What Is Bone China (and How to Tell If Yours Is Real)

pretty floral bone china tea set

You got a gorgeous tea set from your Great Aunt Muriel as a wedding gift. But how do you know if it’s fancy, genuine bone china or plain old porcelain? Here’s an easy way to find out.

First of all, what the heck is bone china?

It’s fine china with one key difference—bone china actually contains real bones (cow bone ash, usually). This special ingredient makes bone china thinner and smoother than regular porcelain, giving it a creamy, white color and opaqueness.

Why is bone china so expensive?

Lightweight yet durable, bone china is usually more expensive than other china thanks to pricier materials (yep, the bone ash) and the extra labor required to make it. But not all bone china is created equal—the quality depends on how much bone is in the mixture. If you’re in the market for the best of the best, aim for at least 30 percent bone.

How do I know if my bone china is real?

If your set is relatively new, then you should be able to scope out its authenticity based on the trademark and manufacturer name found on the underside of each item. But for older pieces with hard-to-read markings (bone china has been around since the 1800s and is traditionally passed down through generations), here’s how to test its authenticity: Hold a piece of bone china up to a light and place your hand behind it. If it’s real, you should be able to see your fingers through the translucent china. Can’t see a damn thing? Send Aunt Muriel a thank-you card anyway.   

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...