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. France became a leading manufacturer of soft-paste porcelain, which is not made with kaolin like traditional Chinese hard-paste porcelain. The France porcelain industry was established in the late 17th century in places like St. Cloud, Mennecy, and Chantilly. In the middle of the 18th century, though, Louis XV created his own royal porcelain pottery at Sèvres on the outskirts of Paris. By the late 1700s, porcelain blanks were being produced in the city of Limoges, which was near a good supply of clay. The blanks were shipped to Sèvres where they were glazed.

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).


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Restaurant Ware Collectors Network

Restaurant Ware Collectors Network

Don't miss this collaborative reference guide to china and dinnerware used in public, commercial venues. The site c… [read review or visit site]

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

This gallery showcases highlights from the 5,000 items in the museum's ceramics collection dating from 1500-1900. I… [read review or visit site]

Ceramics at The V&A

Ceramics at The V&A

A great reference on ceramics from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Learn about different ceramics techniques and st… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

5 Dansk Brown Mist Denmark Rim Luncheon/salad Dishes, Stoneware. Impressed Herend Queen Victoria Creme Soup Bowl And Saucer,2pieces,used Condition For UseRare Haviland Limoges Chocolate Pot Baltimore Rose Pink Yellow Gold Trim FranceT&v Limoges Holly Ultra Rare Chocolate Pot Thick Gold Christmas Nathan DohrmannRed Wing Stoneware Sponge Cream & Sugar W/advertising Humboldt, Minn. Rare Mint!Large Vintage Carl Harry Stalhane Swedish Modernist Stoneware Vase For RorstrandTh1 - Anna Weatherley Thistle Salad Plate 7.5" - Set Of 6Th1 - Anna Weatherley Thistle Dinner Plate 10.5" - Set Of 4Rare Serving Bowl/tray #1002 - Full Lace - Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted - 1stGilt Dresden Ant Portrait Porcelain Plate Reverie Beauty Royal Vienna Tradition Finest 18th C Worcester C 1760 James Giles Decorated Polychrome Porcelain TeapotW6 - Anna Weatherley Ivy Garland Charger/buffet Plate - 2pcsWow 48 Piece Lot Of Minton For Tiffany & Co. China - H4378 - 12 Place SettingsHerend Rothschild Bird Raspberry Border Teapot,bird Lid End,brand New,boxedHerend Rothschild China Baroque Vase 2 Pc's 10 3/5" 27 Cm Top, 1.mark Rich Gold!Copeland Spode England Greek Teaset Teapot Plate Milk371,72,73,74 - Set Of 4 - Anna Weatherley Oval Dish 8"Amazing 91-piece Set Of Mitterteich, Bavaria "meissen Floral" Fine ChinaComplete Lenox (eternal) China Set W/bowls & Servers (8 Plate Setting) 54 PcRae Dunn Canister *coffee* *flour* *tea* *sugar* *pour* *cookies*Antique 19thc/18thc Nyon Porcelain 2 Handled Cup (trembleuse) With Saucer & LidRare! 3rd Black Mark Belleek "celtic" Coffee Or Chocolate 11 Piece Set Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Cup & Saucer Set #1Susan Branch A Proper Tea Teapot By Lenox NibOld Antique Haxtun Ottman Stoneware Jug Crock Cobalt Blue Decorated Fort EdwardHerend Lichtenstein Teapot Blue,30 Fl Oz Hold,extreme Rare,brand New BoxedFranciscan Starburst (usa): Flour Canister 9 1/4" With Lid Greensboro Pa Decorated Stoneware CrockAntique Ironstone Pitcher And Wash Basin With StandBeautiful 4 Antiques 1850 Meissen Porcelain Cabinet Plates Fruit Motifs75th Anniversary Marigold Fiestaware Limited Edition Soup TureenDenby Lot England Harlequin Red & Green & Blue Dinner Plates Bowls Salad Plates9 Pc Shelley Dainty Blue China Mini Teapot 2 Cup Demitasse Trio Creamer SugarMarked Rs Prussia Snowbird Plate Minty LookieVintage Advertising B &w Stoneware Rolling Pin,quast Undertaking Buffalo Lake,mnRae Dunn Canister Set - Coffee, Flour, Tea, SugarNew Rae Dunn Mixing Bowl SetAynsley Large Roses Teacup & SaucerAntique Stoneware Rare 2g Ovoid Jug J. Fenton Boston Ma C 1793-1797 No ReserveAnna Weatherley Morning Glory 9" Diameter Rim Soup Bowl, Signed By Anna NewWhite Hall Stoneware Illinois Ruckel's Pottery Blue Glazed Sawtooth 5" PitcherVintage Aynsley Tea Cup Saucer Yellow Pink Roses Signed England Bone ChinaHard To Find Haviland Limoges Butter Dish Baltimore Rose Pattern 3 Pieces23pcs (11 Sets+1 Saucer) Herend Chinese Bouquet Rust Demitasse Cups And Saucers Rae Dunn * New * Mixing Bowl Set ~ Mix, Dash & PinchRae Dunn Mixing Bowls! Brand New Set Of 3! Mix, Dash & Pinch Rare!Vintage Wedgewood Jasperware Teapot, Creamer, Sugar And 4 Demitasse CupsRoyal Winton Grimwades Floral Feast Plates8 Haviland Limoges 9 Inch Plates With Large Pink Roses And Etched GoldAntique Heinrich & Co. Selb Bavaria Set Of 12 22 Caret Gold Rim Dinner Plates.Antique English England Crescent China Porcelain Floral Scalloped Plate Set 12A82 Complete 12 Place Setting Contemporary Fine China Noritake Marywood SetEarly Small Decorated Stoneware Jar Attributed To Clarkson Crolius, C. 1800Antique Nippon Flying Geese Swans Tea Coffee Service Moriage Beading New Rae Dunn -3 Piece Mixing Bowl Set - Pinch, Dash MixRoyal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Plain Set Of 4 Large "princess" Mugs And 4 Saucers @ E & L.p Norton 1 1/2 Gallon Cobalt Blue Bird Stoneware Crock, Bennington @New Rae Dunn - 3 Mixing Bowl Set - "pinch, Dash, MixIrish Belleek Blarney Tea Pot Rare Second Black MarkAntique Cowden & Wilcox Primitive Stoneware Crock Pottery Decorated Jug