Jasper Conran Strata white plates and teacup on a light brown table

A Guide to Bone China

Bone china is considered to be the most refined and luxurious of tableware materials, adding sophisticated classical and contemporary design to any table - whether during breakfast, lunch or dinner.

If you’re in the market for purchasing bone china tableware, the Wedgwood Guide to Bone China will answer some common questions regarding this beautiful material, as well as providing guidance on how to choose and care for your bone china tableware.

What is bone china (and what is bone china made of)?

Bone china is a durable, lightweight and elegant material that is most commonly used for the creation of tableware and teaware such as plates, bowls, mugs and teacups. Bone china is made from china clay, china stone and bone ash (made from animal bones).
To create bone china, either china clay, china stone, bone ash, or a combination of the three is combined with porcelain clay and fired at a slightly lower temperature than porcelain. This produces a light, delicate material with a milky, almost translucent appearance.

Benefits of bone china tableware

Investing in bone china tableware comes with many benefits for your at-home eating experience. Bone china is the strongest material of the porcelain and china ceramics, meaning that it is likely to last through everyday use and the usual accidental slips of the hand or knocks off the table. Bone china is a luxurious and precious material, so will last for decades and can have amazing sentimental value when passed down through generations. It brings a perception of elegance and sophisticated taste to dining at home, making every day a special occasion!

Bone china is also:

  • Break-resistant
  • Microwave-safe
  • Oven-safe
  • Dishwasher-safe

Is bone china good for everyday use?

Bone china is considered to be the highest quality ceramic used for tableware, and is perfect for both everyday use and special occasions due to the fact that it’s strong, durable, mostly chip-resistant, and stunningly beautiful.
Dinnerware salad and accent plates from the Arris Collection on a red table
For an interesting fact, the durability of bone china is actually based on the percentage of bone ash content present within the product. The traditional formulation for bone china is about 25% kaolin, 25% Cornish stone and 50% bone ash. The industry minimum for bone content is 30% or higher. 

Is bone china microwave safe? Yes! In fact, it’s microwave safe, dishwasher safe and oven safe.

How to care for your Wedgwood bone china tableware set

Wedgwood china dinner sets are strong and durable in their essence, however there are still measures you can take to make sure you are serving your family and friends on your Wedgwood china tableware for years to come.

How to wash your bone china

Here are some tips for washing your Wedgwood china tableware set:

  • Wash dishes straight away to remove any acidic or sticky food residue.
  • When handwashing, wash each dish individually using a mild liquid detergent and a non-abrasive cloth. Having a plastic tuc in the sink is also a good idea, as it will protect the china from the harsh stainless steel of the sink. 
  • If using a dishwasher, take care not to overload the rack, and keep metal items away from your fine bone china - even light contact can scratch, chip or crack your dishes.

How to keep your bone china in top condition

Here are some tips for keeping your Wedgwood china in stunning condition:

  • Soak your pieces in white vinegar for three minutes before rinsing and towel drying them to remove hard water spots.
  • Remove coffee stains from mugs (as well as fork marks from plates) by rubbing a paste of baking soda and water over the tableware before rinsing and drying.
  • To prevent scratching and chipping your fine bone china tableware set, put it in a fabric storage case, or put segments of fabric, tissue paper or napkins between each piece when stacking.

A brief history of bone china tableware

The first development of bone china was made by Thomas Frye at his Bow Porcelain Factory near Bow in East London in 1748. His factory was located close to the cattle markets and slaughterhouses of London’s East End, so he had easy access to the animal bones needed to create the bone ash used in bone china. He originally called his formulation ‘fine porcelain, uses up to 45% bone ash in his products.
Between 1789 and 1793, the concept of bone china was further developed by Josiah Spode of Stoke-on-Trent, introducing his ‘Stoke China’ in 1796. When the original Josiah Spode died suddenly, his son Josiah II took over, and renamed the product ‘bone china’. The material quickly became highly popular, leading to its production by a large number of other pottery manufacturers across Britain.

What’s the difference between bone china, fine china and porcelain?

The main difference between bone china and fine china is actually the colour, and the different material components that are used to achieve this tonal variation. As we mentioned earlier, bone china is made of ‘bone ash’, which is ash made from animal bones (usually those of a cow) mixed into the ceramic material. Cow bone ash is added into the mixture to give bone china that unique, creamy, soft colour it’s famous for.. 

Fine china on the other hand (which doesn’t include any bone ash) is a starker, whiter tone. It’s easy to see the difference between the two by lifting fine china or bone china up to light; the bone china will be translucent and will let in more light, whereas the fine china will totally block any light coming through.
Gio collection's bowls
When it comes to bone china vs porcelain, it’s a similar story. The production of bone china and porcelain is essentially the same, except for the addition of bone ash to the bone china product. Bone ash makes tableware stronger by making it softer, less brittle, and less likely to break than porcelain. Porcelain is generally thicker than bone china products, as it is forged at a higher temperature. Bone china has a more elegant perception at the dining table than porcelain due to its milky texture and stunningly lightweight, delicate feel.

World-renowned for super quality bone china

At Wedgwood, our fine bone china and tableware is known around the world for its super quality and absolutely exquisite design. You can browse our extensive selection of bone china plates, bone china bowls and bone china teacups on our website to bring a sense of luxury and sophistication to your next meal. We have bone china tableware to suit every style, from everyday durable dining essentials to gorgeously crafted statement pieces.