It is believed that the earliest plates used for eating from would have been crafted by nature. Their materials include large leaves, halves of vegetables, and large sea shells which would have created a simple bowl. Food products would have been placed on these make-shift plates then eaten communally by all members of the group, family, or tribe.
The concept of having your own individual plate is quite new. Originally in Europe, food would have been brought to the table on boards, platters, and servers. People would then use their fingers to pick what they wanted from the servers.
From the 16th to the 18th century, the custom of dining became more and more elaborate. In the 16th century it was normal for diners to share plates. While this was happening, the French court introduced the concept of separate plates. Then by the mid-19th century, dining a la russe came into vogue. This is where individual plated foods were brought to each guest. Naturally, a wide variety of plates emerged to fit this trend. This included: dinner plates, luncheon plates, bread plates, salad plates, fish plates, dessert plates, tea plates, and cheese plates.