Different Types Of Ceramics-A Brief Guide To The Different Materials

From making artistic statues to everyday utensils, ceramic and ceramic items have come a long way. And in modern times, ceramic items can be seen everywhere and in every household.

But how many of us really know about the types of ceramics and their history?

Generally, there are four main ceramic types available: earthenwares, stonewares, porcelain, and bone china. Earthenwares are pottery items that are not fired in a kiln, while the stonewares are fired and glazed. Porcelain ceramics are used as bathroom and kitchen tiles, etc. On the other hand, bone china is tougher than porcelain but can be turned into thinner forms.

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Different Types Of Ceramics

Other ceramics are available, but you are more likely to come across the types mentioned above. But there are a lot more things to learn if you want to know everything about ceramics. The good thing is I have tried to cover everything on this topic in today’s article.

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What Is Ceramics?

The word ceramic comes from the Greek word keramos. Keramos means potter’s clay, and as we all know, ceramic is mainly made from clay. However, many modern ceramics do not contain anything that we call clay.

But let’s stick to the traditional term to understand the definition of ceramics. Other than clay, ceramics contain raw materials such as water and earthen minerals. The combination of all these raw materials allows a person or a potter to shape it by hand or by throwing it on wheels, or by slip casting.

Whatever the method is, ceramic is then turned into an object with shape. And depending on its type, the item is fired and hardened. And the ceramic type determines whether to leave it as it is, or it needs to be fired and glazed to give it a permanent look.

What Are Ceramics Used For?

Now that we know what ceramic is, the next part is about to get interesting. As I mentioned at the beginning, you will see ceramic and ceramic items almost everywhere. They always appear in many forms and designs.

But where is ceramic used precisely? Well, ceramics are hard but porous and brittle.

And it makes them suitable for making pottery items, tiles, and even electrical insulators or laboratory items. And based on their use, ceramics are separated into two categories:

  • Traditional ceramics
  • Advanced ceramics

Traditional Ceramics

We see and use traditional ceramics during our day-to-day activities. The most common use of ceramic we all have seen is as dinnerware.

Whether it is the tea or coffee mug or the beautiful plate you use to enjoy your meal, there is a chance that it is made of ceramics. It is also used for making other pottery items, such as flower pots or vases, asbestos roofing tops, and sinks.

Ceramic is also heavily used in concrete, blocks, bricks, etc. Sometimes, traditional ceramics are used as art and craft materials as well.

Advanced Ceramics

Advanced ceramics are used differently. Even though they are part of our daily life, we hardly get to use them personally. That’s because advanced ceramics are used in electrical or electronic applications, and they mostly stay hidden inside those appliances.

If you see an electric motor that contains a magnet, it probably has ferrite ceramics. Ceramics are also used in cooking and heating appliances.

It is even used in the medical world. The false teeth in dentistry are made with porcelain. They are even used in eyeglasses and as other implants.

Physical Properties Of Ceramics

Here are the physical properties ceramics contain.

  • Ceramic has a mass property that includes density. It resides in an intermediate level between lower polymers and higher metals.
  • The types of bonding control the thermal property in ceramic. The number of bonds also governs it.
  • Ceramics have the highest melting points.
  • Their coefficient of thermal expansion is a lot less than that of metals.

Chemical Properties Of Ceramics

The chemical properties of ceramics are:

  • Ceramics are powerful enough to resist chemical attacks, especially gas and liquids.
  • Ceramic can also resist electrochemical and metal chemical corrosion.
  • Ceramics have excellent resistance against weak acids and bases. However, if the acid and bases are too strong, it can create ion exchange, dissolving the ceramic structure.

Different Types Of Ceramics

The main reason why I am explaining everything today is to help you understand this part more clearly. Yes, almost all ceramics contain clay. But they do not serve the same purposes.

There are four main types of ceramics, and they work in different ways. However, almost all of them go through a pretty similar journey from clay to ceramic. And here are more details on these ceramics.

Types Of Ceramics


Earthenware is the oldest type of ceramic and most commonly found one. This ceramic is seen as decorative items, such as planters and other pottery items.

Earthenware is fired at a very low temperature and, sometimes, it’s not fired at all. The firing temperature for earthenware is 1,000 to 1,200 degrees Celsius.

When earthenware is not fired, it processes the crystalline silicate bonds and turns them into the noncrystalline glass compound. That’s why this type of ceramic is more porous and feels coarse when you touch it.

One of the prime examples of earthenware ceramic is terracotta, which is commonly used as planters. You will notice that such ceramic objects cannot hold water.

That is because of their porousness. But potters often make it waterproof by adding glaze and firing it at a higher temperature.


Stoneware ceramic got its name because of the way it appears after firing. That’s right, like a stone, and also dense.

However, unlike earthenware, stoneware does not need any glass-like substance or glaze as it is waterproof and non-porous. But manufacturers often use glaze on this ceramic to add color.

The natural color of stoneware is gray but changes into brown after firing in the kiln. The firing temperature for stoneware ceramic is around 1,200 to 1,300 degrees Celsius, which is a little higher than earthenware.

Stoneware ceramics are more common in commercial use. And it is an art material for many renowned artists. It is also used in cooking and baking wares and even to serve water.


Porcelain often goes by another name, kaolin. It is known to be the hardest of all ceramics. The earliest form of Porcelain is said to have originated in China in 1600 BC, and that’s why it is also called fine china.

Some people find it hard to distinguish between stoneware and porcelain as they are of almost the same category. But porcelain is fired at the highest temperature than the other ceramics. Maybe that’s why this ceramic has more heat resistance than earthenware and stoneware.

Porcelain is fired at 1,200 to 1,450 degrees Celsius. Then it is decorated with glaze and again put into the kiln for more firing.

After that, it becomes harder and more heat resistant. It makes this ceramic suitable for the bathroom or kitchen tiles and liquid vessel, and different decorative sculptures.

Bone China

The true competitor of porcelain is bone china. It is another type of porcelain but contains some different raw materials.

I cannot tell if you could guess from the name, but this ceramic contains bone ash. It also has kaolin, phosphates, and feldspar minerals.

The combination of all of them makes this ceramic very difficult to chip. Another interesting fact about bone china is that it can be shaped into a thinner form, a characteristic that the other ceramics lack. And the process to make bone china is easier.

Types Of Ceramic Materials

Their traditional types do not limit the classification of ceramic. There are also differences in their materials.

If you are an artist and want to work with ceramic, you need to know the materials in ceramics. So here are the types of ceramic materials you need to know about.

Silicate Ceramics

Generally, silicate ceramics contain two compositions: silicone and oxygen. However, the main silicate ceramics are mainly based on other compositions, which can either be aluminosilicates or magnesium silicates.

Again, the delicate ceramic is also divided into different categories. Traditionally, they are classified as coarse or fine. On the other hand, it is classified as dense or porous ceramic based on water absorption.

This ceramic material is usually used in the electronics or electrical engineering sector. That’s because they can perform excellently even in high temperatures and resist thermal shocks.

Oxide Ceramics

Oxide ceramics are, as you can tell, oxide-based ceramics. They are usually inorganic metallic compounds by nature. And such ceramic materials include carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen.

The metal oxide-based ceramic materials include silica, aluminum silicate, alumina, magnesia, and more. You will find the following properties in oxide ceramics.

  • High melting point
  • Low wear-resistance
  • An extended range of electrical properties

Oxide ceramics are made through a few processes, such as crushing the mineral into a fine powder, mixing the powder into a solution, and letting the chemical precipitate form. Later, it goes through another process where the precipitate gets separated from the solution and heated to make purer powder.

Non-Oxide Ceramics

The non-oxide materials are described as nonmetallic and inorganic. They can be conductive and non-conductive and contain aluminum, silicon, and boron.

Non-oxide ceramic materials contain silica, no more than 15%. And they barely have any glass phase.

This type of ceramic material can resist extreme corrosion issues and has high temperature and thermal shock resistance. Moreover, people use them more in oil, gas, metal tools, rotating parts, etc. industries. They are also used for nozzles and dressing machines.

Glass Ceramics

Glass-ceramic materials contain almost the same chemical compositions as glasses but differ in crystalline volume. The range of crystalline it includes can be as much as 99%.

Because of all their compositions, glass ceramics end up with grain boundaries. Sometimes, they appear transparent. The other times they appear opaque.

This ceramic material is also very tough and has almost zero thermal expansion. They are also durable, have no porosity, and can resist impact. That’s why such ceramic materials are suitable for manufacturing cookwares or cooktops and bakewares.

Ceramics Identification Guide

Previously, you have learned about four different types of ceramics. I think my descriptions made it pretty clear what these ceramics contain and everything else there is to know about them. But are you still wondering if there is an easier way to identify the ceramics?

The answer is yes, there is. And this small guide will help you identify all ceramics without having any pro knowledge about them.


  • It comes in a variety of pastel colors, such as white, gray, pink, red, yellow, orange, etc.
  • The edges are usually porous
  • If you try to run your tongue on it, the broken edges of shreds will stick.
  • The surface variety range is quite extended.
  • Unglazed earthenwares are not waterproof.
  • And if an earthenware is waterproof, it definitely contains glaze.
  • Most earthenwares come with a glazed bottom.


  • It comes in a few pastel colors: white, gray, red, yellow, etc.
  • Stoneware is pretty heavy.
  • Unlike earthenware, it does not have a glazed bottom.
  • Light does not go through stoneware items.
  • Broken edges will not stick to your tongue.
  • Texture can be smooth and, sometimes, grainy.
  • Stoneware is waterproof and does not need to be glazed to hold water.


  • It comes in white or grayish-white color.
  • They have a smooth and glassy look.
  • Broken edges will not stick to your tongue.
  • If you hold a thin shred under light, it may appear translucent.
  • If you pass your finger between a porcelain object and light, you will see the shadow.

Bone China

  • Though porcelain and bone china may appear pretty similar, bone china will appear more off-white.
  • They are lighter than porcelain.
  • Bone china will appear more translucent than fine china when held under the light.
  • If you are holding a bone china piece, flip it, and you will notice bone china written at the bottom.

History Of Ceramics Timeline

So, how did it all begin? You will be surprised to learn how old the history of ceramic is. Let’s go through the different timelines to see where ceramic originated and how it reached its modern form.

The Oldest Known Ceramic

There is still a debate regarding the exact timeline, but most people believe it could be around 25,000 BC. The ceramics found during that time were in the shapes of humans and animals.

The figurines were made of clay, bone ash, and animal fat. They were fired at a low temperature and dried in the sun.

Ceramic Vessels

It is believed that the first functional ceramic vessels are from 9,000 BC. These ceramics were used to carry and store various fruits, grain, and water. The farming community in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe spread during that time.

Glaze, Surface Decoration, And Design

Though the earliest ceramics had simple designs, they barely contained any special texture or design. But things changed during the 6th and 5th centuries BC. Ceramics were designed and decorated at that time, and they were also glazed and fired.

The Invention Of Wheel And Change In Pottery

The breakthrough in ceramic history came along with the invention of the wheel in 3,500 BC. It gave the potters a new idea to get more creative with ceramic making.

Ceramics were no longer limited to hand-building. Potters would use wheels to create new and different designs with ceramic.

The Introduction Of Porcelain

In 600 CE, Chinese potters introduced ceramic made from kaolin, later known as porcelain or Chinese clay. This version of ceramic was much stronger and less porous. With this, the new era of technical ceramics had begun.

Modern-Day Ceramics

Thousands of years later, the history of ceramic changed drastically after the second world war. Ceramic started to contribute more and more to technology and be used in historical sculptures and household items. It is now used in medical and engineering fields and many other sectors.

Way Of Learning Ceramic

It can be confusing not to know how to start if you are willing to learn ceramic or ceramic item making. There are various effective methods for that, such as molding, slip casting, wheel throwing, pinching, etc. You need to decide in which way you want to learn ceramic making.

Many potters will use all of these methods, but it will take years of practice. I believe the best way to learn ceramic is to enroll in ceramic-making classes. There are many studios these days that teach different ceramic-making methods, along with all the necessary details one needs to know.

Final Words

Whether it is a home decor item or electronic part, ceramic items are commonly used in all homes. And of all types of ceramics you will come across, earthenware will always be the one easily available as the history of ceramic began with this one.

I cannot tell you which ceramic is better than the other because all of them are vastly used in whichever sector they work best. And if you are a ceramic artist or aspire to be one, the best thing to do is give them equal importance.

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