|Most china is decorated and glazed before firing,
and often other decorations are added overglaze. G. Bernard Hughes
in The Collector's Pocket Book of China provides some concise definitions
of the various terms you're liable to encounter in your search for
the perfect piece of china:
Porcelain, hard paste - Made from white china clay or kaolin
(the plastic infusable ingredient) and fusible felspathic china
stone which provides translucence. When fired at great heat, these
ingredients fuse to become a vitreous white surface, entirely hard
and ringing with a metallic note when lightly struck. Often called
true porcelain, this is the type developed by the Chinese during
the Sung dynasty and emulated by Meissen.
Porcelain, soft paste - Made from white china clay and a
vitreous frit that produced translucence. Nearly all 18th century
English porcelain is of type. Firing is at a high temperature but
not as great of that of hard paste porcelain, and the body is more
liable to breakage.
Bone china - A paste intermediate between hard porcelain
and soft paste porcelain; a combination of clay and china stone
made white and strong by the addition of calcified bone. Josiah
Spode first marketed this product in 1794. Of fine texture and color,
it gave enduring service at a cost far lower than that of fragile
soft paste porcelain, and quickly replaced it in the English market.
Earthenware - Opaque ware which is porous after the first
firing and must be glazed before it can be applied for domestic
Ironstone china - A hard durable earthenware fired at a
high heat. Variations are red and brown stoneware and Wedgwood's
Creamware - A mixture similar to ironstone of refined clay
and flint but fired at a less intense heat. When a clear glaze was
evolved that could be applied as a liquid dip, the resulting cream
colored earthenware became immediately popular. Wedgwood and Leeds
are the names primarily associated with early creamware.
Jasperware - A dense vitrified stoneware of nearly the same
properties as porcelain, developed in 1774 by Josiah Wedgwood and
still produced today. Adams and Turner also produced jasperware.
Majolica - A general term for a variety of ceramics decorated
with an opaque tin glaze, usually brightly colored. In England in
1851, Herbert Minton developed a cane colored stoneware molded or
pressed in high relief with details clear and sharp. The body was
then dipped into tin enamel and fired. The final result began a
Victorian craze for the brightly colored pieces that continues today.
Faience - Lightly fired earthenware that is painted, then
covered with a glaze of tin oxide. When fired the glaze produces
an opaque, white surface. Similar in look to majolica, faience flourished
in French potteries during the 17th and 18th centuries. Trade declined
after the French Revolution, when lighter, cheaper, and less fragile
English pottery flooded the market.
Delft - Similar to faience and majolica in that it is a
tin glazed earthenware, Delft was produced in Holland in the early
1600s to imitate Chinese porcelain. Designs, mainly in blue were
at first Oriental in nature and later expanded to include Dutch
subjects such as windmills. Shortly after its introduction, England
began to produced Delft Ware, examples of which are now rare and
very costly. Production of tin enamel glazed wares declined after
1790 when Wedgwood introduced creamware.
The United States has a relatively short history of china development.
With rare, short lived exceptions, almost no fine china was produced
until the 19th century. Most dinnerware- fine or utilitarian- came
from the prolific factories of England or was shipped from China.
Chinese Export or China Trade porcelain produced specifically for
the US can be found in many museums and a few lucky households.
First-hand knowledge is the best way to learn about china types.
Visit antique stores and examine various examples. Feel the difference
in weight and look at the way the pieces are made. Also read all
you can about factories or types of china that interest you.