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What is the difference between between the various ceramic materials used to make steins?

Some of the types of ceramics that may come to mind is porcelain, earthenware and stoneware. The main differences are the blends of materials in the clay and the temperatures they are fired at.

Porcelain is made from kaolin clay and fired at temperatures as high as 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. This produces exceptionally white ceramics and very thin-walled vessels. Porcelain mugs are thin enough to be translucent when held up to light. They have a smooth texture, a high luster finish, and are comparatively lightweight, however can be very fragile. Many steins made of porcelain may have a lithothane image placed in the bottom of the stein that becomes visible when held up to the light. Other forms of ceramics have thicker sides and are always opaque.

Stoneware is made of clay that is usually colored grey or brownish because of impurities in the clay used for its manufacture and is more opaque than the porcelain. Stoneware is generally fired once at a temperature between 2100 °F to 2400 °F depending on the flux content of the clay. To produce a better quality fired glaze finish it will be fired again at a temperature around 1650 °F.

Earthenware is one of the oldest materials used in pottery. After firing the body is porous and opaque, and depending on the raw materials used will be colored from white to buff to red. Earthenware is made of clay fired at less than 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit. It is still porous after firing, so it must be glazed in order to be used as a ceramic mug. Since they are fired at a lower temperature they do not fully vitrify which allows water to seep thru the sides and will have to be glazed. The higher the firing temperature the less porous the stein will be. The higher firing temperatures used on porcelain and stoneware there is very little porosity even if the stein is unglazed.

The Westerwald region of Germany is known throughout the world for its’ high quality clay.Instead of the grey or brownish clay from other areas it comes out a white-yellow color. This clay is then finely ground and screened to remove any impurities. The clay then has quartz and fluxing agents mixed in it depending on what blend the particular factory may want. Clay, 30-70%, quartz, 30-60% and fluxing agents (lime, magnesia, alkalis) 5-25%.

The clay is delivered to the factories in both a solid block form and a liquid where it is mixed to the consistency needed for the mold.