China – the one word that we use to describe buying all of those essential items that we eat our food with. It’s funny though; a lot of the plates, cups and bowls that we actually use to eat are not made from china at all, but rather a whole range of other materials. Each one will bring a completely different appeal and sense of style to the table, so perhaps it is time to investigate further?
Perhaps you have heard one or more of the following words – bone china, porcelain, stoneware and earthenware. Each of these things will be made in a different way and use different ingredients to create them.
We will start with bone china. The clue is pretty much in the name – one of the main ingredients is ash that derives from animal bones. Usually, this is a type is not only translucent, but also very white in color, and will also be one of the strongest sets of china you will ever own.
Porcelain, again, the clue is very much in the name. It is made from porcelain clay, and is translucent and white, just like bone china. Usually, this kind will be referred to as “fine” china, or best china, and can be expensive to buy.
Stoneware is one of the strongest kinds that you can buy because it has been fired at an extremely high temperature. You will usually find fire clay, ball clay, feldspar, quartz and chamotte in the makeup of this type of china, although amounts will vary.
Earthenware is just like stoneware, except not quite as strong because the temperatures it has been fired at are rather low. This kind will need to be glazed before it is used because it is a rather porous material, and you will also find that it chips very easily, making it one of the cheapest varieties on the market. Usually, you will find four main ingredients within this type of china, and amounts of each will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer – feldspar, quartz, kaolin and ball clay.
Of course, if you are on a budget, you may wish to consider buying seconds. These seconds are basically pieces that have failed the quality controls of the manufacturers for one reason or another, and usually the flaws are minor and do not affect the state of the product at all, and in some cases, can even give them more character. If you are looking for a good set of china for a cheaper than average price, this is definitely the place that you should start looking.
To make life easier for you, it is best to stick to seconds that are plain in design, without any designs or intricacies about them. These designs will often point out the floors, and the last thing that you will want people to know when you are serving up a delicious dish on your very best china is that you didn’t pay full price for them because they have been damaged in some way.
There are a few tricks to keep in mind when buying seconds. For example, don’t just look at the plates or other china that you are buying from one angle. Let’s imagine that a dinner guest picks up your plate and looks at it from a different point of view than you had – they may see flaws that you won’t have noticed. When you look at seconds, look at them from all angles so that you can easily see distinguishable problems and avoid buying the ones that are too damaged or warped. The same kind of thing applies to cups and bowls – you don’t want your dinner set to have a completely different thickness applied to all of them!
One thing that usually means that china fails quality controls is the glaze, and you should make sure that there are no inconsistencies with it. You can, of course, re-glaze them if you are feeling crafty enough and you will save money by doing this, but you should be aware of any problems before you take them home.
One thing is for sure when you are buying china seconds, and that is that you must take your time when buying them. Look them over one by one and make sure that you look properly. It would be embarrassing for your mother-in-law to point out something that you hadn’t noticed!
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