The Modern Guide to Fine China

Does anyone even use fine china anymore? We all seem to stick to our casual ceramic dinnerware these days. But, a case can be made for a finer set of china, and we're here to make it. Made of bone china or porcelain, elegant tableware is the center of any table setting, adds high style to your home, and is an investment you can pass down to future generations. Also, fine china's high-quality materials make them sturdy enough to use every day -- and they can even be put in the dishwasher. Here are a few guidelines to registering, inheriting, or buying china:

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 Agra by Alberto Pinto, From $148, Michael C. Fina  Laque De Chine Pistachio Gold by Haviland, From $63, Michael C. Fina Philippe Deshoulieres Arcades, From $65, Bloomingdale's 

_1 Although a basic white china is a safe bet, there is such a plethora of patterns to choose from you are sure to find one that suits your personality. The four main categories are floral, geometric, banded, and oriental. Modern designers have reinterpreted classic patterns in new ways, such as Calamityware's oriental pattern with its surprise robot attack, Kelly Wearstler's abstract floral, and Jeff Koons's totally wacky figurative prints for a Bernardaud.

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 Calamity Plate 2 Giant Robot, $42, Calamityware Hillcrest, From $82, Kelly Wearstler   Banality Series by Jeff Kouns, $155, Bernardaud

_2 When it comes to quantity, experts recommend buying eight to twelve place settings. But, the only expert we really trust is Nora Ephron, who wrote the line in Sleepless in Seattle; "eight is too few, twelve is too many." If it works for Meg Ryan, it works for us. A true formal setting will include five pieces: a dinner plate, salad/dessert plate, bread plate, teacup, and saucer.

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 Medusa Gala, From $90, Versace  Portraits Classiques Dinner Plates by Bernardaud, $350 (Set of Four), Bloomingdale's Initiales by Puiforcat, From $107, Michael C. Fina

_3 To complete your collection of china, add serving pieces like serving platters, a gravy boat, a cream and sugar set, a teapot, soup bowls, and/or chargers (large plates used in lieu of placemats). These items will give your table a complete look. Also, just like with your china, you can mix and match your patterns if you prefer a less uniform aesthetic.

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 Rallye 24 Round Plate, $1125 (Set of Six), Hermès  Cream Scale Finition Gold by Jaune De Chrome, From $80, Michael C. Fina Larabee Road Platinum, From $18, Kate Spade 

Do you bust out the china regularly? Sound off in the comments below. Photography: Living With Libby