Fine China Tidbits and Care

Fine China Tidbits and Care

By Patricia Roberts

Co-owner of Coffee Tea & Thee

The various chinas labeled as bone china or porcelain china, may be confusing, but understanding the properties of the clays used to make fine china will quickly dispel any confusion.. The properties of clays include plasticity, shrinkage under firing and under air drying, fineness of grain, color after firing, hardness, cohesion, and capacity of the surface to take decoration. The purest clays are the china clays or kaolins. “Ball clay” is a name for a group of plastic, high temperature clays used with other clays to improve their plasticity and to increase their strength.

The finest china is bone china with its translucency and a distinct chime unequaled by any other pottery. What sets bone china apart from other teaware is the addition of bone ash to the clay. If you hold a piece of bone china up to light you should be able to see the light through the china. China clay, is one of the purest of the clays. China clays have long been used in the ceramic industry, especially in fine porcelains, because they can be easily molded, have a fine texture, and are white when fired. Bone ash is the ingredient that gives bone china its added translucency and whiteness over porcelain.

The early ceramic industry was based in the Staffordshire England towns of Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Longton, Stoke-upon-Trent and Tunstall. These six towns were amalgamated in 1910 to form a single entity - Stoke-on-Trent. Stoke-on-Trent, at the center of the area now known as "The Potteries", has maintained a leadership role in the ceramic industry, building upon the traditions and skills established three centuries ago. The area known as "the potteries" is often referred to as the birthplace of bone china.

Porcelain china is white, hard, permanent, non porous pottery having translucence which is resonant when struck. There are two main types of porcelain: soft paste and hard paste.

Soft paste porcelain is more creamy in color and contains more glass-like substances and remains somewhat porous. When broken, it reveals a grainy base covered by the glassy layer of glaze. Hard paste porcelain is purer white in color, non porous and when broken it is nearly impossible to distinguish the base from the glaze on the outside. Porcelain is valued for it's beauty and strength and is often called china or chinaware. The type of porcelain used for tableware has a bell like ring to it when struck.

Caring For Your China

Care should be taken when handling china. Never place fine china in a dishwasher as strong dishwashing soaps could damage the china over time. Hand washing in hot water and mild detergent is the recommended course of action. Wash in plastic containers or line your sink with a towel. Rinse in cool water to which you add 1/4 cup of vinegar per gallon. Air dry or dry with a lint free cloth. For stain removal, try mixing hot water with baking soda, about 1/4 cup per gallon. Fill the teapot or tea cups with mixture and let soak for an hour. Follow with a regular hand washing as described above. If this does not produce the results you want, combine a small amount of salt with lemon juice or vinegar. Pour small amount into teapot or tea cup and gently scrub using your fingers. Rinse in cool water to which you add 1/4 cup of vinegar per gallon. Air dry or dry with a lint free cloth. If your bone china has gold or silver trim it should not be placed in a microwave.

Displaying Your China Collection

A collection can be anything from tea bag tags to complete china tea sets. Displaying your collection will not only protect it from damage but will make it enjoyable for others to view. Making your collection a part of your decorating theme adds personality to your home.

So if you have a collection, or have started your collection, how do you display it? Look first for the obvious possibilities; coffee tables, end tables, shelves, sideboards and walls in living or dining areas. The less obvious areas might be, over or along doorways or unused closets or cabinets. Grouping your collections together gives them a more powerful presentation while a variety of shapes, sizes and colors creates a strong focal point.

China cabinets offer the best protection and will showcase your fine china collection beautifully. The lighting in the cabinet adds further enhancement, while being enclosed exposes your china to less dust and grime. It may be the best way for protecting an investment and is recommended when your collection includes pricey antiques or precious family heirlooms. If you only have a few specially valued pieces consider individual display cases of wood and glass or acrylic. As an Internet search for display cases proves, the collectors market is full of manufacturers of various display cases which you could adapt to your prized teapot or tea cups.

Another cabinet idea is for those that have more kitchen cabinets than they need for everyday storage. Glass doors on a section of cabinets easily converts them into display cabinets for your china collection. Lighting could also be added for greater "show off" ability.

Here are some tips to spark your creative side when looking throughout your home for display possibilities.

-Doilies of lace or fine crochet under your china collectibles adds texture and completes the setting.

-A collection of plates or tea cups is a wonderful touch over a doorway or a narrow section of wall.

-Fill a basket with cups and saucers and lace or crocheted doilies or napkins.

-Light up your table with tea cups. Fill with water and insert floating wick candles.

Use other items with your collection such as a framed photo of your grandmother with the china she gave you.

Unless a bedroom contains a sitting area, it is best to display your china collection in the living, dining and kitchen areas or your home. Most importantly, don't be afraid to use your fine china, it is made to be enjoyed and then handed down to the next generation. If you have never experienced tea or coffee from a fine china tea cup or mug, you have missed a memorable experience.

©2006 All rights reserved Patricia Roberts


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