There are several different types of ceramics. But stoneware and porcelain are the most common.
Regardless if you are looking to buy a new dinner set or if you want to pick up pottery, it’s important to know the differences between these two.
So let’s take a look at the most important differences!
Differences between stoneware and porcelain
The main differences in stoneware and porcelain can be found in their porosity, durability, looks, and cost. You can find a more detailed explanation for all of these points below.
Additionally, as a potter it’s also important to know that porcelain clay feels smoother and needs to be fired at higher temperatures.
I know it might sound pretty irrelevant, but the degree of porosity in ceramics is actually very important. It can influence many other properties such as the strength, weight, resistance to thermal shock, etc.
Porcelain is almost completely non-porous. According to manufacturing regulation, porcelain is allowed to absorb no more than 0.5% of it’s own weight as water. That’s extremely low and also why porcelain tiles are often used in bathrooms and as kitchen backsplash.
Earthenware is a little more porous, but still less porous than earthenware. Earthenware can normally absorb roughly 2~8% water, depending on the coarseness of the used clay.
Both stoneware and porcelain are very durable after they have been fired at the appropriate temperatures. However, since stoneware is more porous it does break or chip a little bit faster than porcelain.
To correct for this, you will often see that stoneware pieces are a little thicker than their porcelain counterparts.
Additionally, with porcelain you can achieve extremely thin yet durable components/pieces. If you would make similarly thin parts with stoneware, it would break very fast. Which is why most elaborately decorated ceramic pieces are made from porcelain.
The components in porcelain clay is slightly different from stoneware clay. That’s why fired pieces will often have different colors.
The vast majority of porcelain is white. Although there are a few exceptions such as black porcelain.
Stoneware comes in a variety of earth tones such as gray, various browns, or white. Sometimes additives are use to give a more vibrant color to stoneware. An example is iron oxide which gives the famous red terracotta colors.
Stoneware is normally heavier than porcelain because the stoneware clay is coarser. And as mentioned above, since stoneware is a little more brittle, stoneware pieces are normally a little thicker. Which makes them even heavier.
So if you pick up a stoneware mug and a porcelain mug, you will feel a noticeable difference in their weight.
5. Heat resistance
Like any type of ceramics, you don’t want to expose either stoneware or porcelain to extreme temperature changes. So don’t take a chilled bowl from the fridge and place it right in a preheated oven. Just like glass, ceramics can break if the temperature changes too fast.
That being said, with a little bit of care both stoneware and porcelain are excellent for cooking and baking. And both can normally be used in a microwave as well.
6. Firing temperature
After shaping the clay, it needs to be heated at high temperatures in a pottery kiln before it becomes hard.
Each type of clay needs to be fired at different temperatures for different durations. So always check the package or instructions that came with the clay.
In general, stoneware needs to be fired above 2100 degrees Fahrenheit and porcelain clay is fired at 2300 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
It only takes a quick trip to the store to see whether stoneware or porcelain is more expensive. And in most cases, the porcelain plates and cups will cost you more.
A big part of the price difference is due to the clay. Porcelain clay is simply more expensive than stoneware clay.
Moreover, since porcelain need to be heated at higher temperatures, the cost of firing your kiln will be higher as well.
Despite both being classified as ceramics, stoneware and porcelain have a lot of differences. A major difference is the higher porosity of stoneware, which makes it slightly less durable. In terms of appearance, porcelain is normally white, while stoneware comes in a variety of earth tones. Porcelain is also more expensive than stoneware due to the high price of porcelain clay and the higher firing temperature required.
If you want to learn more about the different types of pottery, I would also recommend you to take a look at our article on earthenware vs stoneware.
Or you could check out or pottery for beginners page, which contains all of our important articles.