What is bone china?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: July 4, 2024

Introduction to Bone China

Bone china is a type of porcelain that is known for its high levels of whiteness and translucency, as well as its strength and chip resistance. It is a highly sought-after material in the world of fine dining and ceramics, often associated with luxury and elegance.

Composition of Bone China

Bone china is made from a mixture of bone ash, kaolin (a type of clay), and feldspathic material. The bone ash, derived from animal bones (typically cow bones), is what gives bone china its unique characteristics. The standard formula for bone china typically includes:

  • 50% Bone Ash
  • 25% Kaolin
  • 25% Feldspar

History of Bone China

Bone china was first developed in England in the 18th century. Josiah Spode is often credited with perfecting the formula in the early 1800s, leading to the widespread popularity of bone china in Europe. The innovation allowed for the production of porcelain that was both strong and aesthetically superior to other types of ceramics available at the time.

Manufacturing Process

The production of bone china is a complex and time-consuming process that involves several stages:

1. Raw Material Preparation

The raw materials, including bone ash, kaolin, and feldspar, are finely ground and mixed together.

2. Forming

The mixture is shaped into the desired form, either by hand or using molds. This can include everything from plates and cups to intricate figurines.

3. Biscuit Firing

The formed pieces are fired at a relatively low temperature (around 1200°C) in a kiln to remove any moisture and organic materials, resulting in a hard, porous body known as "biscuit ware."

4. Glazing

The biscuit ware is then glazed, providing a smooth and often glossy finish. The glaze can also add color and decoration to the piece.

5. Glost Firing

The glazed pieces are fired again at a higher temperature (around 1250°C), which vitrifies the glaze and the body, making the porcelain non-porous and giving it its final properties.

Characteristics of Bone China

Bone china is renowned for several key characteristics that set it apart from other types of porcelain:

Whiteness and Translucency

The high bone ash content gives bone china a distinctive white color and a translucency that is unmatched by other ceramics. When held up to light, thin pieces of bone china will allow light to pass through, giving them a delicate and ethereal appearance.

Strength and Durability

Despite its delicate appearance, bone china is exceptionally strong and durable. The bone ash contributes to its toughness, making it more resistant to chipping and breaking compared to other types of porcelain.


Bone china is lighter than most other ceramics, which adds to its appeal in fine dining settings, where the feel of the tableware can enhance the dining experience.

Uses of Bone China

Bone china is used primarily in the production of high-quality tableware and decorative items. Some common uses include:

  • Plates and Bowls
  • Cups and Saucers
  • Teapots and Coffee Pots
  • Vases and Figurines

Caring for Bone China

While bone china is durable, it does require some special care to maintain its beauty and longevity:


It is generally recommended to hand wash bone china using a mild detergent and soft cloth. While some pieces may be dishwasher safe, it is best to check the manufacturer's guidelines.


Avoid exposing bone china to sudden temperature changes, as this can cause cracking. For example, do not place a hot plate directly into cold water.


When storing bone china, avoid stacking pieces directly on top of each other. Use soft cloth or padding between items to prevent scratches and chips.

Bone China vs. Other Ceramics

Bone china is often compared to other types of ceramics, such as porcelain and stoneware. Here are some key differences:

Bone China vs. Porcelain

While both are types of porcelain, bone china is generally considered superior due to its whiteness, translucency, and strength. Porcelain does not contain bone ash and is typically less translucent and more brittle.

Bone China vs. Stoneware

Stoneware is a type of pottery that is fired at high temperatures but does not have the same level of whiteness or translucency as bone china. It is generally more robust and less expensive, making it a popular choice for everyday use.

Collecting Bone China

Bone china is a popular collectible due to its beauty and historical significance. Collectors often look for:

Antique Pieces

Antique bone china pieces, especially those from well-known manufacturers like Spode, Wedgwood, and Royal Doulton, are highly sought after.

Limited Editions

Many manufacturers produce limited edition pieces, which can become valuable over time.

Complete Sets

Complete sets of bone china tableware, especially those with intricate designs and decorations, are particularly desirable.

Environmental Considerations

The production of bone china, like many industrial processes, has environmental impacts. The use of animal bones raises ethical questions for some consumers, and the firing process consumes significant energy. However, many manufacturers are taking steps to reduce their environmental footprint through more sustainable practices.

Bone china's blend of beauty, strength, and historical significance makes it a unique and cherished material in the world of ceramics. Whether you are a collector, a fine dining enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates the finer things in life, bone china offers a timeless elegance that continues to captivate and inspire.

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