Once upon a time my family owned a beautiful gift business, what would have been known in days past as a carriage trade store. Schreibman Jewelers was full of gorgeous china, crystal , silver and everything else beautiful. We had the largest bridal registry in Northeast Ohio and I spent my days setting tables, creating events and just generally making people very happy. I got to set tables for Julia Child, Jacque Pepin and Todd English. I was interviewed by Martha Stewart Living and Town and Country. I worked in the business as a child..hello to anyone who has ever been part of a family business and in my adulthood, for 30 plus years I got to be the best part of peoples lives. For the most part, nothing makes people happier than a wedding, except for the wedding gifts! Every package we shipped out was beautifully wrapped and to this day, my old customers still stop me to let me know just how grateful they are that I encouraged them to register for those silver candlesticks that they thought that they'd never use, or that beautiful pewter tray that they fell in love with but was just impractical. I'm still a complete sucker for a beautifully wrapped package and nothing makes me happier than a handwritten thank you note.
It has been said that I have a PhD in napkin folding:)
I closed my families business 16 years ago when it became apparent that times were changing. The internet had taken over ushering in discount branding and the big box stores were seducing everyone, everywhere with lower priced goods. Alas, what we tried to tell everyone was what they are finally realizing now....With generic brands that are available all across the country comes the problem of built in obsolescence , or in easier terms, if it stops making money, it stops being produced. In other words, a china pattern that you buy from a larger chain store today, has a great chance of not being available next year and the same goes for fine crystal and silverware.
If that weren't enough to sadden my porcelain loving heart, I read an article last year in the New York Times about millennials and how they don't want any if the beautiful things in our linen cabinets. I had to laugh to myself or I would have burst into tears. This is the same group that recycles and composts and they are missing one of the great solutions that's right in front of them. They have made Ancestry a huge multimillion dollar corporation and yet so many are missing the most important point. Porcelain isn't fragile and it doesn't disintegrate easily. They've pieced together entire civilizations from shards of broken dishes and pieces of silver and pewter. They've pieced together entire histories, her-stories and historical intrigues from a simple knife style or a monogrammed silver tray.
Which should lead everyone to the same conclusion. Your mother and grandmothers dishes, linens, glasses and silver and pewterware are the ultimate recyclables. Think about it. Your mothers Haviland china has probably already had a pretty full life as the formal china you grew up with, but it doesn't mean that you need to use it formally. I use my mothers white and gold limoges dishes for everyday when I'm in the mood. If it's 30 years old or younger, you can put it in the dishwasher...just let it get cold in the dishwasher before you take it out. The same goes for good crystal and silverware. take it out of it's cupboard and use it for goodness sakes! It's nothing to be afraid of. At the turn of the century, all meals were set with the good stuff...casual dishes really didn't come into vogue until the 60s when everything became so earthenware and earnest! Designs from the earliest years of America are as classic and relevant today as they were 200 years ago. That's what good design is.
Here's what I will promise you. There will come a time when you'll wish that you had some of these beautiful things from the not so distant past. You never know who is going to show up at your table for dinner and one lovely set of candlesticks, or that silver water pitcher that you didn't think you wanted can make all of the difference in how you feel about it when they do.
Using the beautiful things that were once used by those you love or loved is a wonderful way to keep beautiful parts of your past magically alive in the present moment.
Remember, that conjuring these memories for your family is the most important thing of all...if you aren't going to use your beautiful things for your family, as much as possible, then you might as well box them up and send them to me..or someone else who will cherish them and make memories with them!
Just kidding! I want you to use them. If you do , you won't have to buy them again and this keeps alot of junk out of alot of landfills and don't even get me started about using cloth napkins. Yes...if you're a millennial concerned about the environment, you should be using cloth napkins. You don't get to worry about the environment if you're not doing this simple thing..Don't complain about laundering them. Here's my favorite secret. Wash them, put them in a cool dryer and take them out and fold them while they're still warm. Then here's the secret. Put a lovely clean brick on top of them vertically, once you've folded them all. You'll never iron them again when you see how well this works.
Faster than you can say Abracadabra....Perfectly flat, folded and pressed napkins...
You can thank me later:)