Mention Corning dinnerware, and everyone immediately thinks of Corelle, but Corning has actually marketed several lines differentiated by the materials from which they have been manufactured. (Read more about Corning Ware in the last Collectors Corner column.
The first was Centura. Spurred by the success of their Corning Ware cookware, Corning introduced Centura - also labeled as "Pyroceram Tableware by Corning" for commercial use - in 1962. Centura, however, was not made of the same material as Corning Ware. By the 1960s, Pyroceram had become a more generic term, referring to a group of glass-ceramic materials rather than one particular formula. Centura was more break-resistant than Corning Ware, but it could not be used on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Centura was available in a number of patterns and designs, including Blue Cornflower, but its popularity waned with the increasing household dependence on microwave ovens throughout the 1970s. The Centura line was discontinued in 1977, but its Pyroceram material remained in use until 1986 for both restaurant ware and for the manufacture of closed-handle cups, sugars, and creamers for the Corelle product line.
Suprema, another glass-ceramic, replaced the Centura formula in 1986. Used primarily for restaurant ware (marked "Corning Pyroceram"/"Corning Pyroceram Tableware") Suprema also took the place of Centura in the manufacture of closed-handle cups, mugs, sugars, and creamers in the Corelle line. Unlike Centura, which was opaque, Suprema's translucency more closely resembled that of Corelle. And Suprema had the added benefit of being microwave safe.
Suprema was produced until 1999 when it was replaced by Comcor, the heavier, commercial version of Corelle.
Introduced by Corning Glass Works in 1970, the Corelle line of dinnerware has been one of the most popular in the world. Not made of a glass-ceramic, but of a glass-laminate called Vitrelle, Corelle is stronger, lighter weight, more chip, stain, and chemical resistant, and less expensive than other types of dinnerware. Corelle is also microwave and dishwasher-safe and can even withstand oven temperatures up to 350 degrees (F). (If Corelle has one flaw, it is that if it does break, it shatters into many small shards of glass.)
Corelle's main line, Livingware, has been produced in hundreds of designs and patterns. Of the original four - Winter Frost White, Spring Blossom Green (aka Crazy Daisy), Snowflake Blue, and Butterfly Gold - only Winter Frost White has remained in continuous production since 1970, and, consequently, has the largest available collection of pieces, from cups and saucers to platters and serving bowls.
Other Corelle lines have included:
- Luxe (2003-2008, renamed Ultra/Infinia in 2006), manufactured heavier and thicker to appeal to the stoneware market;
- Pro (2008-2012), a Target exclusive that was mid-weight and thickness between the Livingware and Luxe/Ultra lines;
- Hearthstone (2005-2010), the only Corelle line NOT made of Vitrelle. An oversized stoneware collection with contemporary shapes and rich colors, Hearthstone lacked the advantages of regular Corelle.
Luckily for collectors - or for those who are just trying to replace or add pieces to their everyday dishes - the virtues of Vitrelle have kept even decades-old Corelle looking like new, so there is no lack of material in the secondary markets. (Some people received Corelle as a gift and never opened the package!)
This has kept prices quite affordable, except for those particular patterns or pieces that had abbreviated production runs or that seem to be seeing a resurgence in popularity. The Hearthstone collection in Chili Red seems to be attracting attention at online auctions ($225 for a 32-piece set) as are perennial favorites Butterfly Gold and Spring Blossom Green ($150-$250 for multi-piece sets).
As with Corning Ware, it is important to check used pieces for defects and any obvious wear, though gray metal marks can often be buffed out with a special cleaner such as CorningWare Cleaner and Conditioner, but with the proper attention to detail, it should not be too difficult to amass a complete service for very little by trolling yard and estate sales.
Would you like to find out more about this collectible? Check out the resources listed below, and
Corning and the Craft of Innovation, by Margaret B. W. Graham and Alec T. Shuldiner
The Generations of Corning: The Life and Times of a Global Corporation, by Davis Dyer and Daniel Gross
Corelle - Official website includes current and discontinued patterns, FAQs, more.
Corelle Corner - THE go-to site for the collector. Has everything from Pattern Profiles (chronological and alphabetical) to a Glossary, sections on Wear & Tear, Cup & Plate Styles, links, more!
How It's Made: Vitrelle Dishware (video) - Fascinating video of the production process.
Microwave Cooking for One
- Comprehensive site by Marie T. Smith provides pictures and details on just about all Corelle patterns and lines, past and present. And check out the recipes, too!