The word, "garniture" first entered the English language in the sixteenth century and over the years acquired several different meanings. It has its roots in the French word garnir, which translates as "garnish."
Garnitures are usually made up of an odd number of porcelain or faience urns or vases and arranged symmetrically. They were made to decorate the fireplace, which was the primary focal point of homes before central heating was invented. In Dutch homes a traditional place was on the top of large wooden cabinets. Garnitures was also used as focal points of dining tables and buffés to enhance the interior and express the wealth and taste of their owners. As the fashion spread around Europe, British and European potters made their own versions, rivalling Chinese and Japanese imports. Surviving complete sets are exceedingly rare
Early in the 17th century, the first sets were assembled from imported Chinese porcelain. Later, complete sets with matching decoration were made for the European market in both China and Japan. As the fashion spread around Europe, British and European potters made their own versions.
The sets most commonly included five items, but there were also sets of three and in some cases even seven vessels. The types of vessels was typically an alternating set of vases or beakers and covered jars or urns. During later period porcelain sculptures, clocks, porcelain fruit baskets, porcelain candlesticks was also made and used as garnitures.
A status symbol between the 17th and 19th centuries, garnitures later fell out of fashion. Sets were damaged or broken up and individual pieces sold off; few complete sets now exist, and even fewer survive in their original settings.
The inspiration might originally have come from Chinese altar sets that typically consists of five pieces, one censer, two candle stick holders and two vessels for sacrifices.