China patterns

Choosing the right china pattern is a challenge, both to newlyweds and to people who are replacing or adding to their china. The selection of a china pattern takes place in four stages, says Roger Dartt , president of Viletta China Company, which is headquartered in Houston.

First, the customer narrows the field of choices to four or five patterns, having considered the patterns available in terms of personal preference of color, design, and shape.

The second stage is comparison shopping on price. The third stage is recognition of the manufacturer's name and reputation. And the fourth stage is determining quality, the most difficult of all. Quality is hard to measure, says Mr. Dartt, but he gives these guidelines:

* Inspect pieces for certain imperfections. What does the surface of a plate look like? Are there tiny pin marks or black spots (which occur in the firing process) that mar the surface? Is the glaze totally smooth, with no runs or ripples? Listen to the sound, and remember that it should not ''thud'' like stoneware.

* Inspect the application of the band and design, making sure the band is absolutely even, with no sign of bubbles and no brush mark indicating the beginning or end of application. Today most patterns are applied by means of a color transfer, which insures consistency in design from piece to piece. But problems can still occur. Make sure the pattern is centered and balanced and look closely at the decal to be sure it has not blistered during firing. Compare the colors of two pieces of the same pattern to be sure colors are in the true registration and consistent from plate to plate.

* Finally, look at construction. Handles should be on straight, perpendicular to the ground. Does the cup feel comfortable in your hand? Can you lift it easily? Will your fingers fit through the handle of the cup, or has it been designed only with esthetics, not function, in mind? Handles should be attached in such a way that they appear to be of one piece with the cup, creamer, or sugar bowl.

By taking the time to choose wisely, and to check out quality, you will be able to take pleasure in your china pattern for years to come.

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