Sometimes, old china is no longer in one piece. But that shouldn't stop you from turning it into something special.
Do-it-yourselfer Ashley Hackshaw, editor of the blog "Lil Blue Boo" (www.lilblueboo.com), was inspired to find a use for chunks of a broken Tiffany vase that she had received as a wedding gift.
"I couldn't bear to throw away the beautiful pieces, so I decided to start making them into useful items," says Hackshaw, of Palm Desert, Calif.
Her answer: key chains.
Once you find a piece you like, the main job is to drill a hole and smooth the edges. You can use a household drill, using a carbide drill bit to make the hole, and sandpaper and steel wool for the edges.
Make sure to wear protective eyewear and dip the piece in water to keep it cool, Hackshaw says.
Or you can use a rotary tool and attachment set, she says.
Then, just thread a key ring through the hole, and you have a meaningful and practical new use for an old chunk of china.
"One of my favorite gifts I've ever received was a key chain from my aunt that was made from one of my great-grandmother's old silverware pieces," Hackshaw says. "I knew it was something that I would keep forever and hand down to my daughter, and hopefully one day she would do the same. That's what gave me the idea about the broken vase."
Build something new
If you have beautiful old pieces of china that you rarely use, why not turn them into something else?
Marceli Botticelli, of Franklin, Mass., runs an Etsy store called Tea Times Creations (www.etsy.com/shop/TeaTimesCreations). It offers tiered stands, made out of old china, that can be used as serving platters or "tidbit" trays for anything from jewelry to loose change or keys. She also sells jewelry and nightlights made out of repurposed table settings and teacups.
For the DIYer, Botticelli sells kits that come with drill bits, fittings and instructions. And if you're too sheepish to drill your own holes into your precious antique plates, she offers to do it for you.
One of the biggest challenges in repurposing old china for any project, she says, is finding the right piece.
"I am inspired by many different things," she says. "It can be the color, the pattern, a theme."
One client brought her a plate with an extremely rare pattern; the client had been collecting china since she was 8, and had never found another plate like this one.
"I said a prayer, took a deep breath and I drilled into the plate," Botticelli said.
"Now it has a new lease on life and is not stacked with other plates in a closet anymore. It is a beautiful piece that can be enjoyed for many years to come."