Introduction to China
China is the term used for a variety of types of dinnerware made from ceramic material, whether earthenware, porcelain, or stoneware. Any of these materials can be used to make the variety of pieces that form the customary set of service wear that we eat from. China derives its name from the fact that one of the components of porcelain is referred to as china clay, also called kaolin.
Earthenware is distinguished by being made from clay that is fired at a relatively low kiln temperature and which must be glazed in order to be waterproof. Stoneware is also not completely waterproof unless glazed, but it is fired at a higher temperature than earthenware. It is distinguished from porcelain chiefly because it is not translucent. Porcelain, which is translucent, is fired at a higher temperature than either earthenware or stoneware.
China Dinner Sets
China is customarily available both as sets and as individual pieces. Basic place servings usually come in sets with five pieces: a dinner plate, salad plate, either a bread and butter plate or a soup bowl, a cup, and a saucer. Four-piece sets may be offered, substituting a mug for the cup and saucer.
When one buys an entire dinner set, one receives a specified number of five-piece place settings, usually eight, and general service pieces, such as a sugar server with lid, a creamer, a platter, and a serving bowl, sometimes called a vegetable bowl. Other pieces that may be available include a coffee pot and salt and pepper shakers, for a total of 49 pieces, which is often seen.
Other pieces that can be purchased to extend a dinnerware set include luncheon plates, which are several inches in diameter smaller than dinner plates, special bowls for cream soups and bouillon soups, cereal bowls, fruit or dessert bowls, mugs, demitasse cups and saucers, a butter dish, a gravy boat, a covered vegetable bowl, a coffee pot, a tea pot, a relish dish, tiered serving trays, a nut bowl, an appetizer tray, and a cake stand.
China Tea Sets
Another type of china set typically found is the tea set. This set is likely to have 22 pieces including a tea pot, creamer, sugar bowl, fruit vase or cake dish, and six each of cups, saucers, and dessert plates. Tea sets that include only the cups, saucers, and teapot are also available.
There are many designs made by many manufacturers, some of which go in and out of fashion quickly, and some of which, like Blue Willow for example, have endured for many years. Other popular patterns include Noritake’s Azalea pattern from the early twentieth century, the Spode Christmas tree pattern, Blue Danube by Blue Danube, and Royal Albert's Old Country Roses.
Written by Mary Elizabeth
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