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. Fruit Jar W/ Lid Shield & Canning InstructionsAntique C 1870 Baltimore/philly 3g Cobalt Salt Glazed Stoneware Jar Crock Nr YqzAntique C 1865 Baltimore 1g Floral Cobalt Salt Glazed Stoneware Jar Crock Nr YqzAntique Stoneware: 1g Jug W/ Cobalt Floral, J&e Norton, Bennington Vt, Ca.1850'sBlue Decorated Stoneware 1 Gallon Crock Red Wing Stoneware Cherry Band Pitcher With South Dakota AdvertisingLot (4) Antique Primitive Stoneware Oyster Crock Old Storage Jar Salt G. PotteryAntique Coronet Limoges Hand Painted Game Bird Set W/ Large Platter + 7 PlatesAntique 1880 Fort Edward Ny Cobalt Advertising 1g Salt Glazed Stoneware Jug YqzVintage Art Deco Carlton Ware Handcraft Metropolis Stunning JugHelena Wolfsohn Dresden Porcelain Chocolate Cup Lid And Saucer Watteau 19thc #21850's Antique Stoneware Pottery Canning Jar Primitive Blue Decorated Crock PaAntique Stoneware: Xl Slip Decorated 11" Redware Dish Or Bowl, Norwalk Ct, C1840Blue Rookwood American Art Pottery Vase 1931 Arts & Crafts Art Deco Era Fine PotShelley Bridal Rose Tea For One - Teapot, Cup & Saucer & Sugar BowlAntique Red Wing Stoneware Yankton South Dakota Sd Butter Crock Broadway MaidAntique 19th C Stoneware Drooping Flower Decorated Small Pennsylvania Crock 9"Antique 19thc Primitive Baltimore Maryland Double Cobalt Flower Pottery CrockAntique Stoneware "whatchamacallit", Dorchester Pottery Works, Boston, Ma, C190010pcs Antique Ls S Lewis Strauss Son Limoges Porcelain Plates Painted Roses GiltAntique 19th C Stoneware Decorated Small Ovoid Maryland Virginia Crock 8"A. Conrad West Virginia W. Va. Stoneware Blue Decorated Crock Jar 10" Antique 19th C Stoneware Decorated Small 1/2 Gallon Haddonfield New Jersey Crock*nr* Antique Stoneware: Glazed Redware Flowerpot & Saucer W/ Manganese, Pa 19thcAntique Stoneware: Cobalt Blob Ginger Beer Bottle, Brownell Wheaton, New BedfordO & Eg Bohemia Royal Austria Porcelain Wine Or Water Pitcher Jug Hand Painted NrAntique Royal Worcester Porcelain - Hand Painted Pansies - Cabinet Plate19th C Fort Edwards Ny 1 Gallon Salt Glaze Stoneware Crock W Cobalt Dec. *Antique Royal Worcester Porcelain - Hand Painted Wild Flowers Bowl - Lovely!N. White & Co Binghamton Ny Jug With Cobalt Blue Bird On A Floral Branch7 Vintage Royal Copenhagen "blue Flowers" (curved) Coupe Salad Plates #1645Antique Blue Decorated Stoneware Crock & Lid / 1 1/2 GallonHaviland Dark Pink/gold Drop/dropped Rose Bouillon Cup & Saucer-star Blank-excAntique 3 Gallon Decorated & Dated 1870 Stoneware Jug Antique Blue Decorated Stoneware Jug / Bird Jug / 3 GallonAntique Royal Worcester Porcelain - Hand Painted Chrysanthemum - Cabinet PlateAntique Meissen Porcelain Moulded Blue Ground Floral Gilt Charger Plate - MarkedAafa Blue & White Slip Decorated Stoneware Butter Crock Antique Stoneware CrockRs Prussia Madame Lebrun Portrait Lily Mold Relish Plate Art Nouveau 12.5" LongRs Prussia Icicle Mold 641 White & Black Turkeys Plate R.s. Prussia Melon Eaters Demitasse Chocolate Cup/saucer~~mold 18 Ribbon & JewelHaviland Limoges Schleiger 330 Round Covered Vegetable Bowl Pink Blue Flowers Fine Antique Coalport Raised Gold Titled Landscape Cabinet Plate C1900 (1 Of 2)Antique 19th Century R Delinieres D & Co France Gilded Orchid Coffee Pitcher YqzRare 1.5gal 1850s Antique Cobalt Blue Bird Stoneware Jar "j.norton"bennington,vtRatre *antique 2 Gal Charleston Ma Stoneware Churn W/big Grapes & Vines * NrVintage Cased Royal Doulton Blue Gold Tea Coffee Set Mappin Webb Silver SpoonsStunning Royal Worcester Hand Painted Fruit Pot-pourri Kitty BlakeRare Fiestaware Lilac Sugar Bowl W/lid & Creamer*retired Fiesta Homer LaughlinAntique Blue Decorated Stoneware Cake Crock / Small One GallonHerend Rothschild Bird 10.5" Covered Tureen W/ Bird Finial & 16.5" Oval PlatterRare! Red Wing Stoneware 1 Pint Size Kummerow & Menge Fond Du Lac Wi Liquor JugVintage Franciscan Atomic Starburst Set Of Three Tall Coffee MugsSet Of 4 Trio Shelley Queen Anne" Arches Of Roses" Cups Saucers & Plates # 11606Wonderful Rare Art Deco Shelley Sunset & Flowers Coffee Pot Pattern # 116917 Vintage Royal Copenhagen "blue Flowers" (curved) Dinner Plates #1621Rare Dated Stoneware Mini Jug The Club Merry Xmas 18938 Vintage Royal Copenhagen "blue Flowers" (curved) Luncheon Plates #1623Antique Stoneware Bird Crock Or JarAntique C1790 Painted Derby Porcelain Footed Compote Centerpiece Bowl W Roses