A chef who moonlighted as a photographer once told me that the two professions weren’t so dissimilar – your dinner plate frames your culinary genius (!) in much the same way as the lens frames the photo. Dinnerware defines your aesthetic and accents your décor.

Whether casual bruncheons, fine dining or al fresco barbeques are your bag, finding the right dinner set can feel like a lifelong search. And with so many delicious options on the market, the choice can seem overwhelming. Does the One really exist? Or is that kind of perfect just something you see in the movies?

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How will I know?

Anatole France


The French poet Anatole France said, “In dinner sets as in love, instinct is enough.”* And he knew his romance, at least. Just look at those eyes. But in the giddy throes of young love, instinct is scarce. It’s easy to fall for a handsome face. And divining the difference between a passing crush and something that will withstand the tests of time can be tricky.

But take it from Whitney, it’s worth weeding out the frogs.

Whether you’re searching for your soul mate, something casual or the kind of relationship your parents have enjoyed for forty plus years, knowing what you’re getting into is half the battle.

* Disclaimer: This may not be a direct translation.


From left: Tapas Olive Tray Set (stoneware), 16 Piece Dinner Set (porcelain) and Tapas Dish Set (stoneware) from 1815 by Royal Doulton, available at


Even when it’s love at first plate, it’s worth pausing to reflect before taking the plunge. Don’t rush in! Take some time to explore your options. At least then if you can’t refuse Jack Dinnerware – you know, the type destined to hit the road in a matter of months – you’re going in with your eyes open.


From left: Mode by Royal Doulton (porcelain/stoneware), Golden Wave by Noritake (porcelain), Marc Newson by Noritake (bone china) available at

In my downtime, I double as a diamond grader where the hunt for the perfect rock is guided by the 4 C’s. In a brazen theft, I’ve re-written these to compare dinnerware:

Composition – What are the benefits/disadvantages of the material? What level of craftsmanship does it represent?

Cooking style – Does it complement the types of food you like to serve? Or the style of event you like to host?

Convenience – Is it dishwasher and/or microwave-safe?

Colour – How does it influence your aesthetic? Does it inject colour into your neutral scheme? Or pick up on your accent colours? And does it complement your existing settings?

Of course, unless you’re lucky enough to be living the dream, there is a hidden fifth C – Cost. You want to aim for the best of the 4C’s and remain friends with your budget.

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From left: Fable by Royal Doulton (porcelain/stoneware), Colorwave by Noritake (stoneware) available at


Earthenware is a porous ceramic, fired at low temperatures. Though sturdy and budget-friendly, it’s less chip-resistant than stoneware, porcelain and fine bone china – but cheaper to replace. Glazed in high gloss colours, it injects energy into your entertaining.

Stoneware is similar to earthenware but non-porous and fired at higher temperatures. It’s more durable and waterproof, even without a glaze. Noritake Colorwave and Maxwell & Williams Sprinkle are perfect for casual luncheons and get-togethers. Stoneware dresses up nicely for more formal affairs.

Melamine is a plastic resin known for its resilience and durability. Dishwasher-safe and heat-resistant, it scores high for convenience and colour. Perfect for picnics and dining with kids, Barel Designs add a playful touch to your barbeques and outdoor events.

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From left: Barel Designs (melamine), Cashmere Enchante by Maxwell & Williams (fine bone china) and Le Restaurant by Noritake (porcelain) available at


Porcelain is kaolinite clay fired at extremely high temperatures. It offers high durability, whiteness and chip-resistance. It’s translucent – if you hold the plate up to the light, you can see the shadow of your hand behind it. It scores high for composition and convenience, being for the most part dishwasher and microwave-friendly.

The Royal Doulton collection offers everything from traditional settings to modern dinnerware. Add chic gold trim for sophisticated elegance with the Noritake Golden Wave collection.

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From left: Anais Decal by Alex Liddy (fine bone china) and Bread Street from Gordon Ramsay by Royal Doulton (stoneware)


If you’re after the crème de la crème, fine bone china is your match. It’s made from soft-paste porcelain with bone ash. Like porcelain, bone china is innately beautiful and translucent. Plus it promises superior strength, durability and pristine white hues. Marc Newson by Noritake offers the height of contemporary design while Monique Lhuillier by Waterford exudes femininity.


That’s it! That’s the lowdown. So go forth and find your future dinnerware. With any luck the 4c’s will deliver true love. It’s a lot less painful than swallowing the heart of a wild duck.

And remember. Don’t settle. Keep the faith. Because you’re worth it. 😉

Princess Bride

“This is true love – you think it happens every day.” – The Princess Bride

Kay is a feature, blog and copywriter. She collects empty jam jars, academic degrees and tawdry dreams in the hopes of turning them into something useful someday. Her work has been published in ACP magazines, ABC fiction, Overland, Brittle Star, Seizure, trade publications and online forums. Her creative writing has won several awards.