History of Fine China: From Ancient China to Modern Day

Fine china plays a vital role in our lives today. But you might be surprised that fine china has a history lasting thousands of years. In ancient times, fine china was a symbol of wealth and social status.

This article will give you information about the history of fine china. If you are wondering about its origin and how it has become popular today, we will get you all covered.

What is Fine China?

Fine china is a type of expensive dinnerware. The word china, particularly in the USA, means good dishes.

Manufacturers mix feldspar, clays, quartz, and kaolin to make fine china. People love and use it widely because of its hard, transparent, and glass-like surface.

However, fine china is quite expensive and requires special care. Therefore, people only use it on special occasions like weddings, formal dinners, and holiday gatherings.

Besides, fine china is popular today as a collector’s item. More than a simple dinnerware item, it tells younger generations about history and culture.

History of Fine China

Fine china dates back thousands of years to ancient China. The rich history, therefore, makes it that valuable and famous.

Let’s take a trip back and learn about its history.

1. The Birth

Jiang Xi – a province of China – is the birthplace of porcelain tableware, also known as china. And Jing De, a town in Jiangxi province, has earned a reputation as the “Porcelain Capital” for its high-quality porcelain production.

In the Tang Dynasty, ancient Chinese people made the first pieces of fine china. During the Song Dynasty, they improved the techniques for making higher-quality fine china.

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The production became more and more widespread then. Chinese people mastered the skill of combining, shaping, and heating materials.

However, it wasn’t until the Yuan Dynasty people started to make fine china. Their products had a similar shape to the ones we use today.

The history of thousands of years up to now

2. The Impact of Trade

At the beginning of fine china production, Chinese people were the king of the industry. They held the secret for over four centuries between the 13th and 17th centuries.

During this period, traders from the Middle East and Europe highly sought fine china items.

Merchants from Europe and the Middle East took the Silk Road or the Maritime Silk Road to reach China to buy fine china.

Meanwhile, European and Middle Eastern people also attempted to make fine china. Unfortunately, they failed to copy fine china’s quality.

European and Middle Eastern merchants took the Silk Road to China.

3. European Emergence

In the 18th century, Europe eventually could make its own fine china. Josiah Spode was the first one to produce china in Europe. However, this product was not a perfect copy of those made in China despite similar color and composition.

The first fine china factory in Europe was founded in Meissen, Germany, in 1710.

After the Meissen factory’s success, European people opened many other fine china factories throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

Besides that, there were also factories in France, England, and Italy to produce expensive tableware and decorative objects.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the economies of European countries benefited from the production of fine china significantly.

Europe eventually could find the secret

4. England’s Arrival

England also started to produce fine china. Because they didn’t receive financial support from royals and nobles, England’s factories only focused on maximizing profits.

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English businessmen invested in new technologies to enhance their production. They employed hundreds of workers to keep the factories running smoothly.

Their target was the middle-class market. Hence, they focused on making cheaper fine china that imitated the luxurious designs of European factories.

Wedgwood and Spode, among other manufacturers, could produce high-quality items in large quantities. Hence, they met the demands of an expanding consumer market.

English entrepreneurs made inexpensive items

5. The Big Six

Staffordshire (England) was the center of fine china production in the 18th and 19th centuries. There were six towns that became particularly famous for their production: Stoke, Burslem, Tunstall, Fenton, Longton, and Hanley.

The success of Staffordshire was due to the availability of local resources such as clay, coal, and water. All of them were essential for producing fine china.

Additionally, people could easily transport raw materials and finished products. Hence, Staffordshire benefited from good transportation links, too.

In 1910, people combined six towns into one town called Stoke-on-Trent.

In the late 18th century, Josiah Spode first developed bone china. This product was sturdier and more durable than the previous ones. Thus, people widely used it to make expensive dinnerware.

The Future of Fine China

It is impossible to foresee the future of fine china, but there are still some reasonable predictions. According to a trend expert at Etsy, searches for fine china on the site increased by 39% in 2021.

The lockdowns and restrictions encouraged people to spend more time at home. Hence, they were seeking ways to make their everyday meals more special and luxurious.

So, people decided to use their fine china for casual meals instead of just using them for special events. This habit may last even when the pandemic is over.

In contrast, some young people show less interest in buying traditional fine china. Instead, they favor more practical and durable dinnerware for everyday meals and special occasions.

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Younger people nowadays in highly dense cities may not have the storage space for fine china displays. So, they just consider them outdated and impractical.

The lack of interest in fine china could cause a decline in sales and production for some traditional fine china brands.

Yet, nobody could know about the future of fine china. Maybe this industry will continue to face challenges due to younger generations’ lack of interest. Alternatively, they will eventually fall in love with traditional items.

We can’t know what will happen in the future

Why is Fine China Valuable?

In general, fine china is usually more expensive than other types of dinnerware. There are three main factors why fine china is valuable.

1. Manufacturing process

The production of fine china often involves a more significant amount of materials, effort, and time.

For example, a typical process of creating a single fine china item includes several steps, such as molding, firing, glazing, and painting. Each of them is hand-making and requires the attention of skilled artisans.

2. Popularity

Fine china’s luxurious and elegant appearance often makes it an attractive item among collectors. For them, price is not a big issue.

3. Historical or Cultural value

Many pieces of fine china have a history of thousands of years. This period’s historical or cultural significance further increases their value.

Final Thoughts

Fine china has a rich and fascinating history that spans thousands of years and multiple continents. Its production has spread to other parts of the world.

Despite the challenges and changes over time, the importance of fine china is what we must acknowledge.