The Difference between Ceramics, Pottery, and Porcelain

CERAMICS

Ceramic is a catch-all phrase that includes both pottery and porcelain. Ceramics are made from a mixture of clay, water, and various sundry additives, then shaped, and finally fired.

POTTERY

Simply speaking, the difference between porcelain and pottery is that porcelain is translucent, or allows some light to penetrate, while pottery does not.

Earthenware and stoneware clays are used to make pottery and are fired at 1700-2100 degrees Fahrenheit and 2100-2300 degrees Fahrenheit respectively. Earthenware is still porous after firing unless it is glazed, while stoneware will hold water regardless of whether it is glazed or not.

Pottery pieces have been found that date back to 1400-1200 BC, making this craft much older than the craft of making porcelain.

PORCELAIN

Porcelain of a sort was first made in China, sometime during the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220AD). By the Southern and Northern Dynasty (420 AD-589 AD), the process had evolved enough for it to be recognized today as porcelain. The clay used in porcelain is kaolin and is fired up to 2600 degrees Fahrenheit. Porcelain is commonly called china today because for centuries, only China could produce this fine product.

Europeans obsessed over the production of porcelain for almost two hundred years after the discovery of China.  The formula for making porcelain eluded them.  A process was developed in Florence, Italy between 1575 and 1597 that, while not exactly the same as Chinese porcelain, was beautiful in its own right. It was not until the early1700’s that a “china-type” porcelain was developed in Germany, taking the cities of Dresden and  Meissen to the forefront of European porcelain production.

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