How To Wash & Care For Antique China, Vintage Glass, Silverware & Other Fine Tableware

(It’s More That “Just A Tradition!”) At holiday time, we all bring out the fancy china and silverware —  the old china and silverware if we are lucky enough to have it. Age, material, and condition issues…


Taylor, Smith & Taylor “Ever Yours” China

The “Ever Yours” invitation set by Taylor, Smith & Taylor Co. (TS&T) of Ohio, a 53-piece service for eight, including 10 hostess pieces.

Your choice of nine patterns by designer John Gilkes… all over-proof, dishwasher-proof, detergent-proof.

Made by the makers of Taylorton, Modern American Casual China.

Vintage ad found in the May 1961 issue of Good Housekeeping.

You can find out more about TS&T and John Gilkes here.

DIY China Jewelry Display

I have very mixed feelings about modifying or changing antique and vintage things, but when I saw this project converting plates (and a candlestick) into a jewelry holder I thought it would be a wonderful way to salvage china pieces, bring them out of the boxes and shadows and back to life.

I’ve seen this done before, but all the tiers were plates, and it became a nice tidbit tray for serving cookies, etc. Having the tea cup saucer on top makes for an excellent lip for hanging wire earrings!

Wouldn’t this be a fabulous way to share an antique, but incomplete, family heirloom china set? It would make it easier to share the family china with each one of your children!

Vintage China Nightlights

At a local antique mall, the Moorhead Antique Mall, I spotted another idea for salvaging vintage china pieces: turning tea cup saucers into nightlights.

I’ve also seen old cups (with and without saucers) turned into night lights (or night lamps), like this one by micah7:

But I think that since the vertical saucers are flatter and nearer to the wall, they are less likely to be damaged by an inattentive person vacuuming. (But maybe that’s just a problem at my house?)

I’ve never tried making night lights from china pieces, but if you want to give it a try, here are a few helpful “how to” links:

Cutting ceramics with a wet saw

How To Cut Plates Using Two Wheeled Cutters

How to cut a plate using Leponitt Cutters

Wielding your wheeled cutters

Also, your local hardware store may offer cutting services for a fee.

The Curious Case of Fiesta Go Alongs

First, there’s that curious name: Fiesta “go alongs.”

(Or is it “go with”? I’ve seen that tag used in eBay item descriptions.) What, exactly, does either phrase mean?

Classic Go Along: Hankscraft Egg Cooker
The long-acknowledged Fiesta experts, Bob & Sharon Huxford, describe go alongs in their book,  Collector’s Encyclopedia of Fiesta (10th ed. 2005). Simply, these collectibles were “…made by other manufacturers to ‘go along’ with Fiesta dinnerware.”
Mexican + Dishes Design Tablecloth

Okay, that’s straight-forward enough. One memorable Homer Laughlin-commissioned go-along item is the 1930-40’s Hankscraft Pottery Egg Cooker set. It used Fiesta-inspired colors on the cooker itself & for the accompanying four egg cups.

Hankscraft Egg Cup on Mexican Tablecloth

(Can you imagine eating a soft-boiled egg in a “radiation red” egg cup?! Not me; I use my set for display only!)

Second, besides the HLC-endorsed items, there’s also a bunch of unofficial Fiesta go-alongs.

Items with the “look of go alongs” include those that incorporate:
  • Fiesta-like bright colors
  • Fiesta-like dish designs
  • Similar rings/stripes & colors
  • Mexican motif or decal
  • Dancing lady motif or decal
  • Kitchen Craft motif or decal
Small Table Runner with Dishes + Fruit
The types of things that most often use Fiesta-influenced designs, markings, or decals include:
  • Dishes, glasses, & flatware
  • Linens & tablecloths
  • Tin or metal items (i.e., breadbox, napkin holder)
Meyercord Home Decorating Decals: '30s Dishes

Of course, there are also items that few people — except an eBay seller! — would automatically call a ‘Fiesta go along.’ Dedicated Fiesta collectors won’t let that deter them, however. Who cares if something is not truly a go-along when it ‘s too cute or compelling not to buy for your Fiesta collection


Butterscotch Bakelite Chick Napkin Ring

Like the totally unexpected “Fiesta vanity tray” recently listed by eBay seller petunia777.  (Photo used courtesy of seller.) It’s a “…beautiful handcrafted mosaic tray pieced together using tiles & shards from ONLY vintage Fiestaware from the Homer Laughlin Co. in ONLY the original six colors: Radioactive Red, Cobalt Blue, Turquoise, Old Ivory, Fiesta Yellow and Light Green!”

Handcrafted Vintage Fiesta Mosaic Tray

I totally agree with petunia777 who said: “I think of this piece as a unique Fiesta Go-Along!” The fact that the tray only uses pieces from the original six colors is inspired. Sure, the dishes were broken, but they’re the right colors for “Fiesta originalists” (if that’s even a word), like me. Yes, I love Fiesta dishes best. But go alongs — collectibles defined by the ‘eye of the beholder’ — have added a great deal of whimsy & fun to my collection. [Photos above taken by me, except for the Fiesta Mosaic Tray which is from eBay seller petunia777.]

Salvaging Mismatched Or Damaged China Pieces

I like to use my vintage things, where appropriate (and sometimes I make up uses for things). I feel it really continues the life of old things. I also don’t like to let anything go to waste, even if it’s broken or damaged; but I’m especially reluctant if it was a part of my collection.

Broken china, for example, can break your heart; but sometimes you can salvage or recycle it. Even if you can’t make jewelry from it.

I suppose most people have discovered that the odd, mismatched china saucers, custard cups, and whatever all those little shallow bowls are, can readily be put back into use at the table simply by placing candles in them — or by setting candles in clear glass and/or candles in clear tea lights upon the old china pieces.

It’s an especially lovely way to have them still sit at the table, lighting the more perfect pieces while you dine.

But what about those antique china cups with the handles broken off?

I’m sure you probably have a set of those metal candle stands sitting around somewhere…

Usually they have glass candle holders in them. Well, when my glass candle dish broke, I realized I could set one of my (many) handless china cups in them.

This works with most of these candle stands; even if they vary somewhat in diameter, you’ll find that the sloping sides of china cups eventually meet a secure resting place.

You can also stagger the candle heights by surrounding the cups recycled into metal candle stands with cups without stands, small dishes with candles, and plates with tea lights.

Not only does this salvage your old china pieces (and, I daresay, add another layer of interest and elegance to your table setting or home), but you’ll finally use all those candles you bought at your sister’s candle party. (Don’t get hubby started talking about how I own “too many” candles in my candle cupboard!)

If you don’t have a cabinet full of candles — or you don’t have any that are just the right size, Katy Teson aka “Pie Bird — Who Vents While Cooking” (Isn’t that a hoot of name?!) shows you how to make tea cup candles!

So go ahead, recycle those old mismatched china pieces and damaged china cups.

Disclaimers: I’ve never had any problems, but I will caution you that some candles may burn too hot to hold candles safely, meaning the china may crack. (And china that is already cracked probably won’t contain melted wax — though you can put a saucer beneath it all too). If you’re concerned at all, you can set clear glass votive holders inside the cups to hold the actual candles. Or you can, as many candle owners do, simply place the candles in or on the vintage china pieces just for show.

The Island of Misfit Collectibles

One of the first things that people usually ask me when they find out I’m a dealer of vintage collectibles is, what do you collect? My answer is usually short and sweet – “Anything that is chipped or cracked!”

My shelf in the kitchen holding my misfit kitchen collectibles –
lots of chips, cracks and rust spots hiding in there!

What I really mean when I say this is that my whole idea of collecting, and what I choose to keep for myself, has changed since I started to depend on selling collectibles as my income. The entire dynamic is different, but still, underneath my dealer persona, I am still a collector at heart.

I have a bit of a bird collection going on in my kitchen!

I suppose the biggest difference for me is that selling has become a way of collecting. Since collecting usually implies keeping, this may seem a little contradictory, but I can explain…

Before I became a dealer, I just bought what I liked, or what reminded me of my childhood, or my family. I never was the kind of collector that focuses on one niche, working to build a large number of items or a complete set of something (Well, except for my kitchen… for a while I had a mushroom themed kitchen, now I have a bit of a bird theme going on in there!). I was the kind of collector that picked up things I found at yard sales, estate sales and flea markets that spoke to me, that I thought were neat, or that I knew I could use or display easily.

My non working vintage fan, my 1960s Ouija Board that I got for a quarter,
my Phrenology head I can’t seem to part with…

When I started selling, I took the same approach – and still do to this day. The only thing that is different is that now I have knowledge of what other people collect – so my buying reflects not only my own preferences, but the preferences of my potential customers. And instead of keeping what I find, I send it on to a new home where it will be valued and appreciated – which for me, is the ultimate in job satisfaction!

My glued back together pixie figurine, and the girl and boy figurine
that reminds me of me and my boyfriend… *blush*

That being said, there is still the little part of me that wants to keep things, and it works really hard at justifying those things that it has really fallen in love with. 95% of the time it goes something like this:

Vintage Geek Mitzi: “WOW This thing is awesome! I want to keep it.”

Practical Mitzi: “Ok, let’s take a look at this thing. How much could you sell it for? How much did you pay for it? What will you do with it? You realize half of your already small home is filled up with business stuff, right?

Vintage Geek Mitzi: “Yes, but it is too hard to ship, it has a chip and is missing a part, and look at that big scratch on the back… No one wants that. Besides, your grandma had one JUST LIKE it and you know you have that perfect spot to put it!

Practical Mitzi: “Rent is due on the 1st.”

Vintage Geek Mitzi: ” *sigh*… let’s get it listed.”

My cracked vintage deer figurine with my boyfriend’s collection of green glass candle holders.

Of course, 5% of the time Vintage Geek Mitzi wins. She finds just the right justification (usually valid, though sometimes it is a bit of a stretch) and keeps something, which is why I now call my house The Island of Misfit Collectibles. Most of the things I have are either too big to list, are extras from sets I’ve sold (for example, I have 7 glasses, I list a set of 6 and keep one), are flawed so they aren’t worth listing, or just aren’t valuable enough to be worth listing. And don’t forget the things that don’t sell after a year or two – which apparently weren’t worth listing to begin with, but I didn’t realize it – those I keep sometimes too.

I found a big set of Lustro Ware that came with a cake carrier,
canister set, and this bread box – I sold everything but the bread box,
because I could actually use it!

Both Mitzi’s have a lot of fun though – there is just too much great stuff out there to get excited about to let the little internal battles get you down too much! And I’m excited to be writing for Inherited Values, where I can share what I’m in love with (that month, at least), and where I can use what I know to help collectors find the things they are in love with…

My big eyed girl print that looks way too much like me…

I have two other blogs that I keep, one for my online selling business, Vintage Goodness, and one for my online vintage directory, The Vintage List, where I talk a lot about selling vintage online. I’m going to do my best to write posts that are very different from my usual posts on those blogs, and hopefully my fellow Vintage Geeks will enjoy them! 🙂

Museum of American History Poster – too hard to ship! 😉

Ceramic canister set I had up online for a long time…
It never sold so now I have it. Too heavy probably, expensive to ship!

The First Fiesta I Ever Bought

My family moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico from Tulsa, Oklahoma in the mid-1960s. It was a shock on many levels.

We now lived on a street ending at the desert — sand & rocks, not grass & trees!

Had to drink huge glasses of iced tea after first eating surprisingly hot Mexican food!

Also, some people thought us Okies spoke with an accent! 8-D

Part of my vintage Fiesta collection

However, that move turned out to be very good in many respects. New Mexico offered beautiful vistas, friendly people, & delightful architecture. AND, I discovered what would become my lifetime collection: vintage Fiesta dishes.

Fiesta is all about color & circles

One day, a new school friend introduced me to a charming antique mall. Since the holidays were close, I started looking for potential Christmas gifts. Nothing really grabbed my attention until I saw some colorful dishes. They came in a wide range of hues & had concentric circles on most surfaces.

I was particularly drawn to a bright blue & orange salt & pepper set. Well, I figured they weren’t an actual set because of the different colors. But the rounded shapes looked exactly alike. I was looking over the dealer’s packed-with-dishes table more than a few minutes before someone asked if I needed help.

“Yes I do, thanks,” I told the older woman. “Can you tell me anything about this salt & pepper pair?”

“Of course,” she replied right away, “that’s Fiesta.”

Love seeing Fiesta for sale!

I must have looked confused at that answer, so she pointed to more colorful dishes on another table. “Like those plates,” she said.

Wandering over to look at those dishes, I asked another question, “What exactly are ‘fiesta’ dishes? Are they used for Mexican holidays or something?”

“Oh no!” she laughed. “Come here & let me show you,” taking me by the hand to a third table. She picked up a plate that looked like it was the same rich blue as one of the dishes I’d looked at earlier. Then she turned it over to show the script mark underneath.

Fiesta dishes set on tablecloth for lunch

“Ah, now I get it,” I said. “Fiesta is the name of those dishes.” That helpful dealer, whose name I’ve completely forgotten now, pointed out other Fiesta she was selling. But I still liked the colors & shape of the salt & pepper set, so that’s what I bought, intending it as a gift for my mother.

It was after we moved to New Mexico that Mother’s preference for bright colors really became apparent. Maybe it was the rich Southwest design influence? All I know for sure is that she truly liked the cobalt & red (Fiesta for ‘orange’), S&P I gave her. And she later painted all the kitchen cabinets bright orange.

Charming tomato S&P displayed with Fiesta

I inherited that salt & pepper after my mother died. I also have a much older, deep orange-red S&P set — pottery adorably shaped like tomatoes — that she originally got from her mother.

Stacks of Fiesta displayed with vintage platter

Years later, when I finally had my own place, I seriously started collecting Fiesta. (And I mean seriously!) Now, when I move & have to pack up all those boxes of dishes, my father always jokes that I probably have enough Fiesta to serve dinner for 60 people. “No,” I reply, “I’m sure I only have service for 35!”

And it all started with that salt & pepper….

(Speaking of which, I recently moved & have not yet unpacked my boxes of Fiesta. And for some reason, I don’t have any photos of that original S&P, sorry! All photos used here are mine.)