Why I Love Fiestaware

If you like brightly colored dishes, then you probably love Fiestaware like I do. We’re in good company, too, since Fiestaware has been around since just before World War Two. Read on to learn the history of the company and why these dishes make an everyday table look festive year round.

Fiestaware is as American as apple pie

Homer Laughlin, Fiesta’s parent company, started making its Art Deco-inspired ceramic dishes in 1936. By some accounts, the creation of colorful Fiestaware was a way to help Americans feel a bit more cheerful after the Great Depression. 

That very first collection started with just a handful of colors and pieces. However, in the next decade, Homer Laughlin ramped up production in their West Newell, West Virginia factory. That’s just down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh. Some 120 million pieces were coming off the production line annually.

During the early years, Fiestaware — also known simply as Fiesta — enjoyed its fair share of notoriety. For example, according to the Museum of Radiation and Radioactivity, the company achieved some of the brightest Fiesta dish colors by using uranium in the glazes. No worries — that practice stopped in the 1970s, though those on the hunt for vintage Fiestaware should probably make a note of the production year before buying potentially radioactive dishes.

Also, like much of the paint used during the mid-20th century, the glazes once were lead based. By 1986, they introduced five newly updated colors, all certified lead free. They were white, black, cobalt, rose and apricot. All colors since then are also free from lead.

A new color every year

One of the ways that Homer Laughlin has continued to keep Fiestaware relevant and cookware collectors wanting more is by creating limited edition colors. Or, they would produce certain colors for special occasions only. For instance, in 1986 they did a limited edition run exclusively for Bloomingdales in two colors: lilac and chartreuse.

Since 2000, the company has introduced at least one new color annually. It was around this time that my mother in law gave me my first Fiestaware piece. It was a serving dish in Cinnabar, the 2000 color that looks like a cross between cinnamon and burgundy. The company retired that color in 2010.

Then, nearly every year after as a wedding anniversary gift, my mother in law would give me another new piece in that year’s color. These were normally serving pieces, such as platters,  and olive dishes, or decorative pottery like a flower vase. Soon enough I started buying myself Fiestaware place settings to replace my everyday dishes.

All told I ended up with 16 place settings. They are in a variety of colors. This includes:

  • Sunflower
  • Shamrock
  • Scarlet
  • Turquoise
  • Mulberry
  • Marigold

Fiestaware continued to offer new colors even during the pandemic. The colors for 2020 and 2021 were Butterscotch and Twilight (a blue), respectively. In 2022, the primary color was peony. Most recently, the 2023 color was Jade and 2024 was Sky, a pale blue.

A pink dinner set with a plate, bowl, cup, and saucer arranged on a pink surface. A gold-colored fork, knife, and spoon, a white napkin, and a single white flower complete the setup.
Peony, the 2022 Fiestaware color. Photo credit: Homer Laughlin.

Creating a colorful kitchen

My attraction to having these colorful plates, dishes, bowls and cups has cascaded over into other kitchen choices. For example, we once owned a KitchenAid Mixer in a cranberry color. When we purchased an Ankarsrum mixer to replace the KitchenAid, we went with a white hue. However, we could have chosen one in a seemingly Fiesta-inspired color like mango, tangerine, lemon and cobalt blue. Even our Le Creuset cookware has vibrant colors— orange and bright blue.

Three enameled cast iron pots, two with lids, in orange, blue, and blue colors, are placed on an electric stovetop with black knobs. The background features a white wall with electrical outlets.
Colorful Le Creuset cookware. Photo credit: Bagels and Lasagna.

Just as you might mix and match a capsule wardrobe to get the most use out of it, I do the same with my Fiestaware. I’ll mix and match dinner plates, bread plates, salad bowls and coffee cups. That way, when I set the table for company, I never set it the same way twice. I know that my mix-and-match practice drives some of my more OCD friends crazy. One time, I found my friend Sue rearranging the table settings so everything matched.

You may be surprised that there is more to Fiestaware than just the pieces I’ve mentioned. For instance, you can buy Fiesta plates and accessories for your pets. Some are practical. Others are whimsical, such as a now-discontinued red ceramic cat treat jar where the handle was the silhouette of a cat’s head.

Also, they have different shaped items. “I have red and white and purple star shaped plates, which I set out for holiday snacks and cookies,” said Jennifer Osborn who writes the Kitchen Serf blog. Osborn is such a Fiestaware fan that she registered for it instead of wedding china.

Fiesta warranties and special features

Fiestaware pieces are made to last. I still have and use each and every piece my mother in law has given me over the years. While the dishes and accessories don’t have a lifetime warranty, per se, they do have a guarantee. It’s the five-year chip warranty. That is, if the dishes chip during the first five years of ownership, Homer Laughlin will replace it.

Also, these pieces are as durable as Pyrex and Corningware are. Fiesta pieces are designed to go directly from the freezer to an oven as hot as 500 degrees. In addition, they are microwave- and dishwasher safe.

Where to shop for Fiestaware

Because Fiestaware continues to put out new colors and lines annually, you won’t have a hard time finding pieces. Regular department and big box stores sell these dish sets and serving accessories. I’ve seen them in Macy’s, Kohl’s and Dillards. Even QVC sells Fiesta from time to time.

There are three factory outlet stores — two in West Virginia and one in Ohio. Also, there is an official Fiesta Factory Direct online store. The one place you shouldn’t buy Fiestaware pieces? Amazon. It doesn’t appear there is an official Homer Laughlin store on the platform so you can’t know for sure that what you buy on Amazon is legit or official Fiesta.

If you decide to buy used Fiestaware at Goodwill, a thrift store or yard sale, you should look for a stamp on the back or bottom that shows it is authentic. In most instances, this stamp is built right into the mold that makes the pieces so you’ll see it imprinted. However, if you find a piece made before 1973, it might not have a stamp on the bottom at all. Also, as mentioned earlier, it could be radioactive.

Final thoughts

I lived for five years outside of Pittsburgh and within an hour’s drive of two of the three Fiesta factory outlet stores, and I never got there. Also, my mother in law has since passed away. So, I like to continue her tradition of adding to my Fiesta collection annually with that year’s new color. In writing this article, I’m reminded that I’ve yet to pay tribute to her and get the 2024 color. Now I’m off to shop.

Portions of this article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.

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