Fine Art & Antiques by Dr. Lori

Is Grandmaís China Toxic?
Tips for Using Holiday Dinnerware

If you are preparing for holiday dinner parties, and you intend to use your grandmotherís antique china plates or your motherís vintage mixing bowls, here are some tips. I know that some of you are reading this column and saying to yourself, ďWhy do I need Dr. Lori to tell me how to use my grandmotherís antique china? Iíll just take them down from the shelf and use them on my table.Ē

Well, itís not that simple. Your grandmotherís antique china or her old mixing bowls can contain lead. Leaching lead from antique china may be toxic. This is the case with many pieces of antique and vintage china.

Many of the old glazes used on antique or vintage china contain some level of lead. If your china is highly decorated or multi-colored, there is a better chance that it contains lead glazing or decorations using lead. And, those pieces of china with decorations atop the glaze rather than beneath the glaze may contain lead. If any of your pieces of antique or vintage china or pottery is damaged in any way (chips, cracks, crazing, etc.), donít use it in the preparation or service of food.

Everyone knows that grandmotherís china was not intended to be used in the microwave or in the dishwasher, but it is also a bad idea to place that old china in the refrigerator. Storing your leftovers in the refrigerator on a decorated china plate is not good for the life span of the antique nor is it good for you once you re-serve those leftovers. Why? The plate is fragile and cooling will impact its overall condition. Also, lead can leach from china that is hosting foods high in acidity. Thus, a piece of lead-glazed or lead-decorated antique china that experiences a significant temperature change (as with cooling) may leach. If you must eat off your antique china or vintage ceramic dishware, donít do so as a regular practice and certainly donít eat off it every day.

It is not wise to eat off china with painted or metallic decorations (like gold leaf or silver banding). In addition, if you are in the practice of using an old ceramic bowl to feed or give water to your pets, make sure these old ceramic pieces are not chipped or cracked. You want to protect our furry friends against lead leaching, too!

So, if you want to highlight your grandmotherís china, it is best to use pieces as a display within your holiday centerpiece or on the holiday buffet table, hosting flowers as a reminder of your family history and holidays gone by. 

Ph.D. antiques appraiser and awardwinning TV personality and TV talk show host, Dr. Lori presents antiques appraisal events nationwide. Join her on her next vacation cruise focusing on antiques this October. Watch Dr. Lori across the country on the Fine Living Networkís Worth Every Penny and on Daytime which airs on Atlantaís ABC 2 WSB-DT at 9 am, Tampaís NBC 8 at 10 am, Jacksonvilleís CW 17 at 6 am, and others. Visit or call 888-431-1010.




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