Fine British ceramics come in many different forms, and although we are used to hearing words like ‘china’ and ‘porcelain’, almost interchangeably, there are in fact some significant differences between the different types of ceramics.
Fine Bone China
‘China’, as you may have guessed, takes its name from the country, and it came to be applied to fine ceramic ware in the days when the only source of high-quality china was the mysterious Orient. By the time the European pioneers discovered the secret of its manufacture in the eighteenth century ‘china’ had become part of the language and was applied to their ceramic wares as well as to the exotic imports.
As the name suggests, the key ingredient that differentiates bone china from porcelain or earthenware is bone ash, which is combined with the other essentials and has the benefit of giving the finished product both increased strength and a beautiful translucency; try holding a piece of English fine bone china to the light and comparing it with a piece of earthenware. Bone china has to be fired at a considerably higher temperature, up to around 1250°C, but the result is an exquisite and fine ceramic body that combines strength with delicacy. With its unrivalled beauty, fine bone china is the perfect choice for the finest ceramics, and we are proud to use it for everything that we create at Bronte.
Today Bronte Porcelain produce a range of English fine bone china giftware including vases, plates, bowls and fine bone china coffee cups.
The word ‘porcelain’ has an interesting origin, with its etymology coming via French from the Italian word porcellana, which means a cowrie shell, because of the material’s resemblance to the smooth, white surface of the shell. Earthenware, as the name suggests, simply means ware that has been created from fired clay, a material taken from the ground.
As the pottery industry developed and the variety of materials and techniques increased, each of these terms came to refer to a specific forms of the ceramic body used in the manufacture of the enormous variety of objects, both decorative and useful, that we know today.
The simplest ceramic body is earthenware, a name that has been applied to the earliest and most primitive of fired clay vessels as well as to much of the ware that is still produced to this day. Terracotta is a form of earthenware that in its most basic form is simply clay that is shaped by hand and fired at a relatively low temperature of below 1,000°C. Much of today’s everyday tableware is made from earthenware that contains a mixture of kaolin (also known as china clay), ball clay, quartz and feldspar, ingredients that are common to virtually all modern ceramic products.
While the definitions of earthenware and porcelain overlap to a large extent, one difference can be the temperature at which firing takes place. In many cases, the temperature at which earthenware is fired is not sufficiently high to cause the material to vitrify, a process which causes it to develop a glass-like quality and become impervious to liquid, whereas some porcelain bodies are fired at a higher temperature which allows vitrification to occur.
If you are looking for beautiful British ceramics to decorate your home, visit Bronte Porcelain and browse our range of English fine bone china.