Choosing Bone China or Porcelain Dinnerware

By TriMark R.W. Smith

Bone China vs. Porcelain Dinnerware- Bone ChinaSelecting dinnerware for your restaurant sets the stage for your dining room’s tone and enticement. A key consideration is which type of tableware best fits your establishment’s interior design. There are multiple options in the commercial china market, fulfilling different needs for different customers. When shopping, keep the following properties in mind to make the best decision:

  • Plasticity
  • Fineness of grain
  • Color after firing
  • Hardness
  • Cohesion
  • Ability to apply decoration
 

Porcelain and bone china differ in appearance, composition and production. Below is a summary of each material’s characteristics to guide you in making your decision.

Porcelain’s Primary Characteristics

  • White, hard, permanent, non-porous pottery
  • Made from a combination of feldspar, quartz and kaolin
  • Less expensive and heavier than bone china
  • Brittle composition leads to more chipping
  • Available in varying degrees of whiteness ranging from ivory to blue-grey to bright white
  • Comes in two types
    • Soft Paste – creamier in color and somewhat porous
    • Hard Paste – purer white color and non-porous

Bone China’s Primary Characteristics

  • Translucent and fine composition
  • Made from kaolin, feldspar, quartz and bone ash
  • The quality is determined by the total amount of bone ash included
  • Opaque texture and appearance
  • Thin-walled pieces give a more delicate appearance, but offer more durability than porcelain
  • Lighter in weight than porcelain
  • Bone china white has a warmer tone to it; often described as “snow white”
 

For more details on the properties and production process of porcelain and bone china, see our in-depth Bone China vs. Porcelain Guide.

Shop our Premier Collections to view our offerings in both bone china and porcelain dinnerware.

01/22/16 Update:

  • Many people are confused as to the difference between “china” and “porcelain”. Actually, the two terms describe the same product. The term “china” comes from its country of origin, and the word “porcelain” is Latin, meaning seashell. It implies a product which is smooth, white, and lustrous. The term “porcelain” is preferred in Europe while “china” is favored in the United States.
  • The production of bone china begins in a similar fashion as porcelain china but includes an extra ingredient, bone ash. This is a white powdery substance and the byproduct of incinerated animal bone. Bone ash gives the body of the plate a unique milky white color.
  • Bone ash adds translucency to the body of the dinnerware, and makes the dish stronger by making it softer. By making the dinnerware less brittle, the bone ash makes it more resilient and less likely to break. Often times, you can place your hand on the back of a plate and hold it up towards a light.  If you can see your hand, it’s likely bone china!  Otherwise, the dinnerware product is most likely porcelain.
  • Bone china offers a slightly more elegant appeal due to the lighter weight and body composition.  It’s typically a bit more expensive than porcelain due to its manufacturing process and overall elegant perception.
  • Porcelain is generally thicker than bone china products
  • Porcelain is forged at a higher temperature – averaging around 1,455° Celsius / 2,650° Fahrenheit
  • Bone china offers a slightly more elegant appeal due to the lighter weight and body composition
  • The durability of bone china is based on the percent of bone content. While industry minimum is 30% bone content and stronger, higher grade product goes up as high as 40-45% bone content, R.W. Smith’s Venu collection is composed of 48% bone content.
  • Both Porcelain and Bone China are microwave- and dishwasher-safe.

Bone China vs. Porcelain Dinnerware- Porcelain

 

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20 Comments on Choosing Bone China or Porcelain Dinnerware

  1. Rick Hamilton
    January 17, 2016 6:59 am at 6:59 am (2 years ago)

    Please add to your list, a description of which is more durable, which is more dishwasher-safei, which is more microwave-safe. Thanks.

    Reply
  2. R.W. Smith & Co.
    January 22, 2016 3:35 pm at 3:35 pm (2 years ago)

    Hi Rick,

    We have included an updated portion to our blog to answer your inquiries regarding the durability and material resistance to commercial dishwashers and microwaves.

    Hope you find this additional information to be helpful!

    Please feel free to contact us with any additional questions, comments and/or concerns so that our foodservice experts would be able to provide you the solutions you need to make well informed decisions.

    Thank you,

    R.W. Smith & Co.

    Reply
    • Kristine
      December 4, 2016 6:08 pm at 6:08 pm (1 year ago)

      Does the finish on your bone china/porcelain get grey cutlery scratches?

      Reply
      • Ashley Almodovar
        December 5, 2016 2:47 pm at 2:47 pm (1 year ago)

        Hi Kristine,

        Thank you for visiting our blog and reaching out with this important question! The Tria, Alani and Venu lines of our Premier Collections dinnerware is both scratch resistant and features a 3-year chip warranty on all flat plates. Due to it’s durable porcelain construction it is designed for a long service life in restaurant settings.

        To further avoid visible cutlery scratches it is recommended to never wash, store or transport dinnerware and flatware in the same bus box or wash rack. This will protect the surface of your dinnerware from unnecessary scratches.

        Thank you,
        TriMark R.W. Smith

        Reply
  3. David
    February 23, 2016 12:08 am at 12:08 am (2 years ago)

    You have shared great comparison between bone china and porcelain. I hope your post will help people in choosing right dinnerware for running a successful restaurant.

    Reply
    • R.W. Smith & Co.
      February 23, 2016 8:49 am at 8:49 am (2 years ago)

      Hi David,

      Glad that you found our blog to be insightful and helpful!

      We believe that the very foundation of success and cost savings derive from informed buying.

      Thank you for the kind feedback.

      Warm Regards,

      R.W. Smith & Co.

      Reply
  4. Laura
    April 12, 2016 3:26 pm at 3:26 pm (2 years ago)

    In your original comparison, you say that bone china is more durable than porcelain (thin-walled pieces appear more delicate but offer more durability), but then in your update, it says porcelain is more durable.

    Reply
    • R.W. Smith & Co.
      April 18, 2016 10:43 am at 10:43 am (2 years ago)

      Hi Laura,

      Thank you for your message! We appreciate you bringing the issue to our attention and apologize for the confusion. Bone China is stronger and more durable because of the bone ash that’s added into the mixture when it’s made. It brings out the slightly translucent milky-white tone and makes the dish more resilient and less likely to break.

      Our wording was not ideal since bone china is a type of porcelain. We created confusion between the two materials. For that reason, we will be updating our blog and guide to bring clarity to the topic.

      Please feel free to let us know if you have any other questions. We greatly appreciate your comment and hope this helps to clear up the difference.

      Thank you,

      R.W. Smith & Co.

      Reply
  5. Sheryl
    May 12, 2016 10:36 am at 10:36 am (2 years ago)

    I’m looking for dishes that will be good for every day use but look nice for every occasion. I need something that is dishwasher and microwave safe and will not chip or scratch easily. Reasonably priced would be a bonus! What do you recommend? I’ve bought two sets of less expensive dishes in the past year and returned both due to scratches.

    Reply
    • Lauren Zeleniak
      May 13, 2016 8:58 am at 8:58 am (2 years ago)

      Thank you for your inquiry! We certainly can appreciate your interest in finding the right dinnerware that has durability and strength to avoid scratching and breakage. Please contact our Customer Care team to discuss your product needs – there are many styles to select from which meet your requirements for quality and value pricing. From our website, you can Live Chat, email info@rwsmithco.com or call us at 800-942-1101. Enjoy the buying experience and let us know if we can be of further assistance.

      R.W Smith & Co.

      Reply
  6. Phoebe
    May 23, 2016 2:50 pm at 2:50 pm (2 years ago)

    Hi there,

    I have recently read that there are many brands out there that claim to be bone china but only have 5% bone in them and are charging the same prices as brands that have 30% bone in them. In the UK they must have a minimum of 30% to be classified as bone china. Do you know which brands in the US have a minimum of 30% bone china?

    Cheers,

    Phoebe

    Reply
    • R.W. Smith & Co.
      May 24, 2016 10:34 am at 10:34 am (2 years ago)

      Thank you for visiting our blog and for your inquiry, Phoebe. Yes, you are correct in saying that bone percentages vary between brands. While not wanting to speak for other manufacturers, our Venu bone china is made with over 40% bone ash. We have seen factories produce a product referred to as ‘Nu’ bone which is made with less than 10% bone. Bone ash is appealing because it gives the china a beautiful translucency and is one of the strongest elements in ceramic ware. With bone ash, the material can be thinned out to create a more stylish and attractive look.

      If you would like an opportunity to view Venu bone china to compare with other product, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our tabletop experts in the Customer Service Department for assistance. You can reach them at 800-943-1101 or info@rwsmithco.com.

      Thank you for reaching out and providing us the opportunity to assist you!

      R.W. Smith

      Reply
  7. Stefka
    June 14, 2016 9:07 am at 9:07 am (1 year ago)

    Would you please advise how much lighter in weight (in %) is bone china compared to normal porcelain, if the item has the same size and thickness?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Ashley Almodovar
      June 14, 2016 1:30 pm at 1:30 pm (1 year ago)

      Thank you for your inquiry, Stefka. Understanding that manufacturers of bone china and porcelain products don’t use the exact same materials and production process, in general a bone china plate, with the same degree of strength as a porcelain plate, will be 20-30% less in weight and thickness. If you would like an opportunity to view our Venu bone china to compare with other product, please contact one of our tabletop experts in the Customer Service Department at 800-942-1101 or info@rwsmithco.com. We appreciate your interest!

      Reply
  8. Jean
    December 3, 2016 6:47 pm at 6:47 pm (1 year ago)

    At what temperature can porcelain dinnerware be safely used in the oven?

    Reply
    • Ashley Almodovar
      December 5, 2016 2:48 pm at 2:48 pm (1 year ago)

      Hi Jean,

      Thank you for your inquiry! Due to differences in each dinnerware collection it is best to verify with the manufacturer before using porcelain dishes in the oven. Baking with porcelain that cannot withstand oven temperatures would result in cracked or broken dishes.

      We offer oven safe porcelain in a variety of styles and sizes, please click here to see more.

      Our Customer Service team can also help with product recommendations to suit your individual needs. They are available Monday through Friday, 6:00 am – 5:00 pm Pacific time via Live Chat or at 1-800-942-1101.

      Thank you,
      TriMark R.W. Smith

      Reply
  9. michael
    February 18, 2017 3:04 am at 3:04 am (10 months ago)

    Can I use fine bone china in a microwave oven irrespective of the percentage of bone therein,thank you.

    Reply
    • Ashley Almodovar
      February 23, 2017 7:49 am at 7:49 am (10 months ago)

      Hi Michael,

      This is a great question! The percentage of bone content in a dinnerware collection is not typically what determines if it is safe to microwave. As bone china can vary so much, we recommend verifying with the manufacturer of the dinnerware. Generally factors that would make bone china unsuited for the microwave include any surface decorations that contain metal or heat reactive glazes.

      If you have questions regarding a specific brand of dinnerware, our Customer Service department is available via live chat.

      Thank you,
      TriMark R.W. Smith

      Reply
  10. Mandy Williams
    March 21, 2017 4:13 am at 4:13 am (9 months ago)

    If I have to choose between the two, I prefer porcelain dishes because they are much stronger and more resistant. As far as the art of table is concerned, we have to choose carefully the plates to create a feeling of harmony, the decorative plates are very trendy; the same with the cutlery, glasses…

    Reply
  11. LNweaver
    August 2, 2017 4:05 pm at 4:05 pm (4 months ago)

    I didn’t know that china and porcelain reference the same product. I kind of assumed they had different histories. Plating is really important to the restaurant experience so I bet food businesses spend a lot of time deciding on what tableware to use.

    Reply

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