Free Antique Identification: Ceramics, Pottery and Porcelain

If you're new to shopping for antiques, you might be wondering about free antique identification and the difference between porcelain and ceramics. Use this basic guidelines below to help inform your next antique shopping outing.

Ceramic is a catch-all phrase that includes both pottery and porcelain. Ceramics are made from a mixture of clay, water and various additives that are shaped and fired.

Simply speaking, the difference between porcelain and pottery is that porcelain is translucent, or allows some light to penetrate, while pottery does not.

Earthenware and stoneware clays are used to make pottery and are fired at 1,700 to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit and 2,100 to 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. Earthenware is still porous after firing unless it is glazed, while stoneware will hold water regardless of whether it is glazed or not.

Pottery pieces have been found that date back to 1400 to 1200 BC, making this craft much older than the craft of making porcelain.

Porcelain of a sort was first made in China, sometime during the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220AD). By the Southern and Northern Dynasty (420 AD-589 AD), the process had evolved enough for it to be recognized today as porcelain. The clay used in porcelain is kaolin,which is fired up to 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. Porcelain is commonly called china today because for centuries only China could make this fine product.

Europeans obsessed over the production of porcelain for almost 200 years after the discovery of China. The formula for making porcelain eluded them. A process was developed in Florence, Italy, between 1575 and 1597 that, while not exactly the same as Chinese porcelain, was beautiful in its own right. It was not until the early 1700s that a "china-type" porcelain was developed in Germany, taking the cities of Dresden and Meissen to the forefront of European porcelain production.

Today, china that contains petunse is referred to as hard paste or "true" porcelain. Soft-paste china, which is more porous than hard paste, is the porcelain that was developed in Florence. The English developed bone china around 1750, a process where bone ash is added to the clay mixture, making a product that is stronger than the soft-paste variety. England continues to make most of the bone china that is produced in the world.

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