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What's the difference between porcelain and ceramics?

Porcelain, clay or ceramics? Why are there so many terms and what's the difference anyway?

Lets get into it- Porcelain is a distinctive subset within the realm of ceramics, it has its place within the broader category of ceramics. While some people might view porcelain as its own distinct medium, it is, in fact, a type of clay used in ceramic production, a subcategory of ceramics.

Porcelain is highly regarded for its remarkable translucency, pure white appearance, and exquisite fine-grained texture. It is made primarily from a specific type of clay known as kaolin, which is recognised for its purity and plasticity. The process of creating porcelain involves firing it at extremely high temperatures, often around 1300C, which results in a vitrified and non-porous material with exceptional strength and durability. This makes porcelain ideal for crafting fine china, decorative figurines, and delicate pottery.

One famous form of porcelain is bone china, which is renowned for its exceptional thinness and translucency. It is typically created through slip casting, a method where liquid clay (slip) is poured into moulds, allowing detailed designs that couldn't be made by hand. Bone china, as the name suggests, contains bone ash, usually sourced from cattle bones or synthetic, this enhances its whiteness and translucency creating the many famous pots you've seen in your granny's good cupboards before.

In general, porcelain and ceramics are interconnected, with porcelain being a distinguished subset of ceramics. While some differences exist in terms of clay composition, firing temperatures, and final appearance, both are rooted in the art of shaping and firing clay. So there we have it, porcelain is just another type of clay.  A clay with a lot of unique characteristics but a clay all the same.

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