China & Dinnerware Pieces – How to Identify What You Have




The world of china dinnerware is vast and varied. There are thousands of manufacturers hundreds of thousands of patterns, and many pieces to each pattern. To acquire a comprehensive knowledge of the industry requires a lifetime of study. However, there are some china basics that are easy to learn and remember, but are still unknown to many people who could benefit from the information. Learning some common china terms can improve your ability to buy, sell or enjoy china dinnerware.


There is much uncertainty with regard to the names of different china pieces. Since there are no official guidelines, confusion is the inevitable result. What some call a salad plate is referred to by others as a side plate, a creamer is also known as a milk jug etc. It is also difficult to determine proper nomenclature when there are different sizes involved. For example, if a 7 ½ inch plate is a salad plate, is a 8 ½ inch plate a luncheon plate or is it still called a salad plate? Is a two-handled cup part of a cream soup set or soup cup? This dilemma affects many who attempt to purchase china and would like to know exactly what they should be looking for.


An attempt to name and explain every piece ever made is beyond the scope of this article. Instead, let us focus on some of the more common pieces available. There is no right or wrong when it comes to piece names, but by using the more common term, you will increase the likeliness of getting the information you are looking for. (This article focuses on china. Future articles will describe crystal and flatware pieces)


China Pieces


The standard unit of china pieces which are sold together is the Five Piece Place setting, which usually consists of the following pieces: Dinner Plate, Salad Plate, Bread & Butter Plate, Cup and Saucer.



Dinner Plate

Flat, usually round, ranges from 9 3/4” to 11” in diameter

Salad Plate (aka side plate)

Flat, usually round, ranges from 7 3/4” to 8 3/4” in diameter

Bread & Butter Plate (aka dessert plate, cake plate)

Flat, usually round, ranges from 6” to 7 3/4” in diameter


Tea Cup (aka coffee cup)

Comes in many different styles and shapes (Leigh, Peony, Footed,  Flat etc.) ranges from 2” to 2 3/4” in height


Flat, round, with indentation for the cup



There additional pieces, while usually not part of the place setting, are often part of the formal table.



Luncheon Plate (often confused with the dinner or salad plates)

Flat, usually round, ranges from 9” to 9 3/4” in diameter



Soup Bowl

Comes rimmed or coupe (no rim), ranges from 7 1/4” to 9”


Fruit/Dessert Bowl

Comes rimmed or coupe (no rim), ranges from 4” to 5 3/4”



Cream Soup & Saucer (aka soup cup)

Two handled cup, usually short and wide, indented saucer (bouillon soup cups are narrow and tall, also with two handles)


Cereal Bowl

Comes rimmed or coupe (no rim), ranges from 5” to 7”



Demitasse Cup & Saucer (aka after dinner, chocolate)

Much smaller than regular tea cups, come footed or flat, saucer usually indented




Tall, large cup, no saucer, flat or footed, occasionally differs slightly in design from the rest of the pattern.


Charger (often confused with the dinner or chop (12” serving) plates)

Flat, usually round, ranges from 11” to 12” in diameter





Serving pieces also come in a wide range of piece types, sizes and shapes. The following are some of the most common pieces:




Creamer (aka milk jug)

Handle, with spout for pouring, many different sizes, often even for the same pattern


Sugar Bowl

Usually with a lid, occasionally open, almost always with handles.

Oval Vegetable Bowl (aka salad bowl, serving bowl, open vegetable bowl)

Rimmed and coup (no rim), used for salads, pasta etc., ranges from 9” to 10 ¾”



Round Vegetable Bowl (aka salad bowl, serving bowl)

Rimmed and coup (no rim), used for salads, pasta etc., ranges from 8” to 10 ¾”




Oval Serving Platter (aka meat platter)

Comes in many different sizes, starting from 10 all the way to 19” in length, occasionally even bigger (length is the determining factor, not width). When referring to platters, actual size is important. “Big” or “small” mean different things to different people. Use the actual length to clarify what you are referring to.



Gravy Boat & Underplate (platter)

Underplate comes separate or attached. Usually with handle, occasionally with double spout.


Tea Pot with Lid

Short and stout

Coffee Pot with Lid

Tall and thin

Covered Vegetable Bowl

Round or oval, double handled, often confused with soup tureen, which is much bigger


Tureen or Soup Tureen

Large round bowl with lid, usually footed, occasionally with underplate or nook for ladle



Knowing what you are looking for will go along to ensure that you actually get it and not some similar–but-not-what-you-wanted piece which will not suit your purposes. A little knowledge goes a long way.