The differences between pottery, ceramics and majolica, with special regard to Italian ceramics

Here is a brief review of the definition of the words Italian Pottery, Italian Ceramics and Italian Majolica. When we know exactly what we are talking about, we will define what they really mean for people.

Italian Ceramics

Ceramics is the most common term. It is derived from the Greek word “keramos”, which means that “clay”. In the past, ceramics were made by forming clay, decorating it, often glazed and at high temperatures in an oven. On the other hand, this definition has changed. The term ceramics now refers to a diverse group of materials, including glass and cement. Although all are cooked at high temperatures, clay is no longer an enter component of ceramics. That is why the ceramic category includes technically ceramics and porcelain nowadays, which, with their ordinary formulas, have come to generally represent quality grades.

Italian Pottery

Pottery is a useful or ornamental ceramic formed from moist clay and hardened by heat. The type of clay used and the temperature at which it is burned give the pottery a different strength and appearance. There are 3 main types of Italian pottery.

  1. Earthenware: It is known as biscuit or bisque and is cooked at low temperatures, from 1800 to 2100 ° Fahrenheit. It is typically white or reddish. Because of its high porosity, earthenware generally must be glazed so that it can retain water. Pieces of clay dating from 1400-1200 BC have been found, preparing this craft the oldest pottery in history. See more.
  2. Stoneware: It is prepared of a mixture of heavier clay, which can be fired at much higher temperatures: from 2200 ° to 2400 ° Fahrenheit. It is waterproof, dense and hard enough to withstand the scratch of a steel point. It is brownish gray and can be used both flamed and unglazed and it is ideal for cooking and baking.
  3. Porcelain: It is usually made of specific clay, which contains kaolinite, and burns at high temperatures, from 2200 ° to 2500 ° Fahrenheit. It is very hard, waterproof (even before glaze), white, resonant and translucent.

Italian Majolica

Majolica – also spelled “Maiolica” – is the beautiful ceramic prepared by the tin-glazed earthenware and lights it for the second time. After the first cooking, the soup is immersed in a quick drying liquid enamel bath. When dry, the glazed piece is prepared to be painted by hand. A final firing at 1700 ° Fahrenheit will cause the enamel to interact with the metal oxides used by the painter to make the translucent deep and bright colors specific to the majolica. This technique originates in the Middle East in the ninth century. In the thirteenth century, majolica was imported into Italy through the island of Mallorca, home of trade between Italy and Spain.

The Italians called it “Maiolica”, mistakenly thinking that it was made in Mallorca. They were fascinated by this unique way of making ceramics and quickly began to copy the procedure, adapting it for their own traditions and creativity. In Europe, the rise of Italian Majolica was rapid and reached its peak of artistic quality throughout central Italy during the Renaissance, at the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth. Find out more at