If there was a gifted school program for destruction, our son would graduate at the top of his class. Breaking things is his superpower so, when I was approached to test the durability of the legendary Fiestaware dinnerware set, it was clear that I had a secret weapon in our seven-year-old Tasmanian devil. It’s both impressive and astonishing how quickly he can destroy “durable” objects with aplomb. When I told him I was testing plates, he was eager to help.
I was not surprised when, within five minutes of receiving our Fiestaware set, he tipped over the freshly opened box on our hardwood floor. Game on, Fiestaware. Game on.
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What is Fiestaware
American-manufactured in West Virginia since its 1936 inception, Fiestaware has gained a cult following over the past 85 years. In fact, it has been dubbed the “most collected brand of china in the United States.” Collectors obsessed with finding pre-1973 Fiestaware are willing to pay top dollar for vintage pieces in discontinued colors and styles.
The company took a 12-year hiatus from production in the ’70s and early ’80s, but when they realized how enthusiastic the following was for their durable and colorful pieces, production geared up again in 1985 and the popularity of Fiestaware soared once again.
I grew up in a Corelle household without any real experience with Fiestaware. Recently, though, our decade-old tableware has started to show its age. As we begin to look at having our son help out with chores that involve setting the table and loading the dishwasher, we realized that we should start looking into a more durable daily set.
What we ordered
All arrived in vibrant, saturated colors that practically beg for you to fill them with rainbow-colored meals and farmer’s market-fresh vegetables.
The 4-piece place setting comes with a 10.5-inch dinner plate, a 7.25-inch salad plate, a 19-ounce medium bowl, and a 10-ounce mug. The place setting, like the 64-oz bowl and mini pitcher, are all dishwasher, oven, and microwave safe, and they all come with an impressive 5-year warranty against chips. That warranty seemed pretty bold considering how these pieces tend to be favorites of families, so my son and I attempted to inflict 5 years of wear and tear on these pieces over a one-month period.
What I like
There’s a reason why these plates have garnered near-obsessive love for almost 90 years: They are darn pretty. The colors are not only stunning, they’re joy inducing—these pieces are fun and festive and beautifully designed. I wanted to take photos of my meals by virtue of having these plates and bowls in my possession. I didn’t because I don’t actually like to cook—but if I did like to cook my Instagram feed would have been full.
Vibrant colors and cool art deco styling aside, these pieces are work horses. My son and I dropped the dinner plate and a randomly-selected piece every day for a month, from a height of about 3 feet, on our linoleum floor. Over the course of time, none have shown a ding or a scratch and they still look just as good as the day we got them.
We found each piece washes well on the bottom shelf of the dishwasher on the heavy wash setting, and all live up to the promise of being both microwave- and oven-safe.
The pedestal bowl came out as our favorite piece throughout testing, and it’s going to be my hostess gift of choice going forward. It’s perfectly sized, sturdy, and—even though we thought the pedestal might make it tip when serving—it’s stable, while looking elegant.
In spite of all the wear we tried to inflict on these dishes—both intended and unintended—we were incapable of breaking them through fairly rigorous use. If you’re looking for a durable set of dinnerware, we’ve found a winner.
What I don’t like
As much as I was impressed with the durability of the pieces, the 4-piece set fell short when it came to actual function. Of the 4-piece place setting, only the dinner plate had the functionality I hoped for.
The salad plate was sized like an afterthought by someone who loathes leafy greens. It was barely big enough to fit a reasonably-sized salad, and if you hope to serve pie on it, be ready to get some crumbs on your table. The mug had a finger loop that was too small to allow you to hold it without scalding your knuckle, and the accompanying bowl was better suited as a dog bowl than a cereal bowl.
Should you buy Fiesta dinnerware?
The serving bowl is an absolute winner, and I plan to not only buy myself one, but I already have purchased two as gifts for friends. The small pitcher is adorable and the perfect vessel for maple syrup or warm sauces like hot fudge or caramel. The table settings, while not perfect, still had their pluses but, when you start to buy the more functional pieces they start to hit a higher price point and the wow-factor of their affordability starts to wear off.
After trying these dishes, I won’t be buying the standard 4-piece set for myself. But, Fiestaware, arguably, isn’t about having a complete set. Part of the beauty of Fiestaware is the mix-and-match nature of the saturated color schemes—which complement each other and feel more expressive when combined.
From what I can see, collectors don’t actually rush towards completed monochrome sets, but really love finding a particular color that might complement what they already have. With that in mind, I’d say if the overall design appeals to you, you likely won’t regret investing in Fiestaware. These pieces are going to last forever, so don’t settle for the entry-level styles. Do it up and splurge on the good stuff, and you’ll likely be happy for as long as you have these fun pieces gracing your table.
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on Reviewed: We tried Fiestaware and here's what we think of it