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Something unusual or interesting that becomes or is intended to become the topic of conversation when it is encountered by other people. Did you see Helen's new chair that's shaped like a giant red stiletto shoe? Yes, it's quite the conversation piece! Jane's new hairstyle became a conversation piece in the office because people couldn't believe she would cut her hair so short.
open a conversation
to start a conversation. (See also strike up a conversation.) I tried to open a conversation with him, but he had nothing to say. She opened a conversation with an inquiry into my health, which got me talking about my favorite subject.
strike up a conversation
to start a conversation (with someone). I struck up an interesting conversation with someone on the bus yesterday. It's easy to strike up a conversation with someone when you're traveling.
An unusual object that arouses comment or interest, as in That bust of Aunt Nettie is ugly but it's an excellent conversation piece. In the early 1700s this same term was used for a particular kind of painting that represented a group, often a family, arranged as though they were conversing with one another. Later in the century the term was extended to any object that stimulates conversation.
Engage someone in talking purely for its own sake, make small talk, as in She had a real talent for making conversation with strangers. [c. 1920]