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 Antique 19thc Blue Slip Stoneware Jug Ingell & Co Taunton MassRed Wing Pottery 6 Gallon Water Cooler Cobalt Decoration Stoneware Crock19thc Antique Henry Myers Primitive Baltimore Pottery Cobalt Stoneware Md CrockRare Moomin Mug Arabia Big Collection18th Century 1st Period Worcester Large Leaf Dish James Giles Decorated C1770Royal Albert Old English Rose T For 2 Teaset Teapot Jug Bowl 2x Cup & Saucer19thc Antique W.h. Lehew Old Strasburg Virginia Primitive Cobalt Stoneware CrockRare Haviland Limoges 5 Piece Drop Rose Berry Bowl Set W/ Large Serving BowlBowl Blue Enamel Mid Century Modern Kaj Franck / Finel Arabia Finland Tall Nice41 Pcs Lenox China Presidential Collection Autumn 8 Place Settings +vaseRed Wing Stoneware 3 Gallon Water Cooler Lid Mint Condition ThroughoutPortmeirion The Botanic Garden Cup Saucer Plate Butter Canister Teapot Lot 23Antique Pre-1860 Wedgwood Jasperware Cobalt Blue Dip Handled Potpourri Urn BowlFine Staffordshire Pearlware Prattware ~ Hearty Good Fellow Toby Jug ~ C1790 Nr2x 1939 Royal Worcester Handpainted Fruit Pin Dishes By W.roberts & H.ayrtonUltra Rare Antique Roy L Cagley Stoneware Pottery Crock Advertising Rolling Pin Antique Vicksburg Mississippi Stoneware Scratch Jug J.c. Moores Jug House Saloon Queen Victoria - Diamond Jubilee Teapot - 1897 - Wileman & Co, - Foley ChinaRare 18th Cent Worcester Or Liverpool Porcelain Coffee Can C1760 Stunning Large Royal Worcester Hand Painted Pheasants Bowl By Jas Stinton19th C New York Stoneware Jug W/ Blue Bird Impressed Warner & ? Utica NyAntique Haviland Limoges Oyster Plate Pink Roses Blue Forget Me Not Double GoldAntique Stoneware Mini Jug A.d. Hyman Wholesale Wines, Liquors & Cigars MichiganHomer Laughlin Kitchen Kraft Fiesta Sunporch Covered JugAntique L.r.l. Limoges France Chocolate Pot Pink Roses Fancy Gold ! Perfect!19thc Antique Victorian Signed German Porcelain Basket & 2 Cats & Holly Berries Royal Copenhagen Very Rare Model Of A Dachshund Looking Into A Bowl No 693. Antique Cobalt Stoneware Crock Bird Motif See Pics Antique 19th C Stoneware Bee Sting Tornado Decorated 4 Gallon Crock Red Wing19th C. 2 Gallon Stoneware Crock W/ Large Cobalt Bird On A Branch Decoration, NrWilliams And Reppert Greensboro Pa. Stoneware 2 Gal Crock MintAntique Haviland Limoges France Drop Rose And Cobalt Blue 17" Platter Lacy GoldRare Moomin Mug Arabia Peace Rauha 1996-2002Pont Aux Choux Pot De Creme Cups With Lids Set Of 8Large Lot Of 50pc Royal Albert Old Country Rose China Unused Antique 12-pc Meissen Green Ivy Coffee & Tea Set For 4, Mark From 1814Antique "john Burger" Stoneware Crock Jug Circa 1800Superb Royal Worcester Wall Plate Hand Painted Fruit 1949 Signed Reemay 4 Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted #1038, Coffee Cups, Set Of FourRoyal Chintz Tea Set Royal Winton Julia Pattern Napkin Holder Teapot Cup Etc En7Superb 19thc Majolica Sweetcorn & Leaf Pitcher With Pewter Hinged Lid C1880Iroquois Casual China By Russel Wright Cantaloupe Covered PitcherWileman - The Foley China - 6075 Imari - Cup Saucer And Plate - C. 1895 Wedgwood Fairyland Lustre Leapfrogging Elves Leap Frog Imperial Bowl Z4968Iroquois Casual China By Russel Wright Cantaloupe CarafeF. J. Miller & Son -1 1/2 Gallon Stoneware Crock - Alexandria, Virginia19th C. Old Paris Porcelain Teapot With Warming Stand & Hot Air Balloon SceneRare Boxed 1961 Special One Off Wade Guinness Bon Bon / Peanut Dishes Bowls Arabia (finel) ~ 4 Qt. Red Heart Enamelware Bowl & 56 Oz. Pitcher ~ FinlandRoyal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Full Lace #1031 & #1112, Creamer & Sugar Bowl19thc Antique Primitive Country Stoneware Pottery Old Barn Moonshine Whiskey JugFine 18thc Chinese Porcelain Plate Complete With Carved Wooden Display StandRare Vintage Art Deco "little Old Lady" Teapot Set - H J WoodsExcelsior Springs Mo Mineral Water Red Wing Pottery Stoneware Advertising JugAntique Rs Prussia Red Mark Chocolate PotC1910 French Ls&s Limoges Porcelain Chocolate Pot 8 Piece Set No ReserveBeautiful Mint 20" Huge Johnson Brothers"his Majesty" Turkey Serving Platter-nr!Antique Red Wing Pottery Buttermilk Feeder Poultry Drinking Fountain Crock Clay19th C. One Gallon Stoneware Crock Jar W/ Unusual Cobalt Floral DecorationCat Eye Hand Decorated Mochaware Pepper Pot Old Vtg Antique Aafa Primitive Mocha