An heirloom tablescape mixes Swedish china, American crystal, Italian linens and flea-market silver.
Five years ago I fell in love with dishes I saw online at an auction. Stacked and glittering, the lot featured more than 100 pieces plus a variety of serving plates that would take a lifetime to collect. It wasn’t a set – no cups or saucers — but I was lost the moment I saw the stylized blue cornflowers between thin gold bands.
The dishes were from Rorstand, a little-known brand in the U.S. but one of Europe’s oldest, manufactured in Sweden since 1726. They were surprisingly affordable and I was able to snag them. My rationalization: I needed at two dozen dinner plates for the buffets I planned to give when we finished renovating.
When the dishes arrived I realized that they were pieces of a fish and dessert service — probably used for Christmas and Easter. Stamps on the backs went from the oldest brown Rorstrand script, to the more modern blue hallmark. At the time, Rorstrand had a photos of their marks with the years they were used on the website. Sadly, it’s no longer there. Using the marks, I estimated they had been collected between the 1920s and 1960s. I wound up with 39 dinner plates — more than anyone needs.
My dear friend and blogging partner, Jane T. has been after me to show these off. They seemed perfect for a Spring table and I hope you all don’t mind the long story but I love a good puzzle, which these presented.
When I use the blue and white dishes I enjoy mixing it with Fostoria Trojan topaz (Depression) glass crystal we received as a wedding present from my sister-in-law. It was half her set of twelve purchased at a jewelry store in Clinton, Mass., when my in laws married in the 1920s. I would love to add some pieces and learned from comments on this post that I had never seen any from this pattern for sale because I had misidentified it! Behind it is an American colored-glass candlesticks from the late 19th century, which I collect. The pink pair work well with the plum and cherry blossoms in the vase (more on those in a minute).
In a way, this place setting is like a map of my life. I acquired the embroidered voile placemats and napkins in Venice during the summer I spent studying Italian cooking there. The vintage fish knife and fork [far left and right on the mat] are from a set of six given to me as a birthday gift by a foodie friend. The ivory-handled English fish serving set on the platter [left] came to us as a wedding gift. The knives and forks closest to the plate are Rodgers Bros. Remembrance, from a silver-plate service for 12 I bought at a flea market near my house for $200. I found the little sterling silver salt and pepper shakers, in Gump’s boxes, among my Mom’s things when we cleared out her house. They have tiny glass liners inside to prevent the spices from corroding the silver.
A pair of Rorstrand gravy boats come in handy at Thanksgiving — I love the graceful arc of the spout. The little lady in the cap [foreground] is a brass bell my Mom used at the table when we were small. It’s been somewhere in my kitchen all my adult life.
One of my mother-in-law’s parfait glasses seems so at home on a Venetian voile doily. I could see seviche or even a shrimp cocktail served in one of these, even though they are meant for dessert. I purchased the doilies in Venice at the same time as the mats. During the years I taught cooking I also entertained formally and frequently so I’ve always used them. I even enjoy ironing them.
I don’t do elaborate flower arrangements but when things are blooming I love to bring them inside. The hyacinths sprouted right on time — I planted them last fall. Some of these pink branches were clipped from our flowering plum tree which was heavily damaged by a snows storm last month. It’s a miracle to see huge broken branches hanging on the ground and yet still blooming. No matter what happens, nature has a wondrous way of showing us how to be optimistic.
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Susan Barham says
Do you know the pattern name of your Rorstrand blue and white dishes? Have you ever seen them for sale again after acquiring your set?I love this pattern! I’m having trouble finding it on the internet, though. I would love to collect a set for myself. Any information would be much appreciated. Thanks!
Jane F says
Thanks for your comment. I’m so pleased that you like the dishes. I do love them. I have never been able to locate the name of this pattern at least on the web. I’ve tried and tried but my photos seem to be the only ones around.
From the style I know this is an Art Nouveau era design, also called Jungend or Jungendstil, and the company surely was in business around 1900. Since they don’t have a photo archive online, and the pattern doesn’t show up on an extensive Rorstrand list on Replacements, it’s a bit tough to locate. Rorstrand has a museum with a website. But they basically say they don’t have good documentation, or much at all. They recommend sending a photo to a Swedish antiques magazine (like we know what those are.)
Things turn up in auctions, of course. I did buy these via an auction but it was in Stockholm. No idea whether there’s another batch on this side of the Atlantic but if so, I do hope you will find it.
If I get more info I will post it here. With these things you never know.
Happy New Year,
Susan Barham says
Thanks so much for your reply, Jane. Since last posting here, I’ve spent even more hours upon hours searching online for information about this pattern, and, as you have, come up empty-handed. Perhaps one day I’ll find what I’m looking for. My father is from all Swedish stock, and I’ve inherited several dish sets from my grandmother and great grandmother on that side. Unfortunately, they can’t compare with this pattern and don’t suit my taste at all. These dishes are absolutely stunning, though, and they really do stand out as unique. They are simple, understated elegance in that irresistible Swedish blue.
Again, thank you for replying and for giving me the information that you do have. Your table is beautiful. Thank you so much for showing us such lovely pictures. They are a pleasure to look at.
Best wishes for a happy new year,