The Types of Chinaware

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Choosing a dinnerware set can be tricky. The right set of dinnerware does many things: It expresses your personal style, perfectly complements your table and all your meals, and is the best possible quality for your budget.

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If you're in the market for chinaware (or fine china), it's useful to understand what distinguishes this type of dinnerware from other types. It's also helpful to learn about the different types of china, which include porcelain and bone china. Whether you're looking for new china or trying to discern if your old china is valuable, here's what you need to know.

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What Is Chinaware?

In short, chinaware (or china) takes its name from the country China, which is known as the birthplace of porcelain making. Porcelain was first made during the Tang dynasty (619-907). "Chinaware" is a bit of an umbrella term, and many Americans simply use the term to mean "high-quality dinnerware." Both "porcelain" and "china" are terms that refer to dinnerware that is made from kaolin, which is a type of white clay.

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The Different Types of Chinaware

Somewhat confusingly, the terms "china," "fine china," and "porcelain" are often used interchangeably. However, fine china generally includes any bone china or porcelain that is made from high-quality clay. It is known for being exceptionally expensive because of the uniform quality of its pieces.

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The different types of china are porcelain and bone china:

  • Porcelain:​ Porcelain is the most common type of dinnerware because of its versatility and durability. It consists primarily of quartz, feldspar, and kaolin clay, which is fired in kilns at high temperatures. This makes the dinnerware very nonporous and gives it its thin, delicate construction and translucent appearance. Conveniently, porcelain dinnerware is generally microwave-, oven-, and dishwasher-safe (although hand-washing is still recommended, especially if the porcelain is antique). It also varies quite a bit in weight and color and is generally available in a wide range of colored glazes.

  • Bone china.Bone china is known for its elegant appearance and lightweight construction. It's made with the same ceramic materials as porcelain with the addition of bone ash (from animal bones). The bone ash gives this type of china its creamy color and translucency, and it's more translucent than porcelain. Contrary to its fragile appearance, bone china is very durable and strong; it even resists chipping. It's dishwasher-safe (but hand-washing is recommended), and as long as it doesn't have metallic banding, you can also put it in the microwave.

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