Bone china dishes have been around for a very long time and can be found in most china buffets, old and new. It was common practice for brides in the early to mid-1900's, to either get a set of china for a wedding gift or to collect it beforehand. Hence why most grandmothers had a set. Today's brides actually have a wider assortment of fine dishes to choose from, depending on what type of pattern or color they prefer.
The Process of Making Bone China
Several processes are involved in the making of bone china, but the ingredient that sets it apart from other china is the component of bone ash that is included in its manufacture. Hence where the name bone china comes from and without this ash component, china is not really 'bone' china. It is also usually more expensive than other china, and this is justified by the processes and intensive labor involved in its making.
A piece of bone china contains at least 25% of bone ash and this compound not only adds a certain amount of strength and white color to the china but also makes it somewhat translucent. Not totally transparent, but enough for the light to pass through it and that's very important.
How to Verify Authenticity
Generally, bone china is registered by the manufacturer and its trademark and number, as well as the pattern name, can be found under each piece.
However, over time these can become difficult to read, so it's always good to know you can quickly verify its authenticity, without requiring any special tools or resources. If you hold up any piece of bone china up to a light and place your hand behind it, you should be able to see your fingers through it.
It also has a certain clear ring, if you 'flick' the edge of a cup or plate with your fingernail. However, identifying this sound from that of any other tableware item does take some practice. Bone china is surprisingly stronger than it appears, but it's not indestructible, nor is it considered durable and unbreakable such as Melamine dishes. Care should be taken when handling these quality dishes first because of the monetary or heirloom value, but also because these are to be treasured and enjoyed, then passed on through the ages.
How to Care for Bone China
Some newer pieces may be marked 'dishwasher safe', but I strongly recommend always handwashing with a mild soap. And handling once piece at a time while washing, is also advised. Cup handles especially, are the most prone to breakage.
Dishwasher detergents are very harsh and over time will fade the pattern on your good dishes. OIder bone china was painted and designed for gentle handwashing. There is also a possibility that even with the best dishwasher loading practice, these delicate items can become chipped simply from rattling against other dishes because of the vibrations, during the dishwashing process. Because many if not most china patterns, have gold or metallic trims and bands, and these should never be placed in a microwave.
Bone china has lasted through generations and these beautiful heirloom pieces should be handed down to the next one. But don't be afraid to use it; it is made to be enjoyed. In fact, tea and coffee taste the best in bone china cups. And setting a table with this china gives it a touch of elegance, making the dinner more memorable and enjoyable.
If you'd like to collect or buy a set of china for your formal table, it is sold in many retailers including Amazon.com, as well as in jewelry retailers and where fine wedding gifts are sold. Note that some retailers may not provide the full product details and you may need to enquire to ensure you are purchasing bone china.
You have some table pieces but are unsure of how old they are? China is highly collectible and there are many publications and guides available to help you identify the pattern, the manufacturer and the era when it was made.
Find a good source and learn how to spot your favorite pattern.
You'll also find this type of tableware at flea markets and garage sales, which can net you some great deals. But, being sure of what you're purchasing is indeed bone china, is key to actually getting that bargain.
- Buy a china identification guide from Amazon
- How to put a single vintage plate to use
- Dinnerware and dinner plate options to consider
- How to properly pack dishes if you're moving