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For entertainers, a cultivated table is everything. While a single set of “good” china may cut it for the occasional fete-thrower, the truly hedonist hostess knows the real magic is in having half a dozen or more partial sets squirreled away for rapturous mixing and matching sessions. Selecting proper dinnerware can be a bit perplexing, however. From Royal Worcester to Wedgwood, many sought-after china brands have names that sound tinged with monarchial overtones, while others like Limoges refer not to a brand at all, but a particular production process.

If you’re among those who’s been vying to add some vim to your tabletop but you’re confused as to what kind of china—if any—constitutes an investment that rivals a mortgage payment, we’re here to help. From Mikasa china to Noritake china, we’ve teed up a who’s who guide to china to get you started.

Noritake China

Gracefully robust patterns elevate Noritake china to a class of its own. Norikate was founded in 1876 by businessmen brothers, Ichizaemon and Toyo Morimura, who opened an import company in New York City. Aiming to increase their profits, the brothers elected to create their own version of French porcelain, which was in vogue at the time. To supply their endeavors, they opened a factory in Japan in 1904. Although produced in Japan, Noritake pulls more influence from English and French china (those looking for Japanese-inspired porcelain should consider the U.S.-based Mikasa). Archetypal Noritake patterns have a delicate,lace-like quality that is accentuated by their glossy finish. Norikate china can vary greatly in price, with the most valuable sets dating to the 1930s when the Great Depression notably limited Noritake's production capabilities for a time.

Mikasa China

Although headquartered in Secaucus, New Jersey, Mikasa china is redolent of Japanese dinnerware. Marvelously minimalist in contrast to many other china brands on the market, Mikasa china is pared-back and polished rather than powerfully patterned. Thanks to its neutrality, Mikasa pieces are a foundational favorite of many China connoisseurs and can be used as a base to layer more extravagant china pieces on top. Originally established as an international trading company in the 1930s, Mikasa began with a wide roster of imports, but ultimately it was through its bone china that the brand gained the most momentum. Bone china is particularly renowned for its illustrious white color and exceptional durability. It’s chip-resistant and lightweight, making it an ideal pick for everyday use.

Limoges China

A wide-reaching term used to describe all china made from kaolin clay in Limoges, France, Limoges china dates to the 18th century. That said, the process used to create Limoges porcelain, often dubbed “hard-paste porcelain,” was by no means new in the 18th Century. The technique of firing kaolin clay at exponential temperatures to derive a durable surface with a luminous finish had been employed by the Chinese for centuries. But it was only after trade routes began to prosper between China and Europe and Europeans began to lust over Eastern talismans that porcelain production was put into play in the Western world. As is true with most things touched by the French, Limoges china is exuberant, meticulously detailed, and just a bit flirty (scalloped edging is a mainstay of Limoges porcelain). Limoges also boasts a more robust color palette than some other brands. Those looking for a take-charge charger should definitely consider Limoges.

Royal Doulton China

With its prim trim, traditional motifs, and mesmerizing patterns, Royal Doulton china is a no-fail option for any table. Established by John Doulton in 1815, Royal Doulton originally began as a modest pottery operation that primarily produced storage jars and clay sewage pipes. Over time, Royal Doulton amassed acumen and began integrating fine china into their repertoire. In addition to being one of the later porcelain brands to emerge, Royal Doulton china is generally considered to be more accessible than some other fine china brands. Integrate several banded Royal Doulton plates into your repertoire to dial up your place setting prowess.

Wedgwood China

Wedgwood was founded in the 1770s by Josiah Wedgwood, who produced a plethora of macaroon-hued jasperware platters and urns. Capitalizing off Europeans’ appetite for Neoclassicism, Wedgwood porcelain was stamped with bright white Neoclassical-inspired reliefs. Today, Wedgwood porcelain is one of the most wildcard options on the porcelain market, although traditional place settings do exist. Like its jasperware, Wedgwood china goes a bit rogue. Its patterns are a wee eccentric, making them ideal for the maximalist entertainer looking to procure madcap appeal. A general rule for dating Wedgwood porcelain is that the less writing to be found on the bottom, the older it is. Number and letter codes began appearing in the late 1860s and country-of-origin markings around 1900.

Royal Worcester China

A quintessentially English brand, Royal Worcesteroriginated in the 18th century when founders Dr. John Wall, a physician, and William Davis, an apothecary, procured a home-baked porcelain recipe. Following their success, they established their first factory in Worcester and subsequently built one of the world’s most prestigious porcelain operations. Royal Worcester in particular is known for its Painted Fruit pattern which features an array of lifelike fruits. Artists reportedly train for up to seven years before they’re allowed to undertake the iconic pattern. Eminently elegant, the Painted Fruit pattern had been applied to everything from plates to teapots and has recently been adapted to more neoteric tastes with porcelain that showcases fruit on a plain porcelain background rather than the traditional colored one.