Jian ware tea bowl with "hare's fur" glaze, southern Song dynasty, 12th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art (see below)[1]

Stoneware is a broad term for pottery fired at a relatively high temperature.[2] A modern definition is a vitreous or semi-vitreous ceramic made primarily from stoneware clay or non-refractory fire clay.[3][4] End applications include tableware, decorative ware such as vases.

Stoneware is fired at between about 1,100 °C (2,010 °F) to 1,300 °C (2,370 °F). Historically, reaching such temperatures was a long-lasting challenge, and temperatures somewhat below these were used for a long time.[5]

Three contemporary stoneware mixing bowls

It was developed independently in different locations around the world, after earthenware and before porcelain. Stoneware is not recognised as a category in traditional East Asian terminology, and much Asian stoneware, such as Chinese Ding ware for example, is counted as porcelain by local definitions.[6] Terms such as "porcellaneous" or "near-porcelain" may be used in such cases. Traditional East Asian thinking classifies pottery only into "low-fired" and "high-fired" wares, equating to earthenware and porcelain, without the intermediate European class of stoneware, and the many local types of stoneware were mostly classed as porcelain, though often not white and translucent.[7]

One definition of stoneware is from the Combined Nomenclature of the European Communities, a European industry standard. It states:

Stoneware, which, though dense, impermeable and hard enough to resist scratching by a steel point, differs from porcelain because it is more opaque, and normally only partially vitrified. It may be vitreous or semi-vitreous. It is usually coloured grey or brownish because of impurities in the clay used for its manufacture, and is normally glazed.[4][8]


Five basic categories of stoneware have been suggested:[9]

Telegraph insulator, 1840s-1850

Another type, Flintless Stoneware, has also been identified. It is defined in the UK Pottery (Health and Welfare) Special Regulations of 1950 as: "Stoneware, the body of which consists of natural clay to which no flint or quartz or other form of free silica has been added."[11]


Main article: Pottery § Production

American stoneware jug with Albany slip glaze on the top, c. 1900, Red Wing, Minnesota[12]


The compositions of stoneware bodies vary considerably, and include both prepared and 'as dug'; the former being by far the dominant type for studio and industry. Nevertheless, the vast majority will conform to: plastic fire clays, 0 to 100%; ball clays, 0 to 15%; quartz, 0%; feldspar and chamotte, 0 to 15%.[13]

The key raw material is either naturally occurring stoneware clay or non-refractory fire clay. The mineral kaolinite is present but disordered, and although mica and quartz are present their particle size is very small. Stoneware clay is often accompanied by impurities such as iron or carbon, giving it a "dirty" look, and its plasticity can vary widely.[14] Non-refractory fire clay may be another key raw material. Fire clays are generally considered refractory, because they withstand very high temperatures before melting or crumbling. Refractory fire clays have a high concentration of kaolinite, with lesser amounts of mica and quartz. Non-refractory fire clays, however, have larger amounts of mica and feldspar.[15]

A Staffordshire pottery stoneware plate from the 1850s with white glaze and transfer printed design. Visually this hardly differs from earthenware or porcelain equivalents.


Main article: Pottery § Shaping


Stoneware can be once-fired or twice-fired. Maximum firing temperatures can vary significantly, from 1100 °C to 1300 °C depending on the flux content. Most commonly an oxidising kiln atmosphere is used.[16] Typically, temperatures will be between 1180 °C and 1280 °C. To produce a better quality fired glaze finish, twice-firing can be used. This can be especially important for formulations composed of highly carbonaceous clays. For these, biscuit firing is around 900 °C, and glost firing (the firing used to form the glaze over the ware) 1180–1280 °C. After firing the Water absorption should be less than 1 per cent.[17]



Chinese Yixing teapot, Qing dynasty, c. 1765–1835, with painted slip.

The Indus Valley civilization produced stoneware,[18] with an industry of a nearly industrial-scale mass-production of stoneware bangles throughout the civilization's Mature Period (2600–1900 BC).[19][20] Early examples of stoneware have been found in China,[21] naturally as an extension of higher temperatures achieved from early development of reduction firing,[22] with large quantities produced from the Han dynasty onwards.[23][24]

In both medieval China and Japan, stoneware was very common, and several types became admired for their simple forms and subtle glaze effects. Japan did not make porcelain until about 1600, and north China (in contrast to the south) lacks the appropriate kaolin-rich clays for porcelain on a strict Western definition. Jian ware in the Song dynasty was mostly used for tea wares, and appealed to Buddhist monks. Most Longquan celadon, a very important ware in medieval China, was stoneware. Ding ware comes very close to porcelain, and even modern Western sources are notably divided as to how to describe it, although it is not translucent and the body often grey rather than white.

In China, fine pottery was very largely porcelain by the Ming dynasty, and stoneware mostly restricted to utilitarian wares, and those for the poor. Exceptions to this include the unglazed Yixing clay teapot, made from a clay believed to suit tea especially well, and Shiwan ware, used for popular figures and architectural sculpture.

In Japan many traditional types of stoneware, for example Oribe ware and Shino ware, were preferred for chawan cups for the Japanese tea ceremony, and have been valued up to the present for this and other uses. From a combination of philosophical and nationalist reasons, the primitive or folk art aesthetic qualities of many Japanese village traditions, originally mostly made by farmers in slack periods in the agricultural calendar, have retained considerable prestige. Influential tea masters praised the rough, spontaneous, wabi-sabi, appearance of Japanese rural wares, mostly stoneware, over the perfection of Chinese-inspired porcelain made by highly skilled specialists.

Stoneware was also produced in Korean pottery, from at least the 5th century, and much of the finest Korean pottery might be so classified; like elsewhere the border with porcelain is imprecise. Celadons and much underglaze blue and white pottery can be called stoneware.

Historical stoneware production sites in Thailand are Si Satchanalai and Sukhothai. The firing technology seems to have come from China.[25]


Wedgwood jasperware salt cellar with The Dancing Hours, 1780–1785

In contrast to Asia, stoneware could be produced in Europe only from the late Middle Ages, as European kilns were less efficient, and the right sorts of clay less common. Some ancient Roman pottery had approached being stoneware, but not as a consistent type of ware. Medieval stoneware remained a much-exported speciality of Germany, especially along the Rhine, until the Renaissance or later, typically used for large jugs, jars and beer-mugs. "Proto-stoneware", such as Pingsdorf ware, and then "near-stoneware" was developed there by 1250, and fully vitrified wares were being produced on a large scale by 1325.[26] The salt-glazed style that became typical was not perfected until the late 15th century.[27]

Gutter pipe. 1850-1875

England became the most inventive and important European maker of fancy stoneware in the 18th and 19th centuries,[28] but there is no clear evidence for native English stoneware production before the mid-17th century. German imports were common from the early 16th century at least, and known as "Cologne ware", after the centre of shipping it rather than of making it. Some German potters were probably making stoneware in London in the 1640s, and a father and son Wooltus (or Woolters) were doing so in Southampton in the 1660s.[29]

In the second half of the 18th century Wedgwood developed a number of ceramic bodies. One of these, Jasperware, is sometimes classified as stoneware although its raw materials differ considerably from all other stonewares; it remains in production. Other manufacturers produced their own types, including various ironstone china types, which some classified as earthenware.

Significant amounts of modern, commercial tableware and kitchenware use stoneware, and it is common in craft and studio pottery. The popular Japanese-inspired raku ware is normally stoneware.

Historical examples

Salt glazed jug by Doulton, England, 1875
Coade stone lion at Twickenham Stadium



  1. ^ "Tea Bowl with "Hare's-Fur" Glaze". Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2012-11-30. Retrieved 2013-02-19.
  2. ^ Clay vitrifying temperatures
  3. ^ Standard Terminology of Ceramic Whiteware and Related Products: ASTM Standard C242.
  4. ^ a b Arthur Dodd & David Murfin. Dictionary of Ceramics; 3rd edition. The Institute of Minerals, 1994.
  5. ^ Medley, Margaret, The Chinese Potter: A Practical History of Chinese Ceramics, p. 13, 3rd edition, 1989, PhaidonISBN 071482593X
  6. ^ Valenstein, S. (1998). A handbook of Chinese ceramics, p. 22, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. ISBN 9780870995149
  7. ^ Valenstein, S. (1998). A handbook of Chinese ceramics, pp. 22, 59-60, 72, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. ISBN 9780870995149
  8. ^ Though "normally glazed" is not true for many historical and modern examples.
  9. ^ F. Singer & S. S. Singer. Industrial Ceramics. London: Chapman & Hall, 1963
  10. ^ a b c Dictionary Of Ceramics. Arthur Dodd & David Murfin. 3rd edition. The Institute Of Minerals. 1994.
  11. ^ Arthur Dodd & David Murfin. Dictionary of Ceramics; 3rd edition. The Institute Of Minerals, 1994.
  12. ^ "Red Wing bailed jug with Jacob Esch advertisement". MNHS Collections.
  13. ^ Rhodes, Daniel and Hopper, Robin. Clay and Glazes for the Potter. Iola, Wisc.: Krause Publications, 2000, p. 109.
  14. ^ Cuff, Yvonne Hutchinson. Ceramic Technology for Potters and Sculptors. London: A.&C. Black, 1994, p. 64.
  15. ^ Cripss, J.C.; Reeves, G.M.; and Sims, I. Clay Materials Used in Construction. London: The Geological Society, 2006, p. 408.
  16. ^ Paul Rado An Introduction to the Technology of Pottery; 2nd ed. Oxford: Published on behalf of the Institute of Ceramics by Pergamon, 1988 ISBN 0-08-034932-3
  17. ^ W. Ryan & C. Radford. Whitewares: production, testing and quality control. Oxford: Published on behalf of the Institute of Ceramics by Pergamon, 1987 ISBN 0-08-034927-7
  18. ^ Mark Kenoyer, Jonathan (1998). Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Oxford University Press. p. 260.
  19. ^ Satyawadi, Sudha (July 1, 1994). Proto-Historic Pottery of Indus Valley Civilization; Study of Painted Motif. D.K. Printworld. p. 324. ISBN 978-8124600306.
  20. ^ Blackman, M. James; et al. (1992). The Production and Distribution of Stoneware Bangles at Mohenjo-daro and Harappa as Monitored by Chemical Characterization Studies. Madison, WI, USA: Prehistory Press. pp. 37–44.
  21. ^ The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Stoneware". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |url= (help)
  22. ^ Sato, Masahiko. Chinese Ceramics: A Short History (1st edition). John Weatherhill, Inc. (1981), p.15.
  23. ^ Li, He. Chinese Ceramics: A New Comprehensive Survey. Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. New York, New York (1996), p. 39.
  24. ^ Rhodes, Daniel. Stoneware and Porcelain: The Art of High-Fired Pottery. Chilton Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1959), pp. 7 - 8.
  25. ^ "Pottery". www.wangdermpalace.org. Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  26. ^ Wood, 2; Crabtree, Pamela, ed., Medieval Archaeology, Routledge Encyclopedias of the Middle Ages, 2013, Routledge, ISBN 113558298X, 9781135582982, google books
  27. ^ Wood, 2
  28. ^ Wood, xvi-xvii
  29. ^ Wood, 1
  30. ^ The Discovery Of European Porcelain By Bottger - A Systematic Creative Development. W. Schule, W. Goder. Keram. Z. 34, (10), 598, 1982
  31. ^ 300th Anniversary. Johann Friedrich Bottger - The Inventor Of European Porcelain. Interceram 31, (1), 15, 1982
  32. ^ Invention Of European Porcelain. M. Mields. Sprechsaal 115, (1), 64, 1982
  33. ^ "WedgwoodŽ Official UK Site: Wedgwood China, Fine China Tableware and Gifting". Wedgwood.com. Archived from the original on 2010-08-03. Retrieved 2012-04-26.
  34. ^ "Cane Ware". Wedgwoodsocalif.org. 2012-01-23. Archived from the original on 2012-02-23. Retrieved 2012-04-26.
  35. ^ Hughes, 45-46
  36. ^ "Wedgwood Official UK Site: Wedgwood". Wedgwood.com. Archived from the original on 2011-01-20. Retrieved 2012-04-26.
  37. ^ Wedgwood and his imitators. N.H.Moore. Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1909.
  38. ^ Hughes, 72-75, 73 quoted

General sources