Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mailing Fine China

If you should ever find yourself having to mail a few pieces of china or an entire set with dozens of items, there are a few points to consider before doing so in order to avoid any accidents.  Let's face it, these heirlooms and cherished possessions are, indeed, investments.  All types of china no matter whether priceless or meant for the every day need to be protected during transit.  One cannot put a little bit of bubble wrap and a few packing peanuts and hope for the best, because inevitably, boxes will get handled many times before they reach their final destination.  This is why it is of the utmost importance to get the right materials for the job.


It turns out that I just mailed a nice set of my beloved Wedgwood Drabware to an individual who was enthusiastic about acquiring this classic dinnerware for his home. Without a moment to lose, I gathered the pieces and set them aside in my office so that I could package and send them safely.  Boxes, bubble wrap, packing peanuts and newsprint were assembled before packaging.

As I was putting thought and care into the process a few days ago I realized that I was doing this as if I were to be the recipient of these pieces of fine china.  I asked myself: how would I want someone to package and mail china to me if I wanted it to get there in one piece?  You see, it's that simple.  Putting a little bit of thought and effort into packaging whatever it is you're sending will pay off in the long run.

Bundling like-pieces securely and nestling them on layers of bubble wrap and packing peanuts are just a few of my suggestions.  Not stacking too many pieces together or oddly-shaped items into one box, and putting boxes within boxes are other considerations to take into account.  Package the dinner plates in one or several boxes, teacups & saucers in another, and platters and serving bowls into other boxes.  What you don't want to do is stack, cram or jam pieces haphazardly, because you will come to regret it.

When choosing methods of shipping I highly recommend going with a service that is quick.  A contact of mine at the post office suggested I go with Priority service because individuals handle those packages.  If sent ground or parcel, a machine handles them and tosses them (my contact says they get thrown!) without any sort of consideration.  Get insurance for each box (better safe than sorry!) and make sure that the mailing service stamps Fragile all over the boxes.

This is how I packaged the fine china.

Dinner plates of this Drabware set were put into stacks of three.  To begin I placed a long 48" piece of bubble wrap on my work surface (top left).  Next I situated a plate right in the center.  Four layers of bubble wrap were then cut into 12" squares and were placed on top of that plate (top right).  The next dinner plate was stacked in the same manner.  When I had 3 plates assembled like this, I decided to bundle them together.  

I'm not entirely comfortable stacking more than 4 dinner plates when making these bundles, because I feel you increase the likelihood of having them break.  


The long 48" piece of bubble wrap was wound around the stack of plates tightly and was taped securely.  The middle photo (above), shows you the exposed plates.  Don't be tempted to stop here.  Those dinner plates can shift and slip out of those layers and chip or break.  

Cut another 36" or 48" piece of bubble wrap and wind it around crosswise to close off the exposed plates.  Tape it down well.  The bottom right photo shows you the secured bundle, which is now ready to get placed into a box.
I do highly recommend packaging china in boxes which will fit the said pieces snugly and then putting those into a larger box with plenty of space all around.  This concept of a box within a box greatly diminishes the chances of breakage.  

Fill the bottom of the box with a layer of good-quality packing peanuts and then place a double layer of bubble wrap over that.  

Gently nestle the wrapped bundle of plates in the box and then do the same to cushion the top of the box.  Add a double layer of bubble wrap and then cover that with packing peanuts.  Give the box a gentle shake to make sure that nothing is moving.  If everything is secure, tape the box shut and continue with the other plates/pieces.


Find a box that gives you plenty of room all around and then layer the bottom with peanuts and crumpled up newsprint.  Remember that the bottom of this box is going to take the brunt of the weight from the plates, therefore it is imperative to secure it properly.  Crumpled up newsprint packed in tightly all the way around and at the top is also something I highly recommend.  

Note: things do settle with weight during transit, so you want to have a tight package in order to allow this.


Cups should get bundled up by placing 12" squares of double-layered bubble wrap around the top, sides and bottoms.  Tape these well.

Again, layer the box with packing peanuts and place the cups in more bubble wrap.  I make sleeves out of the sheets of bubble wrap so that nothing is shifting or rubbing up against another cup.  Add more packing peanuts and stuff them into any crevices so that you have a stable box.

For the saucers I used a tall narrow box which could accommodate their depth.  This pattern of Wedgwood happens to have deep saucers which are absolutely stunning.  I treated this box in the same manner as the rest of the other boxes.  

When you're done packing everything up, make sure every box is securely taped shut, have all of the printing labels made out so that you don't run into problems.  



Transporting pieces of fine china always requires forethought, planning and good packing materials.  If one is mailing any type of china, then it's absolutely a must to take everything into account before heading out the door with boxes.  You can't imagine how many times I've had pieces of pottery or china arrive at my doorstep in broken pieces, all of which could have been prevented had more care been put into the packaging.  

I know many of us recycle packing peanuts, bubble wrap and those air packets that come with shipments in the mail.  This is fine as long as there is still air in them and are capable of cushioning your delicate wares.  There is no point in using old bubble wrap which is flat & without loft.  Throw it out and get a new roll.  If you plan on sending a lot of china, visit an online shop which specializes in packing material so that you get these items in bulk.  It's very cost effective.

No matter what shipping company or service you end up using, buy insurance and tracking!  You just never know what those boxes are going to encounter during transit, so I highly recommend adding this peace of mind.  Tracking your packages online is easy.  Besides, it's nice knowing when to expect something in the mail.  

Mailing Fine China doesn't have to be a headache.  Package well & protect your investment!

4 comments:

Jayne said...

Thank you for this tutorial! I have recieved china that I've ordered thru Ebay and it wasn't well packaged and I was heart broken when I opened the box and china that's been around for over 100 years was broken because the seller did not take the time to package correctly!

David P. said...

Oh Jayne, I'm so sorry to hear about that experience, but I know all too well what it's like. When you have heirlooms that go out of circulation because of carelessness, it just breaks your heart.

Jeffrey Muthanna said...

Hi David! I was surprised to read that you are selling your beloved drabware. Are you selling anymore? i have been searching for the creamer and sugar forever for my set!

David P. said...

I sent you an email Jeffrey!