The modern tablescape allows for a variety of textures, colors, designs, and features to meet your family’s preferences for casual dinnerware. While dish sets can be made from ceramics, plastics, glass, or melamine, ceramics are a common choice for most households.
Among ceramic dishware, stoneware, and bone china are popular choices, thanks to their durability and aesthetics. While they’re comparable options, their differences (and resulting price points) may make one a better option for your table than the other.
All About Ceramics
The art of ceramics involves shaping clay into an object or dish, hardening it in a kiln, and then glazing the item after it’s been hardened. The resulting piece will vary in appearance, porosity, durability, and more depending on a number of factors:
- What minerals are in its clay
- What temperature it’s fired at
- How long it’s processed in the kiln
The porousness and vitreousness of ceramic pieces are two big factors to consider in your purchasing journey.
The standards organization, ASTM International, defines the porosity of a ceramic object by the difference between its wet and dry weights after an object has been immersed in boiling water for several minutes and left in room-temperature water for several hours.
How much water a ceramic piece absorbs will determine its label of earthenware, stoneware, or porcelain, with porcelain being the least porous of these options. Porosity is indirectly related to a dish’s hygiene. The higher its porosity, the more water, bacteria, and odors it will absorb, potentially making your food unsafe to consume. This is one reason why ceramics, like stoneware and bone china, are coveted.
A ceramic piece becomes vitrified when the clay reaches its melting point and its mineral components begin to fuse together, forming a crystallized structure. Pieces can be very vitrified or semi-vitrified. The more vitrified a piece is, the less porous and more durable it is.
Stoneware is made from clay that contains feldspar, quartz, and sometimes kaolin, an ingredient normally included in the clay that porcelains, such as fine bone china, are made of. This type of ceramic is fired at 1200℃, making for a dish that’s less porous than earthenware (its more affordable cousin), while being durable, thick, and strong. It’s also semi-vitreous, so it’ll be very chip-resistant, and it won’t absorb more than 3% of its weight in water.
Because of its porosity and vitreousness, a stoneware dish doesn’t usually have to be glazed to make it moisture-resistant, so glazes function purely for aesthetic reasons. Usually, manufacturers coat these pieces in a clear glaze to maintain their natural appearance. This is a great option if you need a durable and classic-looking dinnerware set.
So what is bone chine? Fine bone china is a subset of china dinnerware, which was named because of the specific clay used to make Chinese porcelain. Porcelain includes kaolin clay, which originates from a specific part of China. The minerals in this type of clay allow for ceramic pieces that are unique in texture, appearances, durability, and lightness.
Bone china is named as such because it will include some amount of animal bone ash. These pieces will usually be fired twice, first at temperatures between 1200℃ and 1300℃ and the second firing will be between 1050℃ and 1100℃.
This makes for a stronger, more translucent dish. This type of ceramic dinnerware is pricier because of its durability and its incredible lack of porousness. It’s known to be a hygienic, long-lasting dinnerware choice that will add refinement to your tablescape.
What’s the Best Option For You?
Deciding what the best dinnerware material is for you is a highly personal choice. If you have kids running around your home, stoneware—the cheaper of the options—is a durable and aesthetically appealing option. If you’re more likely to entertain guests, or use dinnerware sets during holidays and other special events, then bone china may be the best bet for you, given its higher-end appearance.
At the end of the day, the best way to start your journey toward choosing a dinnerware set is by setting a budget, deciding how often you’ll use your set, and figuring out your preferred personal style.
Lenox: Dinnerware That Matches Your Lifestyle
A tablescape that includes matching dinnerware adds an element of design that can enhance the everyday meal. Lenox, the leading brand of modern, everyday dishware, is your source for incredible porcelain plates, bowls, and more to bring your gatherings to the next level.
Lenox offers a variety of different dinnerware options, from everyday use to elegant, that you can use for any circumstance or special occasion. Take a look at our porcelain dinnerware catalog today.