Ceramic Dinnerware 101
Shopping for dinnerware? There is a wide variety of dinnerware materials - porcelain, stoneware and bone china -to choose from. To make the an informed purchase to best suit your needs, understanding the properties of each material is a good starting point. Here’s a simple guide to demystify ceramics.
All ceramic materials start with clay, which is comprised mostly of aluminium oxide, silicon dioxide, and water. Various materials are added to the clay mixture to give it the desired characteristics and then fired at a temperature to ensure it becomes vitrified.
Different clay bodies and different firing procedures yield ceramics with different properties. Those physical characteristics determine the suitable applications, perceived quality, and value of each type. Here's a rundown of the main types of ceramic you'll find in stores.
With a thick, heavy and rustic look and feel, it’s less expensive than other types of dinnerware. It’s not as durable and strong as other types of dinnerware and is prone to chipping. Terracotta pottery is a common example of earthenware ceramic.
Stoneware provides a good middle-of-the-road balance between durability, weight, and price. It is more durable than earthenware but thicker and more opaque than finer materials like porcelain and china.
It is typically used in casual, everyday dinnerware. Most good-quality stoneware is very versatile to use and to maintain. It can go in the microwave, dishwasher, oven, and freezer. It should not be exposed to sudden or extreme temperature changes.
Porcelain is made of a fine-particle clay, typically comprised of feldspar, kaolin, and quartz, that is fired at a higher temperature than other ceramic. This makes the resulting dinnerware extremely durable and nonporous. This process also allows the body to be thinner and more delicately constructed, which gives it a translucent appearance.
Most porcelain is dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe unless otherwise indicated. Porcelain/ Bone China that has a gold, silver or platinum border should not be microwaved, and citrus-scented detergent might damage metal accents.
Porcelain has a more upscale look compared to stoneware, making it suitable for both casual and formal dining occasions.
Bone china is a special type of porcelain made with a clay body that includes bone ash among its primary ingredients. It is fired at a slightly lower temperature than porcelain to produce a material that is very lightweight, translucent and delicate in feel, with a milky appearance.
Despite its fragile appearance, this is actually the strongest and most durable ceramic dinnerware. Most bone china is dishwasher safe and, unless it has metallic banding, it can go in the microwave and oven as well. Bone china, can be used daily or reserved for a more formal dining occasion.