From porcelain to bone china, there are several different china types to choose from. The designations among different types of china concern quality-related factors, such as the temperature at which the china was fired, the clay content, and how translucence of the materials used to produce the china.
Earthenware is fired at the lowest kiln temperatures, meaning it is not as durable as other china. While each form should come with instructions, care should be taken before washing earthenware in the dishwasher or using it in an oven.
Fired at a higher temperature than earthenware, stoneware is more durable and often dishwasher-safe. Stoneware also is microwave safe.
Porcelain is a mix of kaolin, flint and feldspar to create china. It is fired at the highest kiln temperatures possible, meaning it is safe for use in the dishwasher, microwave and oven.
Fine china is similar to porcelain, but contains more translucent materials, meaning it is considered to be a higher grade. Fine china is surprisingly durable and is safe in the microwave, dishwasher and oven.
Similar to fine china, bone china contains bone ash, which is the most translucent ceramic---making it the highest grade possible. While it may look delicate, bone china is the most durable of all types of china.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to determine the quality of china is to hold a plate up to light. If the plate is translucent in the light, it is of high quality.