Ceramics Vs Pottery: What Is The Difference?

Beginners often use the words ceramics and pottery interchangeably. Although both words are similar, there is a small difference between them.

So let’s take a look at the difference between ceramics and pottery.

What is Ceramics?

Ceramics is any item that is made with a non-metallic material and is heated to the point that its physical properties change.

For example, clay is the most common material used in ceramics. Normally, it will dissolve when put in water. However, if clay is heated to between 660 F and 1470 F (350 and 800 C) in a kiln, its chemical composition will change, and the clay will no longer dissolve when it comes in contact with water.

While clay is the most common material used for ceramics, many other materials such as silica, sand, lime, alumina, and flux can also be used.

The earliest evidence of ceramics date back at least 26,000 years, with the earliest ceramics being found in south-central Europe.

Ceramics are any product (such as earthenware, porcelain, or brick) made essentially from a nonmetallic mineral (such as clay) by firing at a high temperature.


Examples of ceramics

Below you can find a few examples of ceramics. As you can see, ceramics is much more than only pots and vases.

For more examples, you can also read our articles on the best ceramicists to follow or ceramic materials.

What is Pottery?

The term pottery refers to any container made out of clay. Pottery is made by forming clay, either by hand or with a potter’s wheel, into the desired shape, usually a vase or pot-like shape.

Although using a pottery wheel is the most common way to shape the clay, there are also many other ways to mold the clay, such as slab pottery.

After the clay is in shape, it is then heated, like ceramics are, to harden it and make sure it can hold its shape.

Pottery can be dated back to the neolithic era, with examples of pottery being found in the Czech Republic that can be dated as far back as 29,000 B.C.

Examples of pottery

Below you can find a few good examples of pottery. As you can see, most examples are some sort of containers (cups, mugs, vase, etc.) made out of clay.

What is the difference between ceramics and pottery?

The conversation of ceramics vs pottery can not be had without discussing the difference between the two terms. As stated above, they are both ancient practices involving heating up clay to make items, but how are they different?

Well, for starters, ceramics is a large umbrella term. Ceramics includes a lot of subgroups inside it and does not refer to one specific thing.

Meanwhile, pottery refers only to containers made out of heated up clay and clay-like materials.

In fact, technically, pottery is itself a type of ceramic. Pottery falls under that large umbrella term and is the most popular and well-known form of ceramics. That’s why many people use the two terms interchangeably.

Now that you know the difference between pottery and ceramics, you’ll probably be able to guess the difference between a potter and ceramist as well.

What are the main types of ceramics?

As mentioned above, there are a lot of different types of ceramics, but there are a few that you are most likely to come across:

  • Earthenware: is made of clay that is heated to a comparatively low temperature of 1,832 F to 2,102 F (1,000 C to 1,150 C).
  • Stoneware: is made from clay that’s fired at a higher temperature of 2,192 F (1,200 C) until it is similar to glass in makeup.
  • Porcelain: is made from glass, granite, and feldspar minerals that are ground up with white clay and then is mixed with some water. The resulting product gets cooked between 2,192 F to 2,642 F (1,200 C to 1,450 C).

As you can see, the most important difference is the temperature at which ceramics are fired at, which can range from 1800 to 2600 F.

Beyond that, ceramics can also be categorized according to the materials they are made from:

  • Oxides: are made from clay with materials like alumina, beryllia, and zirconia in it.
  • Non-oxides: are made from clay with materials like carbide, nitride, and silicide in it.
  • Composite materials: are made from clay that has combinations of oxides and non-oxides.

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