The use of blue pigment (generally cobalt) to decorate white pottery started when cobalt was extracted from Iranian mines back in the 9th century and exported to China, where exquisite blue-and-white porcelain was developed and perfected. In tracing the evolution of these two-toned ceramics we are plunged into a rich history of cultural exchange that spans many religions, regions and centuries. In other words, the blue and white combo is practically universal. Indeed, it is not unusual to see in a single plate the influences of Islamic motifs, Chinese imagery, and European styles. Whether contemporary or antique, blue-and-white ceramics bring a classic elegance and historical depth to any tabletop. After all, how can you go wrong with the colors of sky and sea? Chinese porcelain and "bone china" greatly influenced Turkish ceramics (Iznik pottery, for example) as well as the European faience technique. In the 17th century, Europeans, including the Dutch who created the famous Delft china, jumped on the blue and white bandwagon and started manufacturing their own wares. And then there were the English, with their Spode china and the Cornish pottery. And Denmark's Royal Copenhagen "blue fluted pattern", which was first adopted in the late 1700s. Many of the pieces pictured here are contemporary but most pay homage, in one way or another, to the rich history of blue and white china. FIRST ROW • 1 Taika plate by Iittala at Relish, $40. • 2 Irezumi 4-piece service at Velocity Art & Design, $64. Designed in California and produced in Bangladesh using ‘A’ quality porcelain. • 3 Elements water blue bowl at Gumps, $100. Gump's calls this "a harmonious update on Royal Copenhagen's legacy. A modern convergence of three elegant patterns, Elements combines the handpainted artistry of Louise Campbell with the exquisite porcelain of Royal Copenhagen." SECOND ROW • 1 Vera Wang for Wedgwood "Glissé" at Bloomingdales. 4-piece setting, $89. • 2 Camille bowl at Crate and Barrel, $89.95. • 3 Turkish Iznik design from Yurdan, $346.80. In the early 16th century "Imperial ware," now called Iznik (named after the town in Northwest Turkey), was made for the Istanbul court of the Ottoman Sultan. Originally inspired by Chinese pottery, Iznik ware was long assumed to come from Persia. THIRD ROW • 1 Italian 5-Piece pasta set from Williams-Sonoma, $112. • 2 Arabesque platter from Dansk, $49.95. • 3 New York delft designed by Lovegrove & Repucci at gnr8. 4-piece set for $89. FOURTH ROW • 1 Brasserie dinnerware from Williams-Sonoma, $38 and up. A style popular in Parisian bistros and brasseries. • 2 Turkish Iznik plate from Yurdan, $76.50. • 3 Etrange vegetation porcelain serving bowl from Table Art, $130. Designed by Elisabeth Garouse & Mattia Bonetti and manufactured in Germany.