The art of making decorated porcelain ware originated in China more than 1,000 years ago. From 960 through 1127, during the Song dynasty, emperors established factories to produce porcelain for the royal family. During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), the familiar underglazed blue-and-white patterns many people associate with fine "china" were developed, while detailed decorative painting over glaze also became a common technique.
Chinese porcelain was exported to Europe as early as the 1100s, but it was rare and only available to the very wealthy. During the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), a wider variety of designs were exported. Demand for china cups and saucers increased as tea, coffee, and hot chocolate became popular beverages. Each drink demanded its own type of pot, cups, and accessories.
In response to the demand, European potteries attempted to manufacture their own porcelain, and by the 18th century, the Europeans were successfully competing with the Chinese. F...
True hard-paste porcelain production in Europe began in 1710 at the German factory of Meissen. Among its many innovations, Meissen gets credit for introducing the porcelain figurine. Meanwhile, English potteries started producing bone china in large quantities around the middle of the century in Staffordshire at Stoke-on-Trent, where Josiah Spode established his pottery, and in Bristol, where Royal Worcester got its start.
Although technical advances made porcelain more available to a wider range of people during the 19th century, earthenware (baked clay) and stoneware (clay fired at an intense heat to make it nonporous) continued to be popular for dinnerware items. Mass-production of china and dinnerware began in the late 19th century, with a corresponding decline in the quality of craftsmanship and materials. Fine porcelain dinnerware was more commonly used for decoration than to hold food. By the 20th century, colorful functional designs such as Franciscan and Fiesta were in high demand.
Collectors today have access to a wide variety of antique and vintage china and dinnerware. In this section we provide a sampling of some of the major makers, styles and regions, including British (Royal Doulton, Royal Albert, Spode, Wedgwood, Royal Worcester, Johnson Brothers), Japanese (Noritake), German (Meissen, which is sometimes referred to, inaccurately, as Dresden china), French (Limoges, Haviland), Danish (Royal Copenhagen), and American (stoneware, Fiesta, Franciscan, Lenox, Red Wing).
Interviews & Articles
I’m the curator of the ceramics bit of the Bowes Museum. It’s a big museum with 30 galleries of which three or four are devoted to… [more]
When the Red Wing Stoneware Company was founded in 1877 in Red Wing, Minnesota, the company only made stoneware like crocks and ju… [more]
Illogical though it may seem, few of the thousands of American china collectors know how to distinguish between hard- and soft-pas… [more]
In the 19th century affluent Americans enjoyed ready access to the ceramic markets of the world. The result was the greatest known… [more]
This is a province of Germanic art not known to many of us. If there are no awe inspiring peaks and no big rushing streams it is n… [more]
For the most part our colonial ancestors were accustomed to a simple and even frugal mode of life. But here and there along the ea… [more]
Through sheer longevity and persistence, the term Oriental Lowestoft has become the designation for all Chinese porcelain made exp… [more]
Although English artists began working very early in other media, the making of portrait busts and statues in ceramics lagged far … [more]
It is always a matter of pleasure to collectors, who visit antiques shows, to find the commercial aspect made somewhat less obtrus… [more]
Whilst much thought and attention has been given to the purely decorative figures and objects produced by the 18th-Century English… [more]
"A sett of large blue and white China with the badge of the Society of the Cincinnati if to be had, " wrote George Washington to h… [more]