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    

Rare Red Wing Union Stoneware Co. Minnesota 2 Gallon Butter Crock 19th C Meissen Schneeballen Porcelain Canary Bird Floral Encrusted Cup & SaucerFine 19th C Meissen Porcelain Lilies Encrusted Insects Jug And Cover - MarkedAntique Stoneware: A+ Mid-atlantic Pitcher W/ Cobalt Floral, Pa/md/va, C1865, Nr2 Gal Cobalt Blue Decorated 19th C Stoneware Crock "n A White & Sons Utica Ny"Superb Antique Dresden Wolfsohn Meissen Tureen & Stand / Ecuelle, Bird, Ar MarkBrand New Rae Dunn Eat Plates Set Of 4 In Box Htf13pc Haviland Limoges Demitasse Coffee Dessert Service Je Caldwell PhiladelphiaAugustus Rex - Cup And Saucer On ChocolateBeautiful Royal Albert, "dainty Blue" Tea Pot, EnglandAntique Coalport Porcelain Tea Cup, Coffee Cup & Saucer C.1825Fornasetti Milano Italy Tema E Variazioni Faces Porcelain Plate* Paragon Pink & Light Green Butterfly Handle Teacup And Saucer Rare *Antique Stoneware: Miniature Red Wing Whiskey Jug W/ Cobalt Xmas Stencil, C1900sAntique Baltimore Pink Rose Haviland Limoges Chocolate Pot France ~perfect~Rare Paragon English Porcelain Butterfly Handle Pink Blue Tea Cup Saucer Set SmsOld Blue White Stoneware Beer Advertising Pitcher Milwaukee Sales New York CityBeautiful Quality Antique Meissen German Porcelain Tea Cup And Saucer Superb Rare 18thc Meissen Coffee Can Circa 1780 - Crossed Swords & Incised MarkAntique Stoneware Rolling Pin Blue & White Advertising Wisconsin Store -Set Of 4 Shelley England Regency Dainty White Teapot Coffee Creamer Sugar Nr TnaMarked Rs Prussia Chocolate Pot Antique Late 19th C German Porcelain Pink RosesAntique R S Prussia Cracker Bowl W Cover Icicle Mold With Swans Red Mark Fine Early 19th Century French Sevres Or Paris Porcelain Can And Saucer - C1810Rare Antique Vintage Red Wing Beehive Stone Ware Crock Jug HugeVintage Art Deco Shelley Porcelain Queen Anne Shape Set Two Cups & Saucers PlateDresden 3 Cherub Putti Porcelain Dish Bowl Flowers Carl Thieme Hand PaintedC1900 Antique Hand-painted English Wedgwood Etruria Pottery Dog Plate NrMeissen - Cup And Saucer5-pc Place Setting Haviland Limoges Schleiger 319 Pink Drop Rose Wreath Swag Rae Dunn Rare Set!! *tea Pot* *cream* *sugar*Antique Cobalt Decorated Stoneware Bird Crock With Chicken DecorationAntique Coalport " Green Batwing " Tea PotRed Wing Stoneware Sponge Band/grey Line 7 1/2 In. Advertising Pitcher = Marked.Vintage Art Deco Noritake Lady Plate - Blue Dress Black/gold Hat- Sheldon & SayoRed Wing Stoneware 2 Gallon Oval Over Wing Crock Unusual Barn FindRussel Wright Casual China Mug, Iroquois, Charcoal, Mid-century ModernRed Wing Pottery Bowl With Lid #672Antique Blue Decorated Stoneware M.c.webster & Son Hartford CtRare 1835 Antique Coalport Hand Painted Plate Stephen Lawrance Flowers 4/412Aynsley - 1950s - Rose & Poppy Floral - Floral Bowl Tea Cup & Saucer - NrExquisite Antique Chinese Export Orange Sacred Bird & Butterfly Dome TeapotSuperb Antique 18th Century Meissen Watteau Porcelain Teapot Flower Finial C1770Royal Copenhagen, A Bowl With Lizzards. 1898 - 1923Antique Pr Or Md Stoneware Storage Jar W/ Rich Cobalt Floral Decoration * NrAntique Cowden And Wilcox 4 Gallon Stoneware Crock With Cobalt Cherry DecorationNew Rae Dunn Tea CanisterAntique Cobalt Decorated Stoneware Jar Crock Signed Solomon Bell Strasburg Vintage Art Deco Shelley Teapot In "maytime" Chintz Blossom PatternAntique Dresden Porcelain Quatrefoil Cup And Saucer Watteau Scenes 19thcAntique 19th C Stoneware Clover Decorated Small Maryland Cake Crock Rare Size Antique Victorian Flow Blue Covered Cheese Dish/keeper Gilded Accents *floral*Large Fruit Bowl #1061 - Royal Copenhagen - Blue Fluted - 1:st QualityAntique Pottery Crock Loads Of Blue Floral #2 Smith & DaySuperb 19thc George Jones Majolica Strawberry Dish With BirdSuperb 18thc First Period Dr Wall Worcester Plate "w" Mark - Circa176019thc Ovoid Shape Stoneware 2 Gal Crock W Blue By C.hart + Son Sherburne NyAntique Meissen Pierced Hand Painted Porcelain Cabinet PlateNew Rae Dunn Magenta Sugar Bowl/container/jar Vhtf! Missing LidAntique Sunny Side Saloon ,lebanon Kentucky J.h.kearns Advertising Whiskey Jug