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Fine Dinnerware

The word, china, is commonly used as a generic name for all dinnerware but there are several different kinds.  Most them are ceramic which are means they are made from clay.  After the clay has been shaped and fired for the first time, the pattern is applied.  Next a glaze which is glass like coating is applied.  This seals the plate & design and gives it its particular finish.  Then the ware is fired again.

Porcelain or Fine China Porcelain has been produced in the Orient since the earliest periods of civilization. It wasn't made in Europe until slightly over 200 years ago.  The ware is called China in honor of those who first made it.
 The ultimate in dinnerware, china, is made from a combination of clays -kaolin, quartz, and feldspar.  It is very hard and extremely durable.   Fine china is vitrified which literally means  glass like.  It is fired in a kiln at a very high temperature so that it is non porous, hard and smooth.  Fine china is translucent, which means that if you hold a dinner plate up to the light and pass your hand behind it, you will see your hand's shadow.
  A 5 piece place setting usually consists of dinner plate, salad plate, butter plate, teacup and saucer.
  A 5 piece serving set usually consists of a 13' or 16" platter,  an open vegetable serving bowl, a cream pitcher, a sugar bowl and its cover.
  A rimmed soup plate us very shallow and has a wide rim,  It is generally 8 "-9" in diameter.
  The karat of the gold trim is generally either 22karat or 24 karat.

Bone China is porcelain that contains animal ash, mostly ox bone,  The bone is burned and ground to a fine powder.  This gives the ware strength  and whitens it.  The only difference between porcelain and bone china is the whiteness of bone china.

Everyday Dinnerware is the general term used for casual dinnerware made form less refined clays than those used for fine china.   The ware is fired at a lower temperature which makes it more porous and less strong.  The final product is much thicker than porcelain and is completely opaque. (You will never see your hand's shadow through it.)  But because of its firing at a lower temperature, an almost unlimited range of colors and specialty glaze techniques can be found on casual dinnerware.

Earthenware is the general term used for casual dinnerware made from less refined clays.   It is always slightly porous whether or not it is glazed.


Ceramics  are  fired at much lower temperatures than other casual ceramics which makes it possible to get strong, rich colors.


Ironstone is a stronger , finer kind of earthenware, made with finer clays and fired at higher temperatures.


Terra-Cotta literally means baked earth.  It has a distinctive, low  fired red clay body when unglazed.


Stoneware is the connecting link between earthenware and china,.  It looks like the former, but because of high firing temperature and the quality of the clays, its strength and durability are much closer to that of china. Stoneware products usually have good thermal shock resistance.  It is for this reason that oven - to -table ware is commonly made in stoneware.

Non-Ceramics
Glass dinnerware is usually inexpensive ware produced by machines.  There are a few very fine handmade glass plates on the market.  They are not usually available is place settings.

Pyroceram is a kind of glass that looks more like china  It was perfected by Corning.  It is highly durable and chip resistant.

Back to ASK US Index

What is fine china?

What is usually in a 5 piece setting of china?

What is Stoneware?

What are the basic serving pieces?

What are the different types of Ceramics?

What is glass dinnerware?

What is Pyrocem?

What is a rimmed soup plate?

Is bone china made out of bone?

What are alternative metals?

What karat is gold trim?

How do I care for my China?

What is the story of Blue Willow/Willow Blue?
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