The Difference Between Ceramic & Porcelain

The Difference Between Ceramic & Porcelain

If you’re anything like me, you’ll love going through the homeware and kitchen aisles. There’s nothing better than looking at all the amazing cookware and appliances that the world has to offer. Then envisioning the perfect kitchen set-up, in your ideal home (once you win the lottery, of course). There is a drawback to this, of course. Sometimes, there are just too many choices! Especially if you’re looking to invest in quality goods. 

After all, you don’t want to put down a lot of money for something that could be considered sub-par. Not when you have the option of paying the same amount for a different material. You want to be sure you’re getting the best. Below, we’ll discuss the differences between ceramic and porcelain goods, as well as why you might want to choose one over the other. 

What is Ceramic?

Ceramic is the product of taking clay and hardening the material with heat. It is brittle but very hard and strong, while being unlikely to corrode. This can make ceramic the perfect choice for a number of uses.

There are actually three different types of traditional ceramic, named Earthenware, Stoneware and Porcelain. While each has its own qualities, the most common types are earthenware (commonly referred to as simply “ceramic”) and porcelain, which we’ll discuss in more detail, below. 

ceramic vs porcelain
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

“Ceramic” quite literally comes from the Greek word for “pottery”. And, at this point, you can probably already tell that it is one of the oldest human technologies – with some ceramics being dated as far back as 18,500BC! These days, there are certainly more advanced forms of ceramics- including bio-ceramics. But we’ll stick to the basics for now!

What is Porcelain?

Porcelain takes the basic form of ceramic but uses finer materials. The process includes taking kaolin clay and mixing this with glass, granite and feldspar minerals, before vitrifying the item. In other words, extreme heat is used to take away any porous aspect of the pottery. This creates a more glass-like appearance. It also works to harden the material, since there’s less chance of the item breaking if there are fewer pockets of air available in the clay.

Ceramic Vs Porcelain

You would be forgiven for thinking, at this point, that porcelain is better than standard ceramic. However, that may not necessarily be the case! The best way to tell what you should buy depends entirely on what you intend to use it for. For example, in terms of porcelain vs ceramic mugs, you might find that standard ceramic works better in keeping your coffee warmer for longer. This is because the air pockets will actually hold in the heat, for longer. 

The difference between ceramic and porcelain dinnerware, however, is really based more on your style and taste in crockery. If you prefer your plates and pots to have a smoother finish, you’ll pay a little more. But you will have a lovely looking piece of work. That said, many different ceramics as a whole can be various shapes with some basic designs inlaid into the pottery. These are then finished with a glaze, so there’s not a huge amount of difference here.

The real differences begin when you consider other uses. For example, a porcelain tile is much less likely to be damaged by water over an extended period of time, due to its refined nature. This can make them ideal for bathrooms and kitchens, although their pricing can create a steep increase in your overall budget. 

How to Tell the Difference Between the Two

Still not sure about how to tell ceramic and porcelain apart? These quick tips should help out.

  • Ceramic (earthenware and stoneware) is generally heavier than porcelain. 
  • You’ll notice that ceramic work feels a bit more “rustic” and has a bit of added thickness to the item
  • The item can sometimes feel a little rough- although most modern pieces will be glazed before being sold, so this isn’t always the case
  • Ceramics are easy to maintain. For the most part, they can go in the microwave and dishwasher (unless they have an inlaid design or similar which can become damaged in these conditions)
  • Ceramic is also more likely to chip which, again, is due to the thickness created from the comparatively unrefined creation process
  • Porcelain will usually be thinner and have finer edges
  • It is also usually much lighter, since the “bulk” of the material has been refined with lighter materials during the creation process
  • Porcelain is non-porous and lends itself well to dining. 
  • It is less likely to stain from recurrent use, do its non-porous nature
  • Porcelain should have a translucent appearance- making it more aesthetically pleasing and great for formal dining
  • While most porcelain can be used in dishwashers and microwaves, it’s not advisable for these to be used. Particularly when porcelain is usually inlaid or has metal trims along the outer ridges. 

Ceramic VS Porcelain – The Marketing Strategy

The majority of the differences between the two, however, come down to a simple marketing strategy, unfortunately. There are many companies now that look to “reverse name” their items. That is, they’ll take into account what the item looks and feels like, before deciding on whether it is one or the other. Which is very different from creating the item in line with the traditional methods, so it follows a more exacting specification.

Photo by Monstera from Pexels

If you’re looking specifically for porcelain, then try to get your new purchases from a shop that allows for certification. It might sound a little paranoid, but this is the only sure-fire way of ensuring you’re getting genuine goods. Meaning you get peace of mind that your item is quality and that it has been through the correct procedures. Of course, it also lets you know that you’re getting your money’s worth, since porcelain can be expensive, and it would be very frustrating to find out your latest purchase is standard ceramic. If you’re looking for tiles, for example, you should be able to get your tiles with a certification from the Porcelain Tile Certification Agency (PTCA).  



Editor-in-chief, lover of UX/UI and copywriter by trade. Wendy can usually be found ranting to herself over on Twitter, educating herself about health and wellness, parenting or gaming. Luckily, she doesn't do all of these things at the same time - though you'd be surprised how often they cross over.

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