Oyster Plates

The Beauty of Oyster Plates

Phyllis Inspiration 11 Comments

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?

Comments 11

  1. I do have one oyster plate. It is blue and white, given to me by a 93 year young friend. The plate actually had belonged to her mother. It is real treasure and on display!

  2. My husband and I were in New Orleans last Spring. While there we visited several antique shops looking for oyster plates. I knew up front they would be expensive as I have a small collection. We did indeed find many oyster plates but I was looking for specific oyster plates done in a French blue as I intended to hang them over an oil painting with that shade of blue. I found two with the coloring I needed and another with a beautiful green that went so well with them. Would never consider eating out of them but we both love oysters any way and any time.

    1. We started a collection for our daughter-in-law who is from Louisiana. I love to find unusual ones and add to her collection. Very amazing the varieties of the plates.

  3. Special china for specific foods always have intrigued me. I have four pastel fish plates made in Italy which would hold a good sized filet of any sort.

    Another special set I have would not fit the fine china category strictly, but is very dear to me. Years ago a patient of Joe’s took up SCUBA diving in her sixties. After a series of productive dives she brought him eight Shrimp Cups. Each of them she had made of two shells which she had garnered. She had cleaned and glued them together. forming a server. The top shells are creamy beige, peachy beige and solid cream colored, dappled and striped snail shells atop overturned scallop shell shaped shells of similar coloring and markings. The Shrimp Cups are three and a half inches high with the same width opening, almost two inches deep, and hold six nice shrimp with a bit of green garnish and sauce.

    Actually this dived-for, made from scratch set is what Majolica, or perhaps Belleek, might imitate. Because of its history it is priceless and irreplaceable. A beautiful gift from an interesting, grateful patient.

    Thank you, again, Phyllis for bringing to mind another lovely category for us to think about with pleasure.

  4. Not familiar with oyster plates and found your story very interesting. But, I must admit you have given me a craving for Oysters Rocker-feller! A dish I have not had in years…..Yum!
    California Carmel

  5. Oyster plates are such a unique item; such variety. Most of my family loves seafood; but, there’s not an oyster eater in the bunch! Perhaps I should purchase a lovely plate and use it to serve scallops or shrimp. Would the Victorians be appalled or simply design another plate for each of those?

      1. Must have been an interesting time to eat always from specific plates for specific foods and often time use sterling flatware designed for that same food. Something we would consider rather lowly like sardines even had specific severing containers and forks. What a life!

  6. I have a set of lovely seashell dishes, but no oyster plates…they wouldn’t get used, as no one in my family cares for oysters on the half shell! You have to give the Victorians credit for being inventive when it came to table settings! They created so many unique dishes and silverware pieces, even the runcible spoon!

  7. Yes! I have a wonderful collection of oyster plates. The plates are so graphically beautiful, aren’t they? (Sad to say, I am not a fan of actually eating oysters, although my husband is.)

    Oyster plates come in so many variations, from heavier French majolica to the finest, most elegantly painted porcelain. Displayed in a hutch or on a wall, they are art. I try to sell the antique plates I acquire, but often they seem to “stick” here at home.

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