10 tips for buying and displaying Christmas ceramics

A mince pie always looks best on a festive plate. Discover where to find the finest

In Homes & Antiques' December issue we uncover the history of Christmas plates, which is more intriguing than you might think. First made by the Danish manufacturers Bing & Grøndahl in 1895, Royal Copenhagen (who took over Bing & Grøndahl) have been making limited editions every year since, smashing the mould after the run is made to ensure that each year's plate is unique.

Collectors hunt out these limited run Royal Copenhagen plates as well as festive dishes from the likes of Spode, Royal Crown Derby and Wedgwood, both to adorn their sitting rooms and to serve up seasonal treats. If you're keen to start your own collection, read on for tips from antiques expert Roland Arkell of the-saleroom.com.

How to buy Christmas ceramics...

  1. Do your research: With any antique it’s important to do your homework beforehand and know an approximate price estimate. There are plenty of sources available - the-saleroom.com has a price guide that shows how much certain Christmas ceramics have sold for in the past, or you can check past auction catalogues. Use these tools to your advantage when making your decision.
  2. Buy with your eyes: Don’t be lured into buying the story, buy what appeals to you aesthetically. The story only enhances the beauty!      
  3. Condition: Check the state of the piece before you buy. It is imperative that you know this. If there is any damage, no matter how minor, it will significantly decrease the value.
  4. Ask questions: Never be afraid to ask experts and auctioneers questions if you have them, whether they're big or small. When buying online, you will have the opportunity to contact the auctioneer before the sale goes live.
  5. Consider your budget: Generally, Christmas plates are reasonable, but if you are choosing to invest in an original, think about what your maximum price would be ahead of bidding. And make sure you stick to it!

...and how to display them

  1. Invest in a display case: A display case will significantly reduce the potential of an antique piece suffering any damage.  
  2. Use a plate stand: This will help stand your plate upright so you can show off the design, but also make sure it is secure and minimise risk of falling.
  3. Get creative: Use lighting, soft textiles (velvets or similar are good) and rich wintry colours to complement the designs of your plates.
  4. Use a soft cloth or brush: Keep your plate clean with a soft cloth or brush - this will avoid scratching the surface and keep the piece in mint condition.  
  5. Pride of place: The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to use an object for the purpose it was originally made. You may want to use your plate as a serving dish (and if you do, be sure to clean it carefully after use) but equally you could place your plate in prize decorative position in your home.

Images: Royal Copenhagen/Spode/Versace

To learn more about the history of Christmas ceramics pick up your copy of Homes & Antiques' December issue, out now

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