Fine china goes hand in hand with the phrase “handle with care.” China is fragile and can be damaged from direct contact, too much weight on top of it, or from exposure to high heat. No matter what type of fine china you have–Royal Copenhagen, Royal Doulton, Wedgwood, Meissen, etc.–you must be careful when using it, storing it, or displaying it.
Everyone knows that you should not place fine china or hand painted porcelain or bone china in the dishwasher, microwave oven, or refrigerator. How do you tell bone china from porcelain? When caring for your fine china, make sure you remember these tips for storage, moving, and display.
1. Storage: Make Room
When storing your antique or vintage fine china, don’t stack the plates more than six (6) plates high and don’t hang the cups on wires by their handles. Give your collection some breathing room. Use plate separators made of cotton cloth or plain paper towel and do not use foam inserts as they can retain heat and stick to the plate damaging the decoration.
Don’t hang tea cups on hooks within a china cabinet as that places undue stress on the teacup’s handle and forces you to screw a hook into your wooden china cabinet, damaging the furniture. Don’t crowd fine china; it needs room to prevent damage. Don’t store your china in bubble wrap long term because bubble wrap traps heat and heat can cause crazing and further damage. Read how to use bubble wrap the correct way or risk ruining your pieces.
2. Moving: Individually Wrap
If you must move your china, wrap each piece by itself. Don’t use newspaper or printed papers as the print can bleed onto your china staining the design. Use acid free tissue paper, then wrap it again in a bubble wrap or white cotton cloth–small terrycloth tea towels, for instance. Prepare for the worst. My motto is to “wrap, wrap, reinforce.” Wrap the piece once in tissue paper, wrap twice in bubble wrap or a terry cloth towel, and then reinforce it within the inside of the box with packaging material like newspaper or Styrofoam peanuts. You will use a lot of material by wrapping this way, but it will protect your heirloom china. Do you have one of the 3 Valuable Thanksgiving China Sets?
Another option, which is a bit costly, is to wrap china in disposable diapers. They are cushioned and have convenient sticky tabs attached so that means there is no need for extra tape.
3. Display: Rotate Dishes
Many people will display a full fine china service, for 8 or 12 persons, in a china cabinet. That is a nice way to show off your heirlooms or Chinese Export Porcelain but remember that if you don’t use your china often, the plate on the bottom of the stack is taking on the weight of the entire stack for long periods of time. And, likewise, the edge of the plate that is sitting in the plate rail groove inside your china cabinet is supporting the weight of the plate while the other areas of the perimeter edge are not. So, every 3 months or so, rotate the dishes. Move the bottom stacked plate to the top and rotate the plate sitting in the plate rail a quarter turn. This will stop the loss of gilt (gold leaf) or silver on that area of the rim. If you are displaying your cups and saucers, it is a good idea to turn them every three months so sun damage does not fade only one side of the cup.
One more thing, when displaying your fine china service, don’t leave the lights inside of your china cabinet on for long periods of time as the heat generated inside of the china cabinet will damage your china pieces. Remember that breakage to any one piece in a full china set will negatively impact the value of the entire china service. Read 3 Storage Tips for Antiques so you don’t damage your antiques too. When moving fine china tureens, bowls, etc., it is best to pack Styrofoam peanuts or balled up newspaper on the inside of the bowl too. Internal and external packaging will protect the body of the china. Always, be patient. Take as much time and care unwrapping your china as you did wrapping your china. Watch me show you how to find valuable dishes.