarify some commonly misused terms.

Bone China: China that contains animal bone ash for added translucency and whiteness.  Developed originally in England, but now commonly made in Japan and the United States as well.

Examples: William Yeoward Dinnerware,  Wedgwood Dinnerware, Royal Crown Derby

Casual China:  True china dinnerware that differs from so-called fine china only in that its body is thicker, and therefore heavier.  Because of it’s thickness it is not translucent and is more durable than fine china.  The shapes tend to be more causal and decorations are often limited to make them dishwasher/microwave safe.  It is the kind of dinnerware you use everyday, for every meal; is typically chip-resistant.

Examples:  Kate Spade Dinnerware, Vera Wang Casual Collections

China:  A non-porous type of clayware made of special white clay and fired at exceptionally high temperatures.  The finer grades are generally thin, translucent, resistant to chipping, and ring clearly when struck.  The word is often incorrectly used as a generic term for dinnerware.

Earthenware: A type of clayware fired at comparatively low temperatures producing a heavy porous body that is opaque, not as strong as china, and lacking in the product’s resonance. 

Fine China:  Thin, translucent china which, despite it’s delicacy, is quite strong.  It is made of top-quality clays and fired at high temperatures, that cause them to fuse into a hard, non-porous body.

Hollow Ware:  (Often referred to as “holloware”)  any clayware, glass, or metal pieces such as cups, pitchers, bowls, etc.

Ironstone: A much abused term that should only be used in reference to earthenware of good-quality or better-than-average strength.  True ironstone was originally developed in England and was a form of stoneware said to contain powered iron slag, making it stronger, with a slightly porous body.

Limoge:  A china dinnerware produced exclusively in or near the city of Limoge, France.  It is not a type of dinnerware, per se, but rather a region.  Similar to Champagne being exclusive to the Champagne Region and all others simply being “sparkling wine”.  The term should not be used for any dinnerware not made in this region.  It is probably one of the best-known dinnerware terms and is often mis-represented.

Examples: Bernardaud, Raynaud, JL Coquet, Jaune de Chrome, Poc a Poc

Open Stock:  A dinnerware sales concept in which wares are sold by individual piece, rather than in complete, predetermined compositions (such as the traditional five piece placesetting).  It does not mean that the pattern will forever be available.

Place Settings:  Usually five matched pieces  of dinnerware in a single place at the table.  The five piece is typically a formal setting that consists of the dinnerplate, the salad plate, the bread and butter plate, the teacup and the tea saucer.  A four piece set is now fairly common for “everyday” dinnerware sets and consists of a dinner plate, a salad plate, a cereal bowl, and a mug.

Porcelain:  A hard, translucent clayware body that differs very slightly from china in ingredients and manufacturing process.  In most respects the two are so much alike that the term may be used interchangeably.

Examples:  Herend Dinnerware, Anna Weatherley Dinnerware

Pottery: Can be used as a generic term similar to ceramics.  When referring to a specific ware, pottery refers to a very durable form of clayware made of crude clays and fired at comparatively low temperatures.  It lends itself best to colorful, informal decorations and simple shapes, creating a rustic ambiance.

Examples:  Vietri Dinnerware, Simon Pearce Dinnerware

Stoneware: A hard clayware made of light-colored clay and dired at high temperatures.  It is non-porous and quite durable but does not have the translucence of fine china.

Examples: Vietri Dinnerware, Juliska Dinnerware

Translucence:  The quality of fine china or melamine dinnerware that makes it semi-transparent.  It may be demonstrated by placing the hand across the back of a plate and holding it against the light.  A silhouette of the hand will be visible through the body of the plate.

Vitrified:  Literally, like glass, meaning the ceramic body is non-porous.  Fine china is vitrified because it’s ingredients include silca, which literally turns to glass when fired at high temperatures.  This gives its translucence.

Where can I sell my old china? Where can I get an appraisal?

Other questions we get daily here at Watts are “do you offer appraisals?” and “do you buy second-hand merchandise?”.  Unfortunately, the answer to both questions is no.  That said, we are grateful that so many people think of Watts first and reach out to us in both regards.  We especially love to hear stories from people who purchased their “wedding china” from us fifty years ago and are now passing it onto their children!  However, George Watts only sells first-quality merchandise, purchased directly from the manufacturer; no factory defects, third-party, markdowns, second-quality, or otherwise used merchandise in our store.  When you shop with Watts, we stand behind our products because we know exactly where they came from and we believe in the vendors we represent within our walls and online.

And when George passed away in 2005, we lost a huge wealth of knowledge.  before he became extremely busy with his political career, customers could walk in the front door with a prized vase, walk right up to George’s desk in our main room, and engage him in conversation about the origin or value of their possessions.  We still pride ourselves on having a vastly knowledgable sales staff, with years and years of industry experience, we can not offer appraisals at our store at this time.  You will, however,  find that our staff can answer just about any question you have; from setting a formal table for brunch, to what the traditional gift for a 23rd wedding anniversary is- experience and know-how you won’t find at a big-box retailer.  And if you made a purchase in recent years, we will gladly look up your order history!  We do recommend others for appraisals and resale purposes.  Please see the list of our friends below, and please tell them that Watts sent you!

Milwaukee Appraisals

Peter Bentz

(414) 963-8866

Nationwide Appraisals

Christie’s (NYC)

(212) 492-5485

Joan Miller Antiques (Chicago)

(312) 280-0971

Lillian Naussau (NY)

(212) 759-6062

Sotheby’s (NYC)

(212) 606-7010

Jeffrey Purtell (Steuben Expert)

1-800-973-4331

Resale & Consignment

Chattel Changers

2520E. Capitol Dr

Milwaukee, WI 53211

(414) 961-7085

Legacies Limited

7922 N. Port Washington Rd

Fox Point, WI  53217

(414) 352-8114

Replacements Limited

1-800-REPLACE (737-5223)

Where can I get Crystal Repaired?

Edit for 2015:

Ned Guyette Sr. passed away on February 22, 2014, but his legacy of crystal repair is being carried out by his son, Ned Guyette, Jr. George Watts & Son still acts as a pick up and drop off point for crystal repair during our usual business hours of 9 am to 5:30 pm Monday - Friday and 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday. Bring your item wrapped for transport to the first floor, and Ned will do his best to repair your item. Most repairs take 4-6 weeks.

In honor of Ned Guyette Sr.‘s contribution to Milwaukee, here is the original blog post:

What do you do when you’re dusting your prized porcelain figurines and an arm suddenly snaps off?  Or you take your china out of the cabinet and hit a hinge and chip the edge?  

Never fear….I can recommend a Master Repairman!  And he’s local. His name is Ned Guyette and he has been doing china, crystal, and porcelain repair for over forty years.  In fact, he is the only person in the state of Wisconsin authorized by Lladro to repair their figurines! 

Ned recently closed the doors on his shop “The Finishing Touch”, but he is far from retired!  At 87, he still works as much as ever.  Watts has become the pick-up and drop-off location for our dear friend.  Customers in need of repair can drop off their items at our store.  We will have you fill out a form and Ned will contact you once he is in procession of your item.  At which point he will let you know if he is able to repair your item, and if so the approximate cost of the repair, and the approximate date of completion.  

Stop into Watts any time during our regular business hours and leave your items with our receptionist.  You may take advantage of our FREE VALET PARKING from 11-2 everyday as well.  And while you’re here, why not stop upstairs and have a cup of coffee or a slice of Sunshine Cake?

Below is an article written about Ned from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel from 2005.

He’s the man with a crystal touch

Delicate repairs sought near and far

By Rick Romell

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  |  Monday, August 1st, 2005

Ned Guyette is a tactile man.  As he talks, he’ll emphasize a point by clasping a visitor’s shoulder or laying a finger on an arm.  His hands, even at 81, are steady.  Maybe he was born with a feel for the importance of touch.  Maybe he picked it up during his career with the American Red Cross.  Whatever, it now serves him well.  It takes a sensitive hand to shape a wafer-thin Waterford goblet on a 7,500 rpm grinding wheel.

People come to Guyette with chipped crystal, fractured Hummels, broken Lladro figurines. He looks them over, talks with their owners- Guyette likes to chat- and takes the prized-but-damaged pieces to his tiny workshop, where amid epoxy, X-acto blades, Q-Tips, brass-bristle brushes and abrasives so fine they feel like well-worn cloth, he fixes them.  

He’s good at this.  He doesn’t have a website.  The phone at his shop, The Finishing Touch, doesn’t even take messages.  But customers have sought Guyette from as far away as Arkansas and Alaska.  Many have written grateful letters that end up plastered to the workshop doors.

“It was more than a repair,” one couple wrote of the job Guyette did with a treasured decanter.  “You performed a miracle.”

“I am so grateful to you for how perfectly you repaired my glass hummingbird piece today,” another customer wrote.  “I look at it and marvel at your skill.”

“Thank you again,” wrote a third, “for the absolutely wonderful job you did on my repairs.  It is all perfection!  Especially my Madonna plaque.  It broke my heart when it broke, and you have fixed them both!”

Not bad for someone who, while he used to have fun telling people he learned at the bench of an old European craftsman during the occupation of Germany, actually taught himself.  Chrisanne Robertson, fine crystal buyer at George Watts & Son, Inc., is a fan too.  Her confidence in Guyette was sealed about ten years ago, when a customer came in with a dishearteningly damaged Steuben Excalibur piece.  The Exclaibur is one of the American glass-maker’s “executive” gifts.  It’s a chunk of carved crystal about the size of a heavyweight’s fist, pierced by a miniature sword.  The crystal makes an impressive paperweight, and the sword- sterling silver and 18-karat gold- is a letter opener.  The piece costs about $4,000.  Anyway, Robertson’s customer was “just absolutely grieving.”  His kids had taken the Excalibur from the bookshelf and gone at it with a skiff, carving out a huge divot.  Robertson doubted it could be repaired.  ” It’s chipped and cracked.  It looks like hell,” she said.

Stopping at Watts on one of his regular visits, Guyette studied the piece and said he wasn’t sure he could fix it either- he’s typically self-deprecating, Robertson said- but he’d try.“It comes back three weeks later, and he completely re-sculpted the thing,”  Robertson said.  “You couldn’t tell it had been damaged…And it was like, wow, you’re one of these old-school craftsmen.”

Guyette came to his old-school ways in midlife.  While working for the Red Cross- he retired in 1984 as executive director for the Milwaukee area- he saw a man at an antique show turning crystal glasses into bells.  Soon Guyette was trying it himself, grinding down the glass on an old wood lathe.  He made 120 bells for his wife, and when friends saw them in the couple’s home, they started asking Guyette to do crystal work.

When he retired, he set up his shop.  By then, he had long since scrapped the wood lathe for water-cooled lapidary wheels fitted with fine-grit silicon carbide abrasives.  The late George Watts- the man, not the china store that bears his name- appreciated Guyettes’s skill and steered business his way.  That helped a lot.  So did an article a free-lance writer sold to the Old Farmer’s Almanac Hearth & Home Companion.  Mentioned in the nationally circulated publication, Guyette started getting customers from beyond Milwaukee.

“I get a lot from Pennsylvania,”  he said.  “A lot form Illinois, Chicago area and thereabouts. The word has spread so much that some of the people who recommend me, I have no idea how they found out about me.”

Guyette is the only person in Wisconsin on Lladro’s list of recommended restorers, and he has repaired pieces selling for as much as $24,000.  The priciest was a two-foot-long porcelain sculpture of a cognation coach that got damaged while on display at Marshall Field’s at Mayfair.  “They called me, very upset,” Guyette said, “because one of the Lladro brothers was coming to Chicago in a week or ten days and they had to get that to Chicago.”

Another time, a banker admiring a colleague’s Lladro, a chauffeured car figurine titled “Where to Sir” noticed that the piece was, as Guyette put it, “a little bit catawampus” on it’s base.  As he moved to straighten it, it fell and broke in two.  The banker bought his friend a new figurine and brought the broken one to Guyette, who made an all-but-unnoticeable repair, only to have the piece stolen in a break-in- the only problem the shop has had in 21 years.  “They had fun in here,” he said of the burglars.  ”(They took) $10,000 worth.  They picked only the good stuff…They knew what they were dining>”

Guyette is slowing down a bit.  He played singles tennis until he was 75, then had to quit.  “I can’t move,” he said.  “My head says ‘Go for it’.  My legs say ‘What did you say?’”

A man recently made noise about buying The Finishing Touch, but Guyette hasn’t heard form him lately and that’s all right.  Health allowing, he figures he’ll run his shop for another five years.  He likes talking with customers- a man Friday heard how Guyette met his wife, Claudia, when she was just 12 and he was 16- tackling the varied problems they bring him, and the smooth feel of polished crystal.  It beats retirement, and to him, it’s more than a job.  “This is better than working,” he said.

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