Pottery Or Porcelain. What is The Difference?

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As a beginner in pottery, it is essential you know the differences between the different types of clay, kilns, and even pottery. You can have unlimited access to such information by checking other related posts on this website. Today, we are going to be talking about the difference between pottery and porcelain. I know you are probably thinking Porcelain is pottery too, but there are some unique and exciting distinctions between these two. If you are like, you will be drawn to ornaments and kitchenware from time to time and wonder, what is this? What is this kitchenware made from? Is it made from ceramic pottery or is it porcelain? How can I tell the difference between ceramic and porcelain?


According to Wikipedia, porcelain is a ceramic material made by heating materials, generally including kaolin, in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C (2,200 and 2,600 °F). The toughness, strength, and translucence of porcelain, relative to other types of pottery, arises mainly from vitrification and the formation of the mineral mullite within the body at these high temperatures.

Kaolin is the primary material from which porcelain is made, even though clay minerals might account for only a small proportion of the whole.

Though definitions vary, porcelain can be divided into three main categories: hard-paste, soft-paste, and bone china. The word paste is an old term for both the unfired and fired materials. More common terminology for the unfired material is “body”; for example, when buying materials, a potter might order an amount of porcelain body from a vendor.

Hard Paste

This type of porcelain is from East Asia, particularly made in China. The finest Porcelain is usually hard paste. Hard Paste porcelain was formed from a paste composed of kaolin and alabaster and fired at temperatures up to 1,400 °C (2,552 °F) in a wood-fired kiln, producing porcelain of great hardness, translucency, and strength.

Soft Paste

Soft-paste porcelains date back to the early attempts by European potters to replicate Chinese porcelain by using mixtures of clay and frit. Soapstone and lime were known to have been included in these compositions. They were not yet actual porcelain wares as they were not hard nor vitrified by firing kaolin clay at high temperatures. As these early formulations suffered from high pyroclastic deformation or slumping in the kiln at high temperatures, they were uneconomic to produce and of low quality. One thing about soft-paste porcelains is that they are fired at lower temperatures than hard-paste porcelain, therefore these wares are generally less hard than hard-paste porcelains.

Bone China

Bone china porcelain is made from two parts of bone ash, one part of kaolin, and one part of china stone, although this has largely been replaced by feldspars. Bone china is a type of porcelain that is composed of bone ash, feldspathic material, and kaolin. It has been defined as “ware with a translucent body” containing a minimum of 30% of phosphate derived from animal bone and calculated calcium phosphate. Bone china is the strongest of the porcelain or china ceramics.

To better understand porcelain, you need to get your hands on one. It is advisable to get your porcelain from Amazon by clicking here.


Ceramic pottery is an artwork made from ceramic materials, including clay. It may take forms including tableware, dinnerware, tiles, figurines, and other sculpture. Ceramic pottery is one of the sculpting or clay arts, particularly the visual arts. Of these, it is one of the plastic arts. While some ceramics are considered fine art, like pottery or sculpture, some are considered to be decorative, industrial, or applied art objects.

All the earliest forms of pottery were made from clays that were fired at low temperatures, initially in pit fires or open bonfires. They were hand-formed and undecorated. Earthenware can be fired as low as 600 °C and is normally fired below 1200 °C. Because unglazed biscuit earthenware is porous, it has limited utility for the storage of liquids or as tableware. However, earthenware has had a continuous history from the Neolithic period to today. Stoneware is another type of pottery that has been fired in a kiln at a relatively high temperature, from about 1,100 °C to 1,200 °C and is stronger and non-porous to liquids. This kind of pottery is very tough and practical, and much of it has always been utilitarian, for the kitchen or storage rather than the table. Click here to explore more about ceramic pottery.


The major difference between ceramic pottery and porcelain is the composition. Ceramic pottery pieces are often made of a strong mix of natural clay, water, and a few organic materials, meanwhile, porcelain pieces are known to be made of a light mix of clay, a lot of kaolin, silica, quartz, feldspar, and various other materials. To look at, porcelain is translucent and glamorous, whereas ceramic pottery is not.

There is a popular misconception about ceramic pottery and porcelain. Many pottery websites make the mistake of grouping and featuring ceramics, porcelain, china, and stoneware as “ceramics” or “porcelain” as if they are the same thing.

The main differences between ceramic pottery and porcelain can be classified under the following headings:

  • Density
  • Outer Smoothness
  • Porosity
  • Texture
  • Durability
  • Translucency


It is a known fact that porcelain is denser than pottery clay. Porcelain is more closely compacted in substance than ordinary pottery earthenware clay. The kaolin component in porcelain makes porcelain tighter and more compact than conventional pottery clay. Some Porcelain contains up to 70% of kaolin. The more kaolin in the clay, the denser it is.

Outer Smoothness

Porcelain pieces are smoother than ceramic pottery. The compacted composition of kaolin and bone ash present in porcelain not only makes it denser, but it also makes it smoother. Chinaware pieces are made of porcelain and they are deemed to be the smoothest ceramic. The outer surface of porcelain pieces has the finest finishes even without a glaze.


Ceramic pottery is more porous than porcelain. If you have worked on ceramic pottery before, you would have noticed how it absorbs water. Pottery absorbs more water than porcelain which is why pottery requires more drying and firing time. Unlike Ceramic, porcelain does not absorb water because of its compact composition. Porcelain has a 0.5% or less water absorption rate, which is lower when compared to ceramic pottery.


Porcelain is finer and smoother than ceramic pottery.  Porcelain has fine grains that allow it to absorb less water when compared to ceramic pottery clay or earthenware clay. Pottery clay has a harsh texture which is why it is highly recommended to sieve the pottery clay and earthenware clay before using. You don’t need to sieve or filter porcelain because it has a fine texture already. Porcelain has lower impurities when compared to ceramic pottery clay.


Porcelain is stronger and tougher than conventional pottery clay which makes it more durable than earthenware pieces. The reason why porcelain is more durable than ceramic pottery is the density and porosity of the material. The fact of the matter is that ceramic tends to allow more water to filter into it, which compromises its durability in the end. As earlier said, porcelain has a 0.5% or less water absorption rate, low in comparison to ceramic pottery. Also, ceramic pottery has more impurities than porcelain and much less kaolin content, if any. This immediately makes porcelain a more durable material compared to ceramic pottery.


Porcelain is translucent but ceramic pottery and earthenware clay are not. Porcelain allows light to pass through it. Some potters make use of porcelain materials to make transparent dinnerware, tableware, and sculptures. Kaolin is a primary clay that is well-known for its translucent characteristics. The reason why Porcelain is translucent is because of the Kaolin component present. The kaolin in porcelain allows a certain amount of light to pass through the material. This translucence gives articles a natural-looking alluring, artistic appeal. For porcelain to be translucent, Kaolin is required. Porcelain is minimally porous but still provides some porosity, which is essential for translucency. On the other hand, ceramic pottery typically has 10 – 15% porosity due to the natural clay used. This type of non-uniformity makes it impossible for ceramic pottery to be translucent.

DensityPorcelain is denser than ceramic pottery
Outer SmoothnessPorcelain is smoother than ceramic pottery
PorosityCeramic pottery is more porous than porcelain
TexturePorcelain has a smoother and finer texture than ceramic pottery
DurabilityPorcelain is stronger and more durable than ceramic pottery
TranslucencyPorcelain allows more light to pass through than ceramic pottery


Ceramic pottery and porcelain can be confused with each other because they both look very similar. In some instances, translucence makes it easier to differentiate between porcelain and ceramic pottery, and sometimes it can be tough to tell if an article is a porcelain or ceramic pottery. There are a few tests that can be done to determine what the article is truly made of. Some of these tests are:

1. Translucence

This is the easiest way to tell if an item is ceramic pottery or porcelain. It is known that porcelain has a glassy surface after being hardened with a high-heat firing process of around 2700 Degrees Fahrenheit. If you note that any exposed material is hard, glossy, and mirror-like, then you are dealing with porcelain. If you are looking at kitchenware or ornaments, you will also notice that porcelain has a more fragile and somewhat delicate appearance. An example of kitchenware translucent porcelain is Fine China. Porcelain is still being referred to as “chinaware” or “fine china” because of its elegance and the fact that the process was developed in China.

2. Weight & Feel

Another way to check if an item is pottery or porcelain is by examining the weight of the item. The weight and feel of an item can reveal whether the piece is ceramic pottery or porcelain. Due to the very few impurities in porcelain, items made from porcelain are lightweight and they have a smooth appearance. Ceramic pottery is made from clay. Clay has impurities such as sand, debris, and minerals, which makes the end product slightly less smooth and feels a bit heavier. Run your fingers over the surface of the item and it feels sleek and smooth, you are dealing with porcelain. If it feels a little bit rough or less smooth, you are probably dealing with a ceramic pottery item.

3. Glaze Test

Another way to check if an item is a porcelain or ceramic is to examine the color beneath the glaze of the item. Porcelain pieces are mostly natural white or tan color and it is usually the same color all over the body of the entire item including the outer surface, interior body, and bottom. Meanwhile, ceramic items have different colors (grey and brown are very common) and the outer surface of ceramic is not always the same color as the rest of it because of the glazing process it goes through.

4. Sound

A typical way of identifying porcelain items especially chinaware is by tapping the item with your nails or metal. Porcelain sounds almost melodic and it rings out. Unlike porcelain, ceramic pottery items sound like a dull thud. I will advise you to go to the kitchen now and pick either porcelain or ceramic items and hear how they sound to better understand what I am talking about.

5. Cost

This is not an effective way to tell the difference between porcelain but it is worth the try especially if you are still not sure about what the item is. Research has shown that most porcelain products are usually around 60% more expensive than ceramic pottery items. If an item (especially tiles) is more expensive than the other, it is most likely a porcelain tile.

Summarily, Ceramic pottery items tend to have thicker sides, high sturdiness, and the ability to retain heat for longer. Ceramic items are dishwasher safe. Porcelain dishes are smooth, glossy, and translucent. Although they are expensive, porcelain kitchenware cannot retain as much heat as ceramic pottery, and handwashing is usually preferred.

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