Dining Room Glossary

Bone China

Formal and elegant; gold or platinum add a touch of glamour. Best for: Formal dinner parties.

Casual China

Casual; typically comes in a four-piece set with a dinner plate, salad/dessert plate, bread and butter plate, and mug. Best for: Everyday use.


Clay pottery; less durable than stoneware. Best for: Casual dinners with friends.

Fine China

Formal; typically comes in a five-piece setting with a dinner plate, a salad/dessert plate, a bread-and-butter plate, a cup, and saucer. Best for: Formal affairs.


Hard, white pottery; also called Masonware. Best for: casual dinners with friends.

Lead crystal

The look: brilliant; produces a bell-like ring when a wineglass is struck. Best for: Formal occasions.


Similar to bone china; more durable than it appears, dishwasher-safe. Best for: moderately formal dinners with family.


The look: glazed, heavier than earthenware; strong, heavy, microwave-safe. Best for: family dinners.


Dishes, glassware, and silverware used in setting a table.


Intricately-patterned ceramics first introduced in the mid-17th century and produced in many colors and motifs. Typical motifs portrayed scenic or exotic views, botanical or animal patterns, and classical figures. The transferware was available in many shades of blue, green, purple, brown, black and red.


A basic five-piece set with dinner knife, dinner fork, salad fork, tablespoon, and teaspoon. Additional pieces to add (in the same pattern): Butter knife, ladle, cake server, salad spoon and fork, large serving spoon, slotted serving spoon, cold-meat fork, and a sugar spoon.

Sterling Silver

The look: Silver (part pure silver and part alloy metal); must be hand-washed and polished. Best for: Formal dinner parties.

Silver Plate

A thin coating of silver over another metal, usually nickel; lower-cost alternative to sterling silver; dishwasher-safe. Best for: Moderately formal affairs.

Stainless Steel

Silver, doesn't tarnish; purchase grades in 18/8 and 18/10 for protection against corrosion; most common choice. Best for: Contemporary dinner parties.


Thin, decorative layers of gold applied to sterling. Before for: Elegant affairs.

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