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The Look for Less: Heath Ceramics vs. Noritake Colorwave dinnerware

March 22, 2011 |  7:32 am

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Sausalito ceramist Edith Heath (1911-2005) created the Coupe line of dishes, a 1948 design for stoneware plates, bowls and accessories that grew in popularity and, in the 1960s, became symbols of Northern California modernism. The shapes were simple, and Heath's signature glazes had a satiny matte finish in earthy colors. Today, the Coupe line is still going strong. It includes Heath's original designs in solid colors and two-tone versions with matte exteriors and glossy interiors. Prices run from $17.50 for a 6.25-inch bread and butter dish to $33 for a 10.75-inch dinner plate. 

Fifty years after Heath introduced the Coupe line, the Japanese manufacturer Noritake released its Colorwave stoneware collection. In 2003, the firm added a matte brown glaze that has become the second-most popular shade in the pattern's 12-color range. In sizes comparable to Heath, the Noritake Colorwave plates run $10 to $18 apiece.

The photos above show the two collections. Keep reading to see which is which and what each design dishes out for the money.

Noritake's Colorwave pattern, top left, is dishwasher-, microwave- and oven-safe. It is machine-produced in a factory in Japan. The line began with rimless plates -- matte color on the outside, high-gloss cream glaze on the inside. The dinner plate is $18, the cereal bowl is $13, the salad dish is $13 and the mug is $12. They can be ordered as a four-piece place setting for $40 through the Noritake online shop. The pattern has proved so popular that Noritake introduced versions with a thick rim or with square dishes, below left.

The Heath Coupe pattern, top right, is molded piece by piece in the company's original Sausalito studio, which employs about 60 artisans. Manufacturing in the United States makes the products more expensive than made-in-Asia dinnerware, but the Heath pieces feel considerably heftier. They come in a wider variety of colors, some of which are seen below right. Perhaps most important, the Heath Coupe is hand-finished to create an unglazed band around the brim of each piece. The place setting pictured at top right consists of a dinner plate that's $33, a salad dish that's $27 and a dessert bowl that's $23. Until Thursday, Heath Ceramics' online store is donating 25% of sales to Architecture for Humanity for earthquake relief efforts in Japan.

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Photo credits: (top left and lower left) Noritake

(top right and lower right) Renee Zellwegger / Heath Ceramics