Porcelain Dinnerware:
Why is Porcelain Expensive?

You might associate porcelain with your grandmother’s treasured fine china cabinet but never understood why she was so in love with those shiny mugs and saucers. Why would anyone pay so much for a porcelain dinnerware collection?

Nearly synonymous with high-brow dining, porcelain is one of the best dinnerware materials. It’s sturdy even when razor thin, and it gives off a glow from within, unlike any other ceramics. 

In fact, white porcelain has been prized for generations: from its first inception, to its imitators and now to modern artists that produce beautiful dishes with time-honored techniques. 

To understand what makes fine porcelain dinnerware so special, we’ll take you through its history and show you how those china dishes became prized heirlooms. 

The Ancient Chinese Art of Porcelain

Sensibly, the history of fine china begins in China. Primitive forms of Chinese porcelain have been identified dating back millennia. The technique evolved over the centuries, and by the end of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368 AD), the material had become what we recognize today as porcelain.

Chinese porcelain is known as hard paste porcelain or “true” porcelain. It was made of a white clay called kaolin, and petuntse, a volcanic rock consisting mostly of the mineral feldspar, and was then fired at unusually high temperatures.

Through a process called vitrification, the petuntse would become glassy and create a hard, shiny surface. Unlike previous earthenware pieces that absorbed liquids, this process created ceramic that was nonporous and sometimes even translucent.

Porcelain’s Journey to Europe

Porcelain was reportedly brought to Europe by Marco Polo in the 14th century. This Italian connection may be where the material got its current name—porcellana is an Italian word that refers to the smooth, cowry shell.

What we know for sure is that by the 15th and 16th centuries, fine porcelain goods were in high demand across Europe. The material was considered exotic. An inability to reproduce it domestically meant that it carried a hefty price tag, causing it to become a status symbol.

Around 1575, a reasonable facsimile was developed in Florence. This type of porcelain is known as “soft-paste.” It’s