Decorative Plates that Will Spruce Up your Home

Published: 19th May 2011
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Plates have been around for thousands of years. Though most of us know them as simple vessels on which to serve and eat food, they have a long decorative history. Chinese artisans discovered the process of making porcelain somewhere around 600 AD. The secret took more than two thousand years to make its way to Europe. Before that time, well-heeled Europeans bought porcelain objects from Chinese trading companies. In addition to pottery and display pieces, they also bought dishware.

These porcelain dinnerware sets became so popular that people started to call them "china" sets. As time went on, these sets appreciated in value and became sought after collectibles. Fine, handcrafted pieces are quite rare these days. In fact, most dishware is made from cheap ceramic material made by machines.

Collectible Plates

Millions of people decorate their homes with display plates. These plates need not necessarily be made of porcelain or bone china, though they are often more expensive when they are. The practice of collecting plates to use for decorative purposes began all the way back in the 19th century. Before that time, families with money to spare simply used their fine china as normal, everyday dinnerware.  Then a nobleman by the name of Patrick Palmer-Thomas impressed Victorian audiences with his rare and extensive collection of what he called "souvenir" plates. The new hobby caught on like wildfire with the rich and filtered down to the middle class in later years.

Most of these early souvenir plates commemorated an important event or captured a famous or picturesque locale. Plate collecting was a fairly inexpensive hobby, compared to coin (numismatics) or stamp (philately) collecting. Just about anyone could afford a simple, decorative plate to put on display in their home.

Shortly after they gained a loyal following, European companies started producing a wide spectrum of plates. Holiday-themed plates, especially Christmas plates, became incredibly popular with collectors and average consumers alike in the early 20th century. Many homeowners had at least one holiday plate that they would use for decorative purposes. These plates were either hung on the wall or placed on small stands or easels. More serious collectors often invested in a piece of furniture called a vitrine. These glass-paneled cabinets were specifically designed for displaying china and other pieces of objects-d'art. So where are we now?

Decorative plates are just as popular as they have ever been. Many homeowners have at least one plate that they will display year round and others that they will bring out during the holidays. Christmas plates are incredibly popular, especially with couples who have kids. Plates with a picture of a snowman, reindeer or Santa Claus can help put everyone in the holiday spirit.

Some folks who consider themselves serious collectors order souvenir plates on the internet or from a home shopping network. These plates are often numbered limited edition items that come with a certificate of authenticity. The subject of these plates ranges from rock stars to special events to famous locales. There are plates that celebrate the Fourth of July and others that commemorate Veteran's Day. Collectors may have to buy an additional fitted stand or easel for safe display.

Hanging Plates

Plates with famous quotes, proverbs and saying are extremely popular for year-round display. Decorative plates with a phrase like "Bless the Home" can be found in millions of homes around the world. Because they are almost always a part of wall décor, these plates must be hung like artwork. The process is obviously a bit more complicated than simply purchasing a wooden plate stand or easel. But it is still a fairly simple home project.

Plate hangers can be purchased for only a few dollars at most hardware stores and home improvement centers. The hangers should be made of brass and wire with springs that act as shock absorbers and adhesive plastic disks to keep the display plate securely in place. A quality hanger should protect your plates, even in the event of a small earthquake or other natural disaster. They are inexpensive and easy to hang.

Another great thing about hanging plates is that it is easy to create interesting arrangements. Plates can be hung in pairs or in groups. They can be displayed in a vertical or horizontal line or even in a shape, like a rectangle, if you have enough of them. Some people hang plates around the entire room to act as a kind of border, while others are content with one perfectly placed decorative plate.

Though modern wall hangers are quite safe, it is probably best to display expensive plates in a locked, glass case. It is not unheard of for curious, grabby children to get their hands on decorative plates and pull them off their hangers, which can be dangerous. Display plates and stands can be purchased at affordable prices from online sellers. Find some that will look great in your home now!

Mike Smithy is a freelance writer who writes about home decorating ideas including the use of decorative plates.

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