What is Bone China?

If you are in the market for fine dinnerware or collectible figurines, you may have come across the term “bone china.” But what exactly is bone china? In this article, we will explore the history, composition, benefits, and care of bone china.

History of Bone China

Bone china originated in England in the 18th century when a potter named Josiah Spode discovered a formula that combined bone ash, feldspar, and kaolin to create a unique type of porcelain. The bone ash, made from ground-up cattle bones, gave the porcelain added strength and translucency. This new type of porcelain quickly gained popularity and became known as bone china.

Composition of Bone China

Raw Materials

Bone china is made from a mixture of bone ash, feldspar, and kaolin. Bone ash makes up about 25-30% of the mixture and is what gives bone china its strength and translucency. The feldspar and kaolin act as binding agents and help the mixture to stick together during the firing process.

Manufacturing Process

The manufacturing process for bone china is quite intricate and involves multiple firing stages. First, the raw materials are mixed together and shaped into the desired form. Then, the pieces are fired at a high temperature to create a “biscuit” or “bisque.” After the initial firing, the pieces are glazed and fired again at an even higher temperature to create a smooth, shiny finish.

Benefits of Bone China


Bone China is known for its durability and strength. The addition of bone ash makes it less likely to chip or break compared to other types of porcelain.


One of the most distinctive features of bone china is its translucency. When held up to the light, bone china has a delicate and almost ethereal quality.


Despite its strength and durability, bone china is surprisingly lightweight. This makes it easy to handle and less likely to cause fatigue or strain when used for extended periods.

Design Options

Bone china is highly versatile and can be made in a wide range of designs and patterns. It is often used for fine dinnerware sets or collectible figurines.

Caring for Bone China

To keep your bone china in good condition, it is important to handle it with care. Here are some tips for caring for bone china:

  • Wash by hand using a gentle dish soap
  • Avoid using abrasive materials or scouring pads
  • Do not expose to sudden changes in temperature
  • Store in a dry and cool place to prevent damage

Differences Between Bone China and Other Types of Porcelain

Bone China vs. Fine China

While bone china is a type of porcelain, it is not the same as “fine china.” Fine china is typically made from a mixture of clay and other minerals and does not contain bone ash. Fine china is often less durable and translucent compared to bone china.

Bone China vs. Porcelain

Bone china and porcelain are both types of ceramic dinnerware, but there are some key differences. Porcelain is typically made from a mixture of kaolin, feldspar, and quartz, and does not contain bone ash. Porcelain is known for its whiteness, hardness, and ability to hold intricate designs. However, porcelain is generally less translucent and less durable compared to bone china.

Common Uses of Bone China

Bone china is commonly used for fine dinnerware sets, teacups and saucers, and collectible figurines. Due to its strength, translucency, and design versatility, bone china is often used for special occasions, such as weddings or formal events.

How to Identify Authentic Bone China

There are several ways to identify authentic bone china:

  • Look for the “bone china” stamp or mark on the bottom of the piece
  • Check the weight of the piece – bone china is generally lighter compared to other types of porcelain
  • Hold the piece up to the light to check for translucency
  • Look for intricate designs and patterns that are often associated with bone china


Bone china is a unique type of porcelain that is known for its strength, translucency, and design versatility. Its history dates back to the 18th century in England, where it quickly gained popularity and became a staple for fine dinnerware and collectible figurines. Understanding the composition, benefits, and care of bone china can help you make informed purchasing decisions and appreciate its beauty for years to come.


Is bone china dishwasher safe?

While bone china can technically be washed in a dishwasher, it is recommended to wash it by hand to prevent damage.

How can I tell if my bone china is valuable?

The value of bone china can vary depending on the brand, design, and condition. It is best to consult with a reputable appraiser or antique dealer for an accurate valuation.

Can bone china be used in the microwave?

Bone china can be used in the microwave, but it is important to avoid sudden temperature changes to prevent cracking.

How long does bone china last?

With proper care, bone china can last for many years and even become a family heirloom.

Is bone china eco-friendly?

While bone china is made from natural materials, the manufacturing process can be resource-intensive. Look for brands that prioritize sustainable and ethical production practices.

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