March 20, 2023

Antiques & Collecting: Dinnerware designed for Japan’s Imperial Hotel

To attract western travelers to Japan, the government of Japan commissioned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) to design the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.

Wright’s all-encompassing designs for his buildings included almost every item, including dinnerware.

Known as the Cabaret pattern, this porcelain dinnerware was designed for the Cabaret Dining Room of the Imperial Hotel, which opened in 1923.

The circular, art-deco-inspired design was Wright’s interpretation of champagne bubbles overflowing across the place settings.

The strategically placed red on the cup’s rim has been suggested to conceal lipstick prints from women drinking from the coffee cups.

The dinnerware was originally produced by Japan’s Noritake company with reproductions made by Tiffany.

The Imperial Hotel was demolished in 1968, but its entrance and lobby have been preserved and can be visited at Japan’s Meiji-mura, an open-air architectural museum and park.

Can I treat my grandmother’s dinner dishes and silverware like my everyday pieces and put them in the microwave and dishwasher if I use them at a holiday dinner?

If you have a dishwasher that is less than 10 years old, it probably washes most things safely. Exceptions include vintage, hollow-handled dinner knives, which can be a problem because old ones are sometimes filled with a substance that melts, and the knife blades loosen or turn.

This also can happen to knives made with a stainless blade and different material for the handle. Don’t wash your silver plate with any other metal tableware, or you can get a chemical reaction.

Any dishes with metallic gold trim (it will spark) or metallic silver (the heat may turn the trim gray and poisonous) should not go in the microwave.

Factory-made dishes should be OK; the decoration was put under clear glaze. But hand-painted trim could wash off.

Most vintage and antique porcelain is safe. If you are not sure, test a piece. It’s the heat that causes the problems.

New dishwashers will clean dishes you haven’t rinsed and save you time, but surface paint that is not under a glaze will come off with repeated use.

Tip: Don’t clean coins. Collectors want coins with the patina unchanged.

Current Prices

Decoy, swan, wooden head and neck, carved, canvas over wire body, wood base, painted, white, black beak, early 20th century, $250.

Game box, opens to checkerboard, backgammon interior, papier-mâché, black lacquer, mother-of-pearl inlay, gilt highlights, storage compartment, ivory game pieces, red and white, four dice cups, Victorian, England, c. 1860, 3 1/4 x 16 1/4 x 8 3/4 inches, $563.

Advertising clock, “Chrysler MoPar Parts Accessories,” round, yellow center with red border, Arabic numerals, printed, milk glass, domed glass cover, chrome surround, pressed paper back, electric, 14 3/4 inches, $756.

Terry and Kim Kovel

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