What Is Elizabethan Fine Bone China?

Elizabethan fine bone china is a type of porcelain where 30 to 50 percent of its composition consists of the bone ash of cattle. It was produced during the reign of Elizabeth I of England, which is also known as the Elizabethan era.

Bone china originated in China. After 1557, when a trading post was set up on the island of Macao, it began to be imported to England. Because of its beauty and the exorbitant costs of importing it from the Far East, bone china became so valuable it was known as white gold. Royalty, nobility and wealthy people used bone china as a status symbol. In 1748, at his Bow porcelain factory, Thomas Fry became one of the first British producers of bone china; between 1789 and 1793, Josiah Spode refined the concept. British bone china achieved a reputation for quality rivaling that of China’s. It was not only delicate and beautiful but also strong and durable. During Elizabeth I’s reign, British bone china was often intricately designed and painted.

Replicas of Elizabethan era bone china are common in antique shops, but original items are rare. True Elizabethan fine bone china is bright and translucent and is often finely painted or gold plated; it may also have silver gilt around the rims or edges.