EARTH, WATER, AIR, FIRE. WHAT IS THE NEXUS BETWEEN THE FOUR ELEMENTS AND THE PORCELAIN? WE CAN SAY THAT THERE ARE MANY …
THE REAL PORCELAIN COMES TO LIFE FROM THE TRUE HARMONY OF THE FOUR ELEMENTS. WHILE FORMABILITY DERIVES FROM THE PROPER MIXTURE OF WATER AND CHINA CLAY (EARTH), THE WHITENESS AND TRANSLUCENCY ARE ENSURED BY THE COOPERATION OF FIRE AND AIR.
Earth, water, air, fire. What is the nexus between the four elements and the porcelain? We can say that there are many …
The real porcelain comes to life from the true harmony of the four elements. While formability derives from the proper mixture of water and china clay (earth), the whiteness and translucency are ensured by the cooperation of fire and air.
The porcelain – the finest ceramics material – is Chinese invention. A hard and solid material. Hitting it gives a ringing sound. Translucent with a clear white fracture, luminous, shelly.
The history of porcelain dates back to the third millennium BC. Many attempts have been made to produce porcelain over its five thousand years of history, so that in different parts of the world different types of porcelain were born differing in their composition. Basic raw materials are kaolin, feldspar and quartz in varying proportions.
Hard- and soft-paste porcelain
Considering the firing temperature two main groups of porcelain can be distinguished.
The so called „true” hard-paste porcelain (e.g. Herend) is burned between 1410 to 1500°C. The raw object being rather fragile is burned to biscuit, a porous structured material, then it’s glazed and burned again at a much higher temperature. The glaze of hard-paste porcelain is usually transparent, colorless with a high scratch resistance.
In contrary, due to its composition the soft porcelain is less heatable, so it’s burned concise by the very first fire between 1180-1300°C. It’s glazed after that at a much lower temperature. Thinner-walled vessels can be made of soft-paste porcelain, and is coated in any color glaze while the color intensity is maintained.
China, that’s it, porcelain
In honor of the Chinese inventors the word „china” is synonymous with the word „porcelain”, so China is inseparably connected with the porcelain.
Well, buying „bone china” or „fine china” we shouldn’t think to get original Chinese porcelain…
Anyway, the term „porcelain” comes from Marco Polo, the famous Venetian Asia-traveler. The old Italian term for the cowrie shell is „porcellana”, and due to similar translucent appearance of both the Chines ceramics and the sea shell Marco Polo used this term in his travelogues.
What’s bone china?
Now that we are aware of the terms of hard- and soft porcelain we can clear the term „bone china”, too. Some sources classify bone china as a type of soft-paste porcelain while others consider it as a separate category. Its specific characteristic is the ash beyond the raw materials that derives of animal (cattle) bone giving extraordinary brightness and transparency to this type of porcelain.
The bone china was developed by an English (not Chinese…) potter. The high mechanical strength makes this material convenient for producing porcelains of much thinner cross-section than any other.
Interestingly, due to the use of animal bones a lot of Vegetarian refuses the use of bone china products.
And what about fine china?
All porcelain made of kaolin-feldspar-quartz composition is called „fine china”. It includes no bone ash.
Hungarian porcelain, international reputation
The Hungarian porcelain manufacture started in the nineteenth century only. The most significant Hungarian porcelain factory was founded in 1826 by Vince Stingl in Herend. The Herend Porcelain Manufactory reinterpreted its 160-yearl-old Victoria motif when the wedding gift of Prince William and Kate Middleton was decorated with so called Royal Garden motif. This was the official wedding gift of Hungary to the young British ducal couple.
The history of Zsolnay Porcelain Manufactory goes back to 1853. Vilmos Zsolnay (1828-1900) together with renowned scientists and fine artists of the era introduced sensational innovations in the ceramic industry. He developed the faience porcelain enamel technique, which was awarded by the French Legion of Honor and the Gold medal of the Paris World Expo in 1878.
The future of the porcelain
The future of the „fragile” industry seems to be unbreakable. China brands with hundreds of years of history in their backgrounds have been renewing: respecting the tradition they follow the trends of today.
So it’s safe to say: porcelain was, is and will be.