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    

Antique Stoneware: Lb Dilliner Jug W/ Cobalt Advertising, New Geneva Pa, Ca.1876Superb Quality Early 19thc Hand Painted Genuine Meissen Saucer.outstanding 18th Century Derby Porcelain Plate Dish Hand Painted Scene Vatican Rome Antique Shelley Dainty White Tea For One, 3 Cup Tea Pot And Duo Beautiful C1925 - 1945Antique 19thc Stoneware Blue Decorated Pennsyvania Crock Pitcher 1 1/2gal 12.75"Antique 19th C Stoneware Bee Sting Decorated 3 Gallon Red Wing Crock 11 1/2"12 Sevres Painted Old Paris Porcelian Dinner Plates Botanical Antique Gold Gilt18th Century Derby Porcelain Plate Painted Scene Valla Castello Nuoso Antique Red Wing Stoneware 1 Gallon Chicken Feeder Connor's Store Owatonna, MinnesotaArt Deco Carlton Ware Handpainted Gum Flower Pattern DishSusie Cooper 4 Grays Art Deco Handpainted Cubist Paris Jug Rare & StunningRs Prussia Chocolate Pot & 4 Cup And SaucerRare Noritake China - Art Deco Figural Woman On Chair Covered BoxVintage Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Imari 1128 Pattern Teapot ,Antique Stoneware: 1g Ny Jug W/ Cobalt Orchid Flower, Whites Utica, Ca.1860, NrVintage 1909 Royal Doulton Fortune Telling Cup & Saucer As-isAntique Stoneware Crock Jug Heavily Decorated!!! Greensboro Pa? Blue White Flaccus Brothers Stoneware Mug Antique Vtg Fruit Jar Co AdvertisementExquisite Vintage Dresden Chocolate Pot Gold Gilt Multi-floral SprigsRare & Beautiful Pink Roses Saldler Teapot And Milk JugSuperb 18thc Staffordshire Prattware 'sailor' Jug C.1780Vtg Royal Copenhagen Denmark Half Lace Blue Fluted Salad Bowl 579Antique 19th C Stoneware Decorated Pennsylvania Incised Lined Crock 8 3/4" Large Capodimonte Dresden Lace Lady & Flower Basket Figure - Galletti SignedVintage Fornasetti Pin Dish La Scala Opera Advertising Poster NormaSalt Glazed Blue Stenciled Stoneware Jas. Hamilton & Co. Greensboro Pa 5Antique Stoneware: 19thc. Batter Jug Or Pail W/ Cobalt, Ny State Origin, Ca.1870Franciscan Starburst Mid Century Modern Atomic 2 Curved Salad Plates Rare! ExcndAuthentic Red Wing 5 Gal Crock Ball Lock Lid ~ Pickle Jar Crock ~ Applesauce JarVintage Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Imari 1128 Pattern Hot Water Pot,Authentic Red Wing 3 Gal Crock Ball Locking Jar Pickles Applesauce RareOld Country Roses Large Tea Pot, 1st Qlty, Vgc, 1962-73, England, Royal AlbertJapan Arita Seto Nippon Gilt Export 11 Pc Coffee Chocolate Porcelain Set Nr YqzVintage Old Sleepy Eye Pottery Mug Stein, Blue & White, 7 3/4" TallHerend China Porcelain Large Rothschild Bird Cachepot Jardiniere Planter PotRare 18th Century 1st Period Worcester Faceted Cup & Saucer Dr.wall C1770 Antique Royal Coberg Ware Rs Germany Flow Blue Art Nouveau Celery Dish BowlVintage Fiesta Dinnerware Blue Compote Scarce Piece From Homer LaughlinE J Miller Stenciled Stoneware One Gallon Crock Alexandria China Glass Ware OldParagon China - Green Rockingham Pattern Hot Water Jug - Lovely!Antique Western Pa. Stoneware Cream Pot !! Decorated Stoneware Cream Pot. AafaFour (4) Franciscan Starburst Dinner Plates Original 1950sExceptional Shelley Find Bone China Engish-england Tea Cup And Saucer Antique Blue Decorated Stoneware Butter Churn A Russell Beaver Pa PennsylvaniaTwo Franciscan Starburst Crescent Salad Plates Original 1950s MintMuseum Quality Rare Royal Vienna Hand Painted Gilded Porcelain Lady Plate WagnerPre Shelley Foley Wileman And Co Clover Cup And Saucer Antique Cobalt Masons Ashworth Real Ironstone China Sauce Tureen And Tray C1830Antique 5 Gallon Red Wing Birch Leaf CrockRoyal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Half Lace Footed Bowl Exc Antique C1840-1860s Extremely Rare R Carson ,brooklyn Nyc 1/2 Jug,jar,crockLenox Eternal Holiday Coffee Teapot With Lid, Sugar Bowl With Lid And Creamer6 Old Country Roses Montrose Mugs, Vgc, 1993-2002, Made In England, Royal AlbertAntique Royal Vienna Portrait Plate Title Wave Kiss Artist SignedAntique,ceramic,c1880 X. Bazin,philadelphia Red Print Shaving Cream Jar Pot LidBeautiful Vintage Shelley Fine Bone China Tea Cup & Saucer Lot 7 Beautiful Vintage Limoges Porcelain Game Bird Plates ~ Signed ~ Gold GiltAntique Vintage Stone Mason Fruit Jar Union Stoneware Co Redwing Minn Rustic 19th C Johnson Bros Flow Blue Chamber Pot & Bowl Vienna England Royal Porcelain White's Utica Stoneware 1 Gal Ice Water Cooler W/ Cobalt Floral Decor Rare Size