All You Want to Know about Bone China

bone china mugs

Table of Contents

All You Want to Know about Bone China

                                                                    ——————–What is Bone China?

Recently, a group of clients came to visit our factory, they have been doing fine bone china business for more than 10 years, but this was their first time visiting a bone china factory, when at lunch, one of them asked me, is it really bone ash used in bone china products? How to find out the bone ash content? Does daily bone china products really contain 50% bone ash? How to tell if it’s real bone china products?

These questions made me realize that even people in this field for many years, some related knowledge is still vague, let alone ordinary consumers.

Therefore, in this article, we are going to discuss everything about bone china, and to answer the questions mentioned above. Anyone interested in this topic will get a full basic information they need to know about fine bone china.

All about fine bone china

This article includes the following subjects. 

1 Definition of fine bone china

1.1 what is bone china? What is bone china made of?

1.2 Fine bone china products’ features

1.3 The key factors to differ bone china from other ceramic products

2 How to tell the difference between bone china and other ceramic products

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

2.2 What’s the difference between new bone china and fine bone china?

3 Which kind of dinnerware is better? Why?

4 How is bone china made?

5 How to Identify bone china?

6 FAQ (frequently asked questions) about fine bone china

6.1 Is bone ash still used in bone china? (which bone ash)

6.2 How to maintain bone china products?

6.3 Is bone china dishwasher safe?

6.4 Is bone china microwave oven safe?

1 Definition of bone china

1.1 what is bone china? What is bone china made of?

The word “china” clearly shows that the country is the “home of pottery and porcelain.” while bone china is a kind of porcelain.

Bone China, also called fine bone china, bone porcelain, is a type of ceramic that uses bone ash, clay, feldspathic material and kaolin as basic material.

Bone china needs to go through two times of firing, high temperature(1250℃) firing, which is also called biscuit firing, and lower temperature(1150℃) firing, also called glaze firing. For decorated bone china products, the firing process is even more complicated, which may reach 3-5 times firing. (click how is bone china products made to see the bone china making process)

Typical daily bone china tableware including bone china dinnerware, tea set, coffee set, cup and saucer set, mugs etc.

beautiful bone china mugs with decoration

(Bone china mugs)

1.2 Bone China Features

Known as the only worldwide recognized high-grade porcelain, bone china products has the features that other ceramic ware can’t compare with.

  • Transparency

Holding a bone china cup in a dark place and put a torch inside it, you can see the light go through the bone china body, which is quite impressive.


  • Milky white and Light weight

Bone china is known for its high level of whiteness and translucency. With bone ash added to the raw material, the bone china tableware gives a milky white color, it is also lighter than other ceramic products, these features make bone china getting more and more popular in the modern days.

  • Hardness

Yet it is light, semi-transparent, it seems fragile, while it is the strongest porcelain. It’s wear-resistant features make it a favorable and top choice for high-end hotels, Casinos & Resorts, Upscale dining establishments, Corporate & Academic dining facilities and more.

  • Easy to wash

After two times of firing and glazing, the surface of bone china tableware is very smooth, which makes it very easy to wash. This feature makes bone china dinnerware and tea sets favorable by housewives.

  • ZERO percent of toxic elements like lead and cadmium

It is not enough just having an attractive appearance. The safety issue is the top topic people care about. After all, tableware is something we used to serve our food, and it’s very important it is not toxic to our health.

With zero lead and cadmium content, bone china is regarded as the safest tableware, with the bone ash ingredient in its raw material, it is beneficial for people’s health too, as the bone ash contains elements that are beneficial for peoples health.

1.3 The key factors to differ bone china from other ceramic products

  • Bone ash content.

Difference country has its own standard about the bone ash content. For China, the percentage of bone ash should reach 36% to call it bone china, this is national standard,  while for the United States, the content is 25%, and in the UK, the content is 30%, the higher the bone ash content, the harder in the making process, and the brighter the products would be. While in Tangshan, the bone ash content is usually more than 40%, which made it famous as bone china born place in China.

  • Two times firing.

The firing process is what creates either porcelain or fine bone china. Porcelain is made by one-time firing, while bone china is made by two times firing. Both kinds of items are fired at the different temperatures.

bone china firing kiln

(Bone china firing kiln)

2 How to tell the difference between bone china and other ceramic products

As we mentioned above, bone china is also called fine bone china, bone porcelain, so there is no difference between bone china and fine bone china because it is the same thing. People add the word “fine” in front of the term to indicate the quality.

But for new bone china, it is totally a different concept! New bone china is not bone china, it’s a term to confuse clients and in fact, it is still porcelain, some business merchant uses the conception to confuse new buyers.

So here we mainly talk about the difference between bone china and fine china, and the difference between bone china and new bone china.

2.1 difference between bone china and fine china

Porcelain, also called “fine china”, featuring its delicate texture, pleasing color, and refined sculpture, has been one of the earliest artworks introduced to the western world through the Silk Road.

While bone china is a type of porcelain but is of the high-end range.

At a glance, if you know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to tell the difference between bone china and fine china.

  • Color

The addition of bone ash gives bone china a warm milky white color, while fine china will be a brighter white.

  • Translucency

If you hold the bone china cup up to the light, you’ll see that bone china has a translucent quality compared to fine china. This feature is most widely used to test whether it’s bone china.


  • Hardness

Porcelain is a durable material and is of moderate weight and hardness.  Bone china products usually are lighter and have a higher degree of hardness.

For example, an 8-inch flat plate, the bone china plate weight is around 500-600g, while the fine china plate is much heavier.


2.2 Difference between bone china and new bone china

First and foremost, new bone china is not bone china.

It is a concept created to gain more attention and a marketing strategy to sell porcelain at a higher price. In fact, it is just a kind of porcelain, but have some similar features like bone china.

2.2.1 What is new bone china

New bone china is in fact a kind of white porcelain, by adding mineralizer and calcium oxide(which has similar elements as bone ash) to the raw material, producing something that has some difference from the traditional porcelain in the aspects of firing temperature and  deformability, absorption and transparency, thus forming a kind of porcelain which has similar appearance as bone china.

2.2.2 Difference between bone china and new bone china

While New bone china might have a similar whiteness and smooth like bone china, it is quite differenced from bone china in the aspects of raw material and texture.

  • Raw material

Bone china contains more than 36% of bone ash, while new bone china doesn’t have any bone ash added.

  • Firing

As mentioned, bone china formed by two times of firing, while new bone china, like other porcelain, formed by one-time firing.

  • Other features

Comparing to new bone china, bone china has a softer white appearance, higher transparency, and lighter. Its appearance is much better than new bone china.

  • Price

The advantage of new bone china comparing to bone china is its price. New bone china products have a lower price than bone china.

When international buyers ask quote about bone china, if they are not careful enough, they may get a quite low price quote and they are very happy, while in fact, the quote is about new bone china products.

So it is important to know the difference and be clear when you buying your bone china products.

pure white with gold rim-2

3 Which kind of dinnerware is better?

To choose a better dinnerware or tableware, from the aspect of quality and appearance, bone china, without a doubt, is your best choice for tableware. However, good or bad is more about a personal choice, anything that suits your demand is the best choice for you.

Here we list some advantages of bone china.

It is the only ceramic that have both practical and artistic value.

Bone china is the only porcelain that is recognized as the high-end porcelain that symbolized as high status. It is also known as the king of porcelain.

The Much lower content of toxic elements like lead and cadmium which is good for people’s health.

Comparing to stoneware and other ceramic products, the price of bone china is much higher, and the price is an important factor that needs consideration too, in some cases, it’s a very important factor.

Anyway, if you are looking for high quality, better appearance, most importantly, the healthiest tableware, bone china is your answer.

bone china plates with flower decoration and gold rim

(Fine bone china table set)

4 How is bone china made?(Bone china making process)

Basically, from the raw material to the end products, the making process of bone china undergoes 2 or 3 major steps, white bone china needs 2 times firing, while the decorated bone china products need an extra process called pattern or design application, while the professional calling is decal application.

The first firing causes the product to shrink, and about 20% of the pieces that are made will crack and break at this stage. This is part of the reason why bone china tableware is expensive. The end products of this process are called biscuits. It’s whiter than our usually seen bone china products, and the surface is not as smooth.

bone china products ready for firing

(First firing process of bone china)

The second firing is called glaze firing, it happens after the piece is glazed, and the firing process melts the glaze into the piece. Those that don’t crack or break during this stage are the final products of white bone china tableware.

white bone china tea set

(white bone china tea set)

After above two procedures, the white body is finished. Most of the product will conduct the 3rd process, which is applying the design pattern. Many pieces are hand painted or sprayed, though in some cases decals can also be applied. 

decorated bone china cup and saucer

 (bone china product with decoration)

To see the more detailed bone china making process, please check here.

5 How to Identify bone china?

What’s the difference between bone china and porcelain? Here are 5 easy ways to find out:

  • Weight

        When comparing the weight between other porcelain products and bone china, on the basis of the same shape, porcelain weight generally is heavier, while bone china is lighter.

  • Shape

          Distinguish from the shape, due to the difference of technology and raw materials, bone china, comparing to porcelain, its texture is thinner, and is more smooth, with a higher transparency.

  • Transparency

Hold a cup directly facing the light and check if light can come through the wall of the bone china products is usually the most effective method to identify bone china.


(Face the bone china bowl to the light)

  • Color

High-grade bone china is of delicate porcelain dense, smooth surface, bright glaze, giving the appearance of milky color, the higher the content of bone ash, the closer to milk white, in contrast, if the content of bone ash is low, it’s yellow color is more obvious.

  • Sound

Listen to the tone of clicking, porcelain is more of the sound of heavy thick, when two bowls collide, giving the sound of “ding”, basically no echo, however, if u put two high-grade bone china bowls on the flat of both hands and make it collide, it will give the sound of “clang” and echo, just like ringing a bell.

6 FAQ (frequently asked questions)about fine bone china

6.1 Is bone ash still used in bone china? (which bone ash)

Yes, bone ash still used in bone china. It is, in fact, the most basic ingredient to make bone china.

Regarding which bone ash was added in, research shows it’s mainly herbivore animal bone ash, like the cow and goat bone ash, and cow ash is a better choice.

Why it has to be bone ash?

Although ceramic products were first made and massively used in China, bone china was invented in England. We don’t know how did he come up with this idea at the first place.

With bone ash added to the raw material, the ceramic body possess features of transparency and bright, while having a better toughness, which makes it light in weight but quite strong.

As the main element of bone ash is calcium phosphate, which is a kind of amino acid, a kind of nutrition which is quite beneficial for body health, that is why using bone china tableware is good for people’s health. More importantly, the Zero lead and mercury content make it the top choice of tableware.


6.2 How to maintain bone china products?


  • Hand ash

 As bone china is a high-end tableware, it is highly recommended to wash by hand, with bone china’s features, it is easy to wash too.

  • Temperature matters.

Wash in clean water, with the temperature less than 80 Centigrade.

  • Wash PH
  • Don’t use it in the microwave.
  • Avoid temperature radically change.
  • Avoid scratch.

For detailed information, please check 9 Things You Need to Know about Caring Bone China Products 

6.3 Is bone china dishwasher safe?

There is no fixed answer for this question. Some bone china products can pass the dishwasher test. Some can’t. Even though some business sellers claiming their bone china tableware is dishwasher safe, we still recommend you wash by hand.

6.4 Is bone china microwave oven safe?

In many cases, bone china tableware is microwave oven safe, but if your tableware is decorated with gold rim (check the below picture), it is not safe to put into the microwave! As the heat inside the oven will cause the gold line burst and cause an unnecessary potential safety hazard.

bone china products with gold rim

(Bone china cup and saucer sets with gold rim)

Thank you for reading!

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  1. 3NO0V

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    • luxury-bone-china

      Thank you very much for the comment! We will try to provide more useful info in the future!

  2. Ken Curry

    thank you for a comprehensive discussion.
    I would like to make the following comments
    Bone china is a UK invention as a result of a mis-interpretation of a report by an Englishman visiting china who refered to ” Bone” — being a colour which was falsely interpreted as refering to bone as a component added to clay.
    In short Bone china was unknown in China porcelain industry at that time.
    In UK by law bone china is mandated to contain 25% calcined animal bone in the ceramic
    Fine bone china is mandated to contain 35% calcined animal bone in the ceramic.
    Bone china is highly stressed when manufactured and must experience a special heating and cooling temperature steps and soak times which correspond to the realignment of the molecular and crystalline bonds within the ceramic material if it is to be resistant to stress failures over its service life. This process is similar to heat treatment for exotic steel alloys.
    Storage and Maintenance
    Most bone china has a highly abrasive ground base and should be stored with thick paper napkins (cut to size) between items to avoid glaze scuffing and to better distribute stack loads.
    High stacks of plates often result in stress failures of the heavily loaded lower plates as the weight of the stack of plates is concentrated on to 3 small areas of the bottom plate.
    Bone china has the characteristic of accumulation over of time of stress in the ceramic which can lead to cracking.
    Store on a sturdy plastic covered wire frame “ Plate Stacker” ( A$4 to A$5 at better kitchen shops) to minimise the chances of stress failures.
    Wash your china annually in hot water to stress relieve.
    Re-order plates in their stack to balance stress accumulation.

    Note that some of the health attributes attributed in the article to the bone china body are in error as the ceramic is completely covered by a impervious layer of glass( called the glaze) which should also cover the decorative pattern so that any heavy metal components of the pattern colours cannot transfer into the food.
    Ken Curry B Eng
    Chinafinders P/L

    • Justyna

      Thank you, it was great follow-up to this article 🙂

  3. Ken Curry

    I must advise the following.
    Avoid thermal shock.
    If heated plates are desired to keep served food warm heat the plates slowly avoiding radiant heat.
    For items such as teapots, coffee pots and cups which are to receive 100C boiling water.
    Firstly Ensure item is standing on an insulating base( avoid stainless or marble bench tops) as standing on a cold and thermally conducting surface will likely result in a cracked base due to the sudden rise of the item bowl to 100C and the base remaining at about 20C.
    Preheat with medium hot tap water

    • Longway Ceramics Team

      Thank you Ken, very informative, learnt a lot!

  4. Denis Mountain

    Bone China products are really good. I have purchased stoneware soup tureen sometimes ago & whenever I have some guest I use it to make a good impression on them.

  5. Rita

    Very informative article. Now I understand the difference between the different types of china

  6. Callum Palmer

    I really like some of the designs of the cups and plates that you have here. I’m looking to get something similar for my home. Do you think it would be a good idea to research some of the items before making a purchase?

  7. Gloria

    Useful information. Thank you. Àn area to be covered is, which material keeps your beverage hotter? Porcelain or a type of bone china? I have found that “bone” china seems to be the best to keep your beverage hot for longer.
    What is your finding please?

  8. Isabella

    Thank you for the comprehensive information.

  9. Joebin

    Hi, thanks for a great article! I have a question. I have a set of fine bone china mugs used for tea (UK made) and all of them got black stains at their bottoms (inside). I’m having hard water but otherwise follow the guidelines of maintenance of the product. Do you know why this may happen and how to prevent? Thank you.

    • Longway Ceramics Team

      Hi, thank you for your trust, different black stains are caused by different reasons, pictures might help us find the cause.

  10. ปั้มไลค์

    Like!! Great article post.Really thank you! Really Cool.

  11. I really like and appreciate your blog post.

  12. Thank you ever so for you article post.

  13. เบอร์สวยมงคล

    I always spent my half an hour to read this web site’s articles or reviews daily along with a mug of coffee.

  14. Anonymous

    Thank you for this information. I do know that Wedgewood used to use arleast 35percent of bone ash in their fine bone china, and Royal Doulton used a lesser amount. I was under the impression that the higher the ash content the whiter the product. I have had Wedgewood for about 58 years now and have had no chips or crazing with my dishes. Even when used with my grandchildren. I have bought everyday China over the years and they chip and scratch. My Denby, which is another material will never break from my experience, but it is far too heavy for me now!

  15. Chelsey

    What’s up to every , since I am truly keen of
    reading this website’s post to be updated regularly.
    It consists of nice data.

  16. Monika

    What is English translucent china? Is is fine bone china?

    • Longway Ceramics Team

      Hi Monika, thank you for the message. Usually, if it’s bone china, their description will make it clear. There are many fine bone china factories in the UK, but translucent is not a particular feature for bone china.

  17. Han

    There are some articles saying that bone china has a high lead and cadmium content for example royal albert bone china. Is this true?

  18. Lorri

    Does the glaze on fine bone china have lead? I am specifically interested in Coalport and Wedgewood dinnerware.

  19. Kalyan Yangon

    WOW, this is a wonderful write-up on Bone China and other China. Lucid, precse and gvng practicalgudance on buying and caring for Bone China. Thanks. I stumbled on it n the process of ficguring out the quntum of water the manufacturing of Bone CHina requres. Any data and understsnding will be apprecated. .