The other day, I was in a conversation about setting an elegant coastal-themed tablescape and what dining options were available. It’s hard sometimes to find pieces that enhance the theme without being over stated. After a roundabout of sorts we landed on the topic of Oyster plates. I love Oyster plates! The sizes, shapes and patterns amaze me. Did you know that they date back to the Victorian Era?
The story goes, back when serving oysters on the half shell first became a delicacy, the plates were soon to follow. Because the oyster shells were heavy and could scratch delicate china, the plates were used to serve the oysters without the shell but still achieve the stylish half shell look. A hostess wanted their Oyster plates to not only serve oysters, but to make a social statement. Similar to the delicacy they carried, the plates were designed to be lightweight, uniquely decorated, and quite intricate.
Oyster plates were generally made in one of three styles: Turkey, Geometric, or Kidney. These styles are defined by the arrangement of the oyster molds on the plate. A Turkey style will have five oyster molds, arranged to look like a turkey. The classic oyster plate, that many of us recognize, is the Geometric style. In this style there will be six molds arranged in a circle around the plate with a shallow well in the center. The last style is the Kidney shaped plate. I’d like to think this is pretty self-explanatory, in this style the molds are arranged in the shape of a kidney.
Oyster plates have become somewhat a thing of the past, but for those of us who love vintage china and dinnerware, we hold a special place in our collections for treasures such as these!
Have you collected any Oyster plates?