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The ABCs of Ceramics


Ceramics can be delicate and decorative or unrefined and utilitarian. Bone china, porcelain, stoneware and earthenware - this month we'll review them all. How Ceramics are Made.

Different kinds of stone are ground into a fine powder, mixed with water resulting in a paste. It is fired in a kiln (an oven) at very high temperatures until the particles of stone melt and fuse together to create a strong substance.

Bone China.

It is shiny and smooth non-porous pottery made with bone ash, china stone and fine kaolin (china clay). Bone china is light weight and thin and fired at a high temperature. Patterns are usually formal. Despite bone china's delicate appearance, it does not chip easily. It is the finest and most expensive dishware available.

Porcelain.

It is a non-porous pottery made from fine kaolin that is fired above 1250 degrees Celsius. Porcelain is translucent, thin and light weight. Originating in China, this delicate looking dishware is stronger than stoneware. Porcelain is less expensive than bone china and is available in casual and formal patterns.

Stoneware.

A dense kaolin is fired between 1200 -1450 degrees Celsius to create this porous ceramic. Neither translucent nor heavy, stoneware chips more easily than porcelain or bone china. It has a casual appearance and is generally glazed in muted earth tones. It can have fine detail or be rough and grainy. Stoneware is more affordable than porcelain or bone china.

Earthenware.

It is a coarse porous pottery and fired at a low temperature between 800-1000 degrees Celsius. Earthenware chips quite easily and has a casual appearance. It is often glazed in bright colours and formed by hand.

Care.

You should always follow the manufacturer's instructions for care. Keep in mind that direct heat sources can cause rapid changes in temperature causing cracking. Never put an antique or any fine ceramic in the dishwasher. Fine gilding wears off easily, so keep this in mind when handling antique pieces. Damage or chips greatly reduce the value of any ceramic.

Martin Swinton owns Take-A-Boo Emporium located in Toronto, Canada. He has appeared on a variety of television programs; does furniture restoration; caning and rushing repairs; appraisals and has taught courses on antiques at the Learning Annex. Martin can be reached at http://www.takeaboo.com

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