Fine China: Fine China is the most expensive and the highest quality dinnerware, and is basically another name for porcelain. It is very durable, contrary to what most people think, and is made of a non-absorbent ceramic that has been fired at the highest kiln temperatures. Fine china can come with patterns that have metallic designs to them, such as a platinum or gold ribbon running around the perimeter of the plate, that give them a bit of elegance. Fine china is often showcased in homes when not in use because of its beauty and sophistication.
Earthenware: This is the oldest form of dinnerware and is fired at the lowest kiln temperatures. It does contain impurities and is absorbent and fragile because of the low kiln temperatures. It can be glazed or unglazed, and has a very natural look to it.
Stoneware: Stoneware is more-chip resistant than earthenware because it is fired at higher temperatures. To increase the durability and strength of stoneware, quartz, feldspar and flint are added to the clay. The appearance of stoneware is very casual and is a popular choice for “everyday” dinnerware. Stoneware is microwave and dishwasher safe for convenience.
Pottery: Pottery is even more durable than stoneware, but should be soaked in warm water before using to make the pieces more chip-resistant. Pottery dinnerware can be used in the microwave and dishwasher as well.
Bone china is the most durable of casual dinnerware. Bone ash is added to the mixing process to lend strength to the dinnerware. The ash also creates a whiter, more translucent ceramic that makes bone china an excellent and upscale choice for everyday dinnerware. Bone china does perform well in a microwave or dishwasher as long as there is no metallic detailing to it.