The way to Tell Porcelain Figurines From Ceramic
Items made from ceramic, a kind of white clay using kaolin as its main ingredient, belong to the broader area of ceramics. The word “ceramic” only means a product made of clay and solidified through heat. In other words, all items made of clay and put into a kiln are called ceramics. Within this group, you find three basic clays: earthenware, stoneware and kaolin. Earthenware fires at the lowest temperatures, beginning at around 1700 degrees Fahrenheit; stoneware fire temps are lower than porcelain but higher than earthenware, with ceramic near the top of the fire range at 2550 degrees F.
Identifying Porcelain Figurines
The easiest way to identify porcelain figurines rather than earthenware or stoneware figurines would be to examine the piece. Porcelain figurines have a delicate, fragile quality to them and therefore are somewhat crystalline, whereas, stoneware or earthenware figurines are not. Start looking for an exposed slice of porcelain that doesn’t have glaze over it. With fewer impurities in the clay, porcelain hardens using a melted, glass-like surface after firing before glazes are additional. If you’re able to find a place without a glaze, as on the base of the figurine, notice the clay’s hard, translucent and mirror-like caliber.
Porcelain’s Weight and Durability
Taken from the ground nearer to its source of origin, kaolin clay has fewer impurities in comparison to stoneware or earthenware clays. And because of the greater mineral content, debris and sand present in earthenware and stoneware, porcelain figurines are much lighter than figurines made from their ceramic counterparts. Porcelain is also much more durable because of the high temperatures it undergoes during kiln fire. And some ceramic figurines may have been fired and glazed after only one fire.
Tough- and Soft-Paste Porcelains
Artisans utilized a variety of clay recipes to produce other ceramic items over the years. Hard-paste porcelain includes feldspathic materials inside the paste, but after firing, it retains a glassier texture than soft-paste ceramic does. Soft-paste porcelain is also softer when roughed using a file, as it’s fired in a kiln at lower temperatures, whereas, hard-paste porcelain following firing remains hard and vitrified. Ancient Dresden pieces were made with earthenware, until 1710, when potters discovered and started using hard-paste porcelain to produce their figurines.
Porcelain, when paired with a fingernail or metal, sounds melodic, whereas, stoneware and earthenware do not. Ancient Staffordshire pieces, made before the potters discovered the ingredients to produce bone china — England’s response to China’s high-end ceramic — were made of earthenware or salt-glazed stoneware. Earthenware may appear white-, grey- or terra-cotta-colored based on the iron content in it when not covered with a glaze. Stoneware comes from mild tan or gray to dark gray or brownish. Stoneware and earthenware have coarser textures than ceramic when you compare unglazed places.