Order up a half-dozen Blue Points or Belons and you'll likely get them on the half shell in a bed of crushed ice. But oyster epicureans weren't always such minimalists.
Pictured: Monogrammed oyster plate. The scripted “E” in the center well is a mark of the family who once owned the plate.
In the mid-1800s, when the harvest was at its peak, restaurateurs and well-to-do hostesses began delivering the bivalves on porcelain or ceramic plates newly introduced by European manufacturers.
Pictured: Hot-hued Majolica. This Italian geometric plate has 24-karat gold trim and an “eye” pattern in the wells.
The trendy platters, which largely came in three styles (geometric, turkey-style, and kidney-shaped), remained coveted keepsakes long after production fell off around World War I, when the oyster population declined due to overharvesting.
Pictured: Sea Life adornment. Oceanic designs were common on plates by Union Porcelain Works, like this kidney-shaped one with a rose-colored seaweed design and a scallop-shell sauce well.
Today, they are relatively easy to find online and in antiques stores, with colorful plates in good condition selling for upwards of $300—the most sought-after being those manufactured during the height of production, between 1870 and 1920.
Pictured: This turkey-shaped plate was produced by German manufacturer Carl Tielsch & Co., known for adding decorative shimmer to plates.
Steve Bonner, a collector and owner of Kilmarnock Antique Gallery in Virginia, recommends never settling for anything less than perfect. "And remember that no one type of plate dominates the market," he says. "That's the thrill of collecting."
These plates typically feature six oyster molds, arranged in a perfect circle around a sauce well.
Based on a design by Theodore Davis and originally created by porcelain house Haviland in the late 19th century, these plates have five wells, which are often arranged in a shape that loosely resembles a turkey.
Named for their crescent shape, these plates were the most produced style of Union Porcelain Works, America’s first porcelain manufacturer.
Pictured: Czech-style. The seaweed design on this kidney plate was originally used on rare glass oyster plates made by Czech glassware manufacturer Moser.
This six-well, gilt-trimmed plate by Haviland is unusual in that it doesn't fall into one of the three primary shape designs.