What Is Blue Willow China, aka the South’s Favorite Dinnerware?

Updated: Mar. 01, 2023

Blue Willow China is some of the most popular tableware in the South. Here's how to get a set of your own or find out if your current set is worth anything.

If you’ve ever experienced the pleasure of a Sunday supper held at a classic Southern home, the dishes you dined on might have been just as impressive as the meal itself. Out of all of the wonderful tableware in the South, arguably the prettiest is Blue Willow china. These dishes have become a staple in many kitchens and are used for special occasions, everyday use or for serving up classic Southern recipes.

The Blue Willow pattern appears on everything needed for a full dinner spread, from dinner plates to mugs to a gravy boat. They’re subtle statement pieces that work with almost any decor and show their versatility in working for both casual meals and the most important holiday celebrations. If you’re curious about the highly sought-after Blue Willow china, here’s the history and where to get a set of your own.

What Is Blue Willow China?

Blue Willow china features an elegant and traditional scene that’s recognized across the globe. A blue-printed scene on white porcelain depicts nature and historical imagery in the style of Chinese porcelain with pagodas, a weeping willow tree, an ornate boat floating on a lake and two birds in the sky.

Stories vary, but most agree the iconic Blue Willow scene is a tale of forbidden love between the daughter of a powerful man and his secretary. The father felt the secretary was unworthy of his daughter’s affection and not only banished his secretary but constructed a fence to keep his daughter contained. In an attempt to see each other, the daughter and secretary died and were reincarnated as the two birds soaring together near the blue willow tree.

Who Makes the Original Blue Willow China?

Two Empty China Soup Plates are set out for an Easter table settingLana Tavits/Getty Images

The original Blue Willow china was made in England by Thomas Minton and Thomas Turner. Minton engraved the porcelain made by Turner. Eventually, the pattern was moved to a transferware process that essentially stamped the pattern onto dinnerware, rather than hand painting. This process meant more homes could afford Blue Willow china, making it a popular choice across England and later the United States.

If you’re hoping to add a set of Blue Willow china to your home, you might have an easier time buying modern-day replicas instead of seeking out original pieces since that could take you on a journey, similar to tracking down vintage Corelle dinnerware. Amazon sells sets of Blue Willow china made by Johnson Brothers. You can also buy sets and individual pieces from the Vermont Country Store that imports them from British producer Churchill China that could make for a highly desired modern take on a traditional wedding gift.

The blue and white china could also be a great addition to patriotic holiday celebrations when serving up all-American recipes on Memorial Day.

If blue isn’t your ideal dining room decor color, the Blue Willow design also comes in pink, green and brown.

Is Blue Willow China Worth Anything?

Some original Blue Willow china might be worth over $1,000. The now antique original pieces made in England from the 1780s until the 1820s could be worth thousands, depending on how rare the piece is, according to the Chicago Tribune. The value of Blue Willow china also depends on its condition and where it was made. Since the originals were made in England, those are typically worth the most. Newer pieces made in Japan, America and China probably won’t fetch as much.