Noritake’s Coming to Dinner

Amy Montgomery Gibbons


Being invited to dinner is the best invitation to receive. One reason for looking forward to a dinner party is to enjoy a meal being prepared at someone’s home. But there is another reason for me: I want to see what china pattern they collect.  Is it their wedding china?  Better yet, was it passed down to them? 


Since 1906, one of the leading china manufacturers has been Noritake. The pattern owned by my late grandmother, Marjorie Elizabeth Brown Houchens (1912-2002), was Noritake Lanare, a floral design with gold trim, which is now discontinued. Her particular pattern was vintage 1930.


My grandparents wed on Oct. 1, 1933. My grandmother prepared meals to fill her beautiful Noritake china until the early 1980s; then it was passed on to me


Noritake china actually dates back as far as 1876, when “Morimura Gumi” established offices in Tokyo and New York.  This was the predecessor of the company we know as “Noritake.” This name originated when Ichizaemon Morimura, IV chose a tiny village named Noritak in which to build a factory, which was completed in 1906. 


The first china produced in the 1906 factory was marked Nippon Toki Kaisha.  Nippon is another word for Japan.  This china made its way to the American public by 1910.  The very popular china was called Noritake, but was not trade marked until 1981. 


Noritake has used a total of over 400 different marks (see accompanying photos).  Identifying it can be very difficult.  The term “Nippon” was used as a mark until 1921 with the letter “N” inside a wreath.  Any piece with that mark was manufactured before 1921.  After 1921 until World War II the china was stamped “Japan” or “Made in Japan.”   Between 1948 and 1953 pieces were marked “Occupied Japan” or “Made in Japan” under the back stamp.  After 1953 the company returned to the original trademark but inside the wreath the letter “M” was stamped to replace the letter “N.”   


In the post-war years, Noritake diversified into several new areas, including melamine and casual dinnerware in the 1960s, earthenware and stoneware in the 1970s, industrial ceramics in the 1980s, and international expansion in the 1990s. According to eHow, an online source, early company records were lost during the war years, and it is not possible to verify every aspect of the china’s production history. However, it is suggested that one should check sources like the Noritake Collectors Guild for information about the company's history and backstamps. Replacements, Ltd. has created a numbering system to help its customers look for particular patterns for those pieces that are not clearly marked.


One important thing to remember is that “antique china” always refers to china that is at least 100 years old.  A few pieces of Noritake are officially antiques now, but the majority has not reached that status.  For the collector, Noritake is still very affordable and plentiful.  The original GasLamp and GasLamp Too usually have a nice selection of Noritake china.


So, while the dinner table is being set and before the entrée’ arrives, check the back of the plate. Is it antique, vintage or new?  Happy china hunting!


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