History of Elizabethan Fine Bone China

Fine china tea cup
Fine china tea cup (Image: Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of T)

Elizabethan fine bone china is a finely painted type of porcelain china, with filigree-gold-plated or silver-gilt rims and edges, but despite its English heritage, its origins are Chinese.


Bone china first became popular in Europe, particularly during the Elizabethan era, hence the name, Elizabethan fine bone china. The Elizabethan era denotes the time period in which Elizabeth I, daughter to King Henry VIII, was queen of England. Elizabeth was a lover of the arts. The china was popular among people of wealth, whether royal, noble or rich merchants. Originally the porcelain china (bone china) was imported from China, particularly to the Ming dynasty; however, the Europeans began producing it themselves.


Bone china is a particular porcelain, which is made from actual cattle bones or bone ash, called calcined cattle bone. It can be identified by its bright white color and strength.


A full set of china would include larger plates, salad plates, bowls and saucers and cups. You can also find pitchers, tea kettles, creamers, sugar bowls, platters and cake plates. The china will be white, painted most likely with flowers or fruit, with gold-plated edges and/or handles.


Today you’ll find originals on sale at auctions and on display at museums, as well as many replicas available for sale through less-expensive venues. The china is used for decorative displays or to serve meals.

Fun Facts

Originally, the china from China was painted in blues and whites. The hallmarks of silver gilt and colors were later added and can be placed in Elizabethan time periods. Gold plate was added later.

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