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Ceramic items are made of clay. The composition and type of fire on the clay, determines what type of ceramic you have. There are three types, pottery, stoneware or porcelain. Here is a list of characteristics of each.
1. Pottery
Pottery, also known as earthenware is a porous, lightweight material. While larger piece can get very heavy, lightweight refers to the strength of the material. Pottery is easily scratched and has a grainy texture. This is why it is used mainly for plants, bowls or vases. While plates can be made of pottery, these should be mainly for show. If you have to cut any food on your pottery plate, the plate will be scratched by the knife. Because of pottery's composition, it is easy to manipulate. This is why many people spin pottery as a hobby, making all sorts of items.
2. Ironstone
Ironstone, or stoneware, is a heavier material. It is nonporous, which gives it a fine-grain. If these pieces are left unfired, they can be very casual or rugged, and used for big pots or jugs. When ironstone is fired it is very smooth. You can use it for large cooking dishes or delicate plates and candy jars. It is very difficult to scratch with a knife.
3. Porcelain
Porcelain is widely used as plate. Its nonporous and glassy structure makes it impossible to scratch with a knife. Depending on the style and fire on a porcelain plate, it is probably called china. We used to call plates china only if they originated from China. But, now, it is a common term, like Kleenex, to describe a type of dish ware. Porcelain is a moderate weight. This give it an advantage as well for dishes, so that everyone can pick them up and move them from place to place.