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Bone China vs. Porcelain: What’s the Difference, and Which One’s Better

Understanding the difference between bone china vs. porcelain can be helpful if you’re shopping for new dinnerware, adding to your wedding registry, or purchasing a gift for someone. Here, I’ll explain the distinction…

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Bone china (left) and porcelain (right)

At first glance, analyzing bone china vs porcelain might seem like a tough task, because they are very similar materials, and common choices for everyday dinnerware sets. They look alike, they’re similar in weight, and they feel similar in your hand. In reality, there are a few key differences that make one the best choice for long-lasting dinnerware.

Before I get into the details, here’s a quick story …

Last year I was helping my younger brother and his then fiancée finish their wedding registry. They wanted a dinnerware pattern that was durable enough to be used everyday, but that was formal enough do be dressed up as needed.

I had the perfect option, which is the same bone China I put on my wedding registry back in 2012: The Lenox Tin Can Alley Bone China dinnerware. I love the simple, classic look, and my set has held up without a single chip. I’m not even kidding.

Since I had given them the recommendation for the set, I purchased a few pieces for their shower. But when I got the packages, I noticed that the boxes for some of the sets were different. So I opened them up, and realized that half of the dinnerware I’d received was actually made of porcelain, while the rest was the same bone china I’d gotten 10 years before.

Apparently, what happened was that Lenox is discontinuing the pattern in bone china, and using porcelain instead, so I happened to get a mixed shipment of both the old and new styles.

I contacted the store I bought the plates from, and they allowed me to return the porcelain items, and sent me bone china in return.

Why’d I return the porcelain ones? Because I’ve found over the years that there’s a difference in the quality of bone china vs porcelain.

What’s the Difference Between Bone China and Porcelain?

Bone China and porcelain are similar. The big difference between bone china and porcelain is that bone china has bone ash mixed into it. This makes bone china extra durable, and more resistant to breaking and chipping than porcelain.

Bone China vs Porcelain – Which is Better?

This Lenox bone china plate is 11 years old but looks basically brand new

So what’s the big difference between bone china and porcelain?

While the materials are similar, bone china has bone ash added to it during the manufacturing process. (Yes, this is made of real bone, usually from livestock, so bone china is not a vegan option). This gives the china a more durable, and less brittle nature which makes it less prone to cracking, scratching and chipping.

I’m not kidding when I say I’ve had my Lenox bone china dinnerware for 11 years, and I may have one piece that’s chipped. The rest looks brand new (see above).

A porcelain platter from Sur la Table that I purchased in 2018. Note the chipping.

The porcelain serving pieces that I’ve purchased throughout the years, on the other hand, are a totally different story. Any time I’ve hit a porcelain piece on my granite countertops taking it out of the cabinet or unloading the dishwasher, a chip flies off. I have a few serving trays that’ll probably need to get thrown out soon since they’re in such bad shape.

Which is more expensive, bone china or porcelain?

Bone china is generally more expensive that porcelain, because of the added bone ash. Honestly, it’s so worth the extra expense because bone china will last you a lifetime.

Is bone china practical?

traditional dining room set for thanksgiving
My bone China plates at out first Thanksgiving in our current home

Bone china is often thought of as the fancy, fragile dinnerware that grandma only brings out on holidays. But it’s actually the opposite. It’s extremely durable and hardwearing … as long as you get a simple, all-white pattern.

The fragile, hand-wash only nature of china is tied more to the decoration and embellishments that these sets often have, not the material itself. If you purchase an elaborately painted china set with a metal inlay, for example, it won’t be dishwasher or microwave safe.

So if you’re looking for a long-lasting, beautiful every dinnerware set, get an all-white set.

Which brings me to…..

My favorite all-white bone china dinnerware

If you’d asked me a few years ago, I would have said that the Lenox Tin Can Alley dinnerware was the best bone china option out there. It’s simple, with engraved lines around the edges, and it’s such great quality. But I can’t recommend it as my favorite bone china dinnerware now that it’s made of porcelain.

Instead, here are some of the best bone china options available now:

Best bone china dinnerware

1. Crate & Barrel Purio Dinnerware

This simple yet elegant bone china dinnerware set is guaranteed to be a classic thanks to its no-frills look. I actually love a classic white dinner plate, since you can dress them up for special occasions or use them for casual everyday dining.

2. Mikasa Delray Bone China Set

It doesn’t get any more simple than this Mikasa set. It has no embossing or pattern, which means it’s virtually impossible to get sick of and will complement any style.

3. Gibson Elite Embossed Bone China

This set looks similar to the Crate & Barrel one, but is a more affordable option, with service for four at under $80.

4. Wedgwood Nantucket Basket China

If you’re looking for an heirloom quality bone china dinnerware set that you can pass down to your kids one day, this gorgeous set is it. Wedgewood’s Nantucket Basket pattern is a preppy classic. I swear I see it on every third wedding registry I’ve looked at in my life!