Bone china is a type of soft-paste porcelain that is composed of bone ash, feldspathic material, and kaolin. It has been defined as ware with a translucent body containing a minimum of 30% of phosphate derived from animal bone and calculated calcium phosphate. Bone china is the strongest of the porcelain or china ceramics, having very high mechanical strength and chip resistance, and is known for its high levels of whiteness and translucency. Its high strength allows it to be produced in thinner cross-sections than other types of porcelain. Like stoneware it is vitrified, but is translucent due to differing mineral properties.
The first commercially widespread bone china was developed by the English potter Josiah Spode in the early 1790s. From its initial development and up to the later part of the 20th century, bone china was almost exclusively an English product, with production being effectively localised in Stoke-on-Trent. Most major English firms made or still make it, including Fortnum & Mason, Mintons, Coalport, Spode, Royal Crown Derby, Royal Doulton, Wedgwood and Worcester.
In the UK, references to "china" or "porcelain" can refer to bone china, and "English porcelain" has been used as a term for it, both in the UK and around the world.
Later, Josiah Spode in Stoke-on-Trent further developed the concept between 1789 and 1793, introducing his "Stoke China" in 1796, the year before his sudden death; his son Josiah II quickly rechristened the ware "Bone china". Among his developments was to abandon Frye's procedure of calcining the bone together with some of the other body raw materials, instead calcining just the bone. Bone china quickly proved to be highly popular, leading to its production by other English pottery manufacturers.Both Spode's formulation and his business were successful: his formulation of 6 parts bone ash, 4 parts china stone and 3.5 parts china clay, remains the basis for all bone china, and it was only in 2009 that his company, Spode, went into receivership before eventually being purchased by Portmeirion.
Bone china consists of two crystalline phases, anorthite (CaAl2Si2O8) and β-tricalcium phosphate/whitlockite (Ca3(PO4)2) embedded in a substantial amount of glass.
For almost 200 years from its development bone china was almost exclusively produced in the UK. During the middle part of the 20th century manufacturers in other countries began production, with the first successful ones outside the UK being in Japan: Noritake, Nikko and Narumi.
In more recent years production in China has expanded considerably, and the country is now the biggest producer of bone china in the world.