A fine china set is simply a set of elegant ceramic dinnerware. The term "fine china" comes from the fact that in the past the best ceramic cups, plates, and vases came only from China. It is usually used during special occasions; it is said by many that the food simply tastes better when it comes on a beautiful porcelain plate. In the past, finest china was a very rare and expensive commodity in the West. Now, it can be found and bought nearly everywhere at relatively affordable prices. One major problem with getting it now is choosing what kind to buy - there are literally hundreds of designs with different patterns, shapes and colors available.
A set of fine china makes a great gift for your family. How can one best choose a set to buy? First it is best to decide on what type of fine china to buy. Porcelain and bone china are the two major types. Porcelain is made from clay mixed with other materials such as flint and feldspar. It is a tough, shiny, and translucent material - the name porcelain comes from the old Italian word for cowrie shell. Its color depends on the other materials mixed in with the clay. The other major type, bone china, is a kind of porcelain which contains the ash of ground animal bones. This gives it its pure white color.
An authentic fine china set is guaranteed by its maker, so it is best to check out who made the set first. Another test for authenticity involves checking the translucency of the pieces by holding them against the light.
A set with more traditional round or rectangular pieces can be cheaper than sets with more complicated shapes due to the ease of their manufacture. Simplicity can also be considered more elegant than complexity. Remember that getting the best china can be a significant investment; while it is not as expensive as it was in the past, a good set of porcelain dinnerware can still be costly.
Once bought, it is important to take care of your fine china set to maintain its beauty. When not in use, it is best to keep the set in a display cabinet instead of in the attic or basement. Do not allow the pieces to rub each other when washing by hand or by dishwasher, and do not stack plates or cups without separating them by putting cloth between pieces. Only use mild detergent and soft sponges when washing. Never expose the pieces to high temperatures; before putting hot food on a porcelain plate, warm the plate up first with warm water to minimize the shock of the sudden temperature change.