Porcelain Mugs and Ceramic Mugs? When Should Each Be Used/Considered?The difference between porcelain mugs and other ceramic mugs is partly their content, partly their manufacturing process, and partly the ideas people have about them.
There is certainly a difference between porcelain mugs and other ceramic mugs. It is sometimes referred to as a quality difference, but it might be better to call it a suitability difference. The suitability of both porcelain mugs and ceramic mugs greatly depends on the situation in which they will be used.
Technically, of course, porcelain mugs are just one category ofceramic mugs. Other categories include pottery, stoneware, earthenware, and so on. Ceramic simply refers to “any product (as earthenware, porcelain, or brick) made essentially from a nonmetallic mineral (as clay) by firing at a high temperature.” Colloquially, most people speak of ceramic mugs as any kind of clay product that is not porcelain. The categories can become quite blurred in everyday speech. However, the differences between various types of ceramic mugs simply depend on the clay from which they are made and the temperature at which they are fired.
Earthenware is made of clay fired at less than 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit. It is still porous after firing, so it must be glazed in order to be used as a ceramic mug. The type of glazing will determine the quality of this kind of mug. Keep in mind that certain glazes should be used only for decorative containers because they can be toxic if used for food or drink containers.
Stoneware is made of clay that is fired at temperatures between 2,100 and 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit. It is not porous after firing, but it is often painted or glazed for decorative effect.
Porcelain mugs are made from kaolin clay and fired at temperatures as high as 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes an exceptionally white ceramic and can make very thin-walled vessels. For a long time, porcelain was referred to as "china" or "fine china" because the process was developed in China; Europeans tried to duplicate this kind of ceramic for over 200 years before developing a fair imitation. Because porcelain was so rare and coveted in Europe, it was quite valuable at the time. The connotation of value and exclusivity has clung to the term "china", and the term "porcelain" is often used loosely as an indicator of high quality ceramics.
Another difference between porcelain mugs and other kinds of ceramic mugs is the thickness of the clay sides. Porcelain mugs are thin enough to be translucent when held up to light; they have a particularly smooth texture, a beautiful luster, and they are comparatively lightweight and fragile. Other ceramic mugshave thicker sides (although the degree of thickness will vary), they are always opaque, and they are comparatively heavy and sturdy. They lend themselves both to folk designs and to sleek, modern designs. Because of the thick sides, they retain heat longer than other mugs.
The choice between porcelain mugs and other ceramic mugs should be made on the basis of suitability. Porcelain mugs are good choices when durability is not a major concern and an air of elegance is desired. Other ceramic mugs are good choices when practical, sturdy mugs are needed.
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