The very first majolica I ever saw was a fruit plate service made by Utzchneider & Co., also known as Sarreguemines. (I told the story back in June: http://etruscanmajolica.blogspot.com/2010/06/why-majolica.html ) Today these fruit plates are still being manufactured in Europe. Potted since the last quarter of the 19th Century they are probably the oldest continuously produced majolica pattern in the world. I bought a set of these brand new from a department store in 1986. I still use them today.
There are six different dessert dishes in the set: strawberry, cherry, pear, grape, apple and plum plus an alternate design for the grape plate. Considering the availability of these plates today you would think dealers would have a difficult time selling them but the testament to their timeless quality is their continuing popularity.
Now, if you're curious about the age of the plates you may have in your own collection, the easiest way to tell how old they are is by the mark. The oldest plates will have the impressed SARREGUEMINES mark shown below. This mark dates the plates to about 1865-1880.
A similar impressed mark with the word FRANCE added was used between 1922-1955.
The ink stamp shown here is the mark that I see most frequently. It was used the longest, from 1920-1960.
There are other ink marks as well, too many to really post here, mostly used through the first half of the 20th Century. The most recent examples are being made by a number of different companies and tend to have simpler markings.
The large number of serving pieces produced to compliment them is rather cool. Here are just a few of them.
They're wonderfully cheery pieces to serve on and I always get compliments on them. Today they're being made with lead-free glazes so you can serve on them without worry. The nicest thing though is that they're still in production if I ever want to add pieces to my set!