This one is for everyone who is buying some new place settings for your table: The first thing we all see is the aesthetic of the dinnerware, but if you take a moment to research what you are actually purchasing, you may be making a very good long-term investment that you can use every day! Here we go:
BONE CHINA is usually the best looking, most durable, and as such, most expensive. This is a type of porcelain, and is called “bone” because it is actually made with about 50% bone ash, along with 25% China Clay (kaolin) and 25% China Stone (which is actually partially decomposed granite.) Because of these properties, it is extremely strong and chip-resistant. These pieces are translucent and look great in a nice table setting.
Most bone china is dishwasher safe, but you should hand-wash those pieces with a metal band (many Lenox brand plates.) Avoid microwaving plates with a metal band also. Most all-white bone china is oven and microwave safe. Many people save this china for special occasions, but it really can be used every day. Bone China is an investment, and like everything else, it seems you get what you pay for. If you take care of them properly, these are pieces that can be passed along to the next generation.
PORCELAIN or FINE CHINA is a very durable choice in dinnerware that is made of 50% China Clay, 30% China Stone and 20% Flint (a hard-stone quartz.) It is very solid, functions well and some pieces can be translucent. Most porcelain is dishwasher, oven and microwave safe and is a good choice for everyday use. It is a less expensive choice than bone china, and proper care can lead to these pieces lasting a lifetime.
STONEWARE is a much heavier choice and gets part of its durability from the thickness and weight of the pieces. It is made of 25% Ball Clay (Kaolinite, or aluminum silicate,) 25% China Clay, 35% Flint and 15% China Stone. The construction of these pieces allows for brightly glazed colors. These can be the true work-horses of your kitchen and are great for everyday use. They are dishwasher, oven and microwave safe and if cared for, will last a while. It’s very fun to mix-and-match different pieces of stoneware from the same pattern for a wide variety of color on your table!
EARTHENWARE is a clay fired into a porous state that is glazed to be impervious to liquid. It is approximately 25% Ball Clay, 28% China Clay, 32%Flint and 15% Feldspar (a rock-forming mineral.) Terracotta and Majolica are types of earthenware, and this type of pottery has been known to show age in cracks, which some consider to be part of the aesthetic. Hand washing is recommended, or in the dishwasher on the gentle cycle. Microwaving should be done on medium or low temperatures only. This is not the most durable choice, but it is less expensive than the other clay-based choices and is maybe best left to decorative pieces or items that do not take heavy wear, like pitchers or serving platters.
Well, those are the 4 big categories of dinnerware that are readily available in most stores. Before your big purchase of 4 or 8 place settings, turn the plate over and see what it is made of, and make sure that it meets your needs and the needs of your family… and once you buy them, make sure to enjoy them!! That’s what they’re there for!