Types of China
China is popularly a generic term encompassing all dinnerware, but technically refers to fine porcelain dinnerware. As you might have guessed, the name comes from the fact that the first modern dinnerware came from China. Fine China This translucent type of china is quite strong despite its seeming delicacy. Sometimes mistakenly used as a synonym for porcelain, fine china usually refers to a broader range of dinnerware made from top-quality clays fused into a hard, non-porous body. It is generally dishwasher and microwave safe. Porcelain Though it has become a generic term used for all formal dinnerware, porcelain is actually a hard, translucent clayware body usually comprised of 50 percent kaolin, 25 percent feldspar and 25 percent quartz. Kaolin gives the body a bright white color and is the base for plasticity, durability, and consistency. Quartz keeps porcelain stable and feldspar makes it hard and glossy like glass through a process called vitrification. A decorative glaze is fused to the clay body at a temperature of 2700 to 2800 degrees Fahrenheit. Porcelain is impervious to bacterial growth. Ideal for all uses at the table and in the kitchen, porcelain is dishwasher, oven, and microwave safe. Bone China Bone China is a type of porcelain that represents the whitest of all dinnerware. It has the same ingredients as porcelain with the addition of bone ash (up to 50 percent). Bone gives finished china greater strength, a bright white appearance, and a translucent quality when held up to light. Though it often appears more delicate than porcelain, it is very durable. Bone China is, however, not designed as a cookware product. Casual China Though the term has changed a lot over the years, casual china generally refers to earthenware, stoneware, and ironstone patterns. Casual china can be more accurately described as any dinnerware used on a regular basis, which can even include porcelain patterns. Ceramics Earthenware Earthenware is the general term used for casual dinnerware made from less refined clays. It's fired at much lower temperatures than other casual ceramics, which allows for strong, rich colors. Not very durable, earthenware features a heavy, opaque body that, due to its porous nature, must be glazed to hold liquids. Stoneware Stoneware is the connecting link between earthenware and china. It looks like the former, but because of its high firing temperature of 2400 degrees and composition of dense clays, its strength and durability are much closer to that of china. Stoneware is chip-resistant and nonporousu0097even a crack in the glaze will not cause stains. Ironstone Before the introduction of china into Europe, ironstone was the most popular dinnerware. Ironstone is a stronger, finer kind of earthenware, made with purer clays yet still classified as a low-fired earthenware since it is briefly fired at low temperatures. It was developed in England and originally contained iron slag (thus the name). Terracotta Terracotta means 'baked earth'. It has a distinctive, low-fired red clay body when unglazed, although a top glaze is usually added to make it nonabsorbent, durable, and resistant to wear and breakage.