Whether arranging flowers in a decorative vase, setting a table for a holiday celebration, or indulging in a relaxing cup of tea, porcelain is often a part of special events or everyday pleasures.
Porcelain is the finest textured of all ceramics, which characteristically are all made from clay with a high mineral content. Porcelain is specifically made with a high content of kaolin clay or of the mineral kaolinite so that when the object is fired, it develops a translucent finish as the kaolin is converted to glass. Porcelain has been used for everything from dental crowns to electrical insulators for high voltage environments, from tiles for kitchens and bathrooms to the sinks and tubs themselves. But when most people think of porcelain, they call to mind cups, plates, flower vases, and other decorative objects.
Often referred to as “china,” porcelain was originally developed in this country during the Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.) For centuries, the recipe for making porcelain was a closely guarded secret, and Chinese craftsmen advanced their art through experimenting with new glazes and enamels to color their works. The hard-paste porcelain made in China from a combination of kaolin and the feldspar rock, petuntse, demonstrated the greatest resistance to melting of any porcelain. As a result, the material could be fired at higher temperatures than other porcelains, which allowed the clay and the glaze to fuse, becoming indistinguishable.
By the early 1100’s, porcelain began to appear in Europe, but the process for making the Chinese hard-paste porcelain remained elusive for several hundred years. Eventually, German chemist Johann Friedrich Bottger working in Dresden and Meissen, developed a process for hard-paste porcelain in the early 1700’s, and in the 1770’s, a competing factory was opened near Limoges, France. Sevres porcelain, developed during the 1750’s was a soft-paste porcelain fired at a lower temperature whose color was more creamy than the pure white of the completely vitrified hard-paste material.
The material known as bone china was created by the addition of bone ash to the kaolin and petuntse of porcelain. Developed by Englishman Josiah Spode, this material was more robust than soft-paste porcelain and captured some of the translucence of the original hard-paste ceramic.
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