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Crazing on dinnerware pieces is never okay

You may have heard of crazing but what is crazing? You may have heard it called crackling or even, heaven forbid, grazing. Perhaps, you’ve been told that it is minor or okay and not to worry about it because it adds character. Sometimes, this is true. There are certain ceramic techniques like those used to produced Raku ware where the network of fine lines is a desired decoration technique. This is not the case for fine English dinnerware. Crazing diminishes the value of most pieces depending on the severity and rarity of pieces. Royal Winton is a manufacturer known by collectors to have a propensity to craze. Most collectors use pieces as display-only and therefore accept crazed pieces into their collection though as a general rule, crazing isn’t a good thing.

A crazed vintage dinner plate with purple violets sits on a table with a fork to the left. The plate is crazed and stained.

Protecting The Piece

Bone china is produced using a combination of bone, feldspar, and kaolin. The pieces require several firings at different temperatures through different steps in the production process. Once the piece is decorated, a glaze is added serving to protect and enhance the design making it more vibrant through firing. The glaze also makes the items impermeable and food safe so that afternoon tea can be served in style.

An array of pink china is scattered across the table, Gold utensils and flowers are scattered in between the pieces
Pretty Pink China Ready For Afternoon Tea

Crazing is a defect

The definition of crazing is a network of fine lines in the glaze. This defect can be produced through several situations, one of which is at the time of firing. Crazing is the product of stress. Many factors can produce crazing including the composition and thickness of the glaze applied, the firing temperature and the rate at which pieces are cooled after firing all which affect the rate of shrinkage of a piece and its relationship to the glaze.

Crazing can happen at the time of firing but it can also come about years after a piece is produced. It is important to take good care of your pieces to prevent this from happening when possible. Crazing also weakens the piece as the protective layer leaves the body of the piece more vulnerable.

A shattered teacup sits on a saucer while tea seeps out. Shards of the teacup lay beside it on the table. What is crazing

Just Say no to The Dishwasher

Temperature fluctuations contribute to the crazing of fine china pieces. We cannot stress enough how imperative it is to wash your pieces by hand in warm water using mild dish detergent like Dawn. Although some dishwashing machines have a fine china setting, your most assured way to keep your china safe is to wash it by hand. Abrasive detergents and the high temperatures of a dishwashing cycle are not recommended nor will they produced good results long term. You may get away with a quick run through the dishwasher but repetitive use will see wear to the gold edges and pattern. If you admire and appreciate your fine china as it should be valued, keep it out of the dishwasher. For a complete guide on cleaning and caring for your fine china, read our blog post here.

A woman loads a Royal Albert Petit Point Dinner Plate into a dishwasher. What is crazing

How to spot crazing

Crazing that is relatively recent or that has not been contaminated yet can be difficult to spot. Using a flashlight can help detect that network of fine lines. Gently tapping your piece of china can tell you if something is amiss. A teacup and saucer or other pieces that produce a thud or dull ring instead of a clear ring can indicate crazing. Stained pieces are often clear signs that crazing is present as the dirt is now trapped.

Can it be stopped?

Crazing cannot be stopped. Once the process has started there is nothing you can do to prevent it from continuing. There is, additionally, no way to resolve the damage. Over the years, we have heard all sorts of wives tales from well-intentioned people and we were dumbfounded when one seller told us to “soak” a teacup and saucer overnight in water and the next morning we would see the cracks “filled in”. The mere thought of this is preposterous. Water does not replace glaze.

Safety First

Sometimes crazing is hard to see. Sometimes, it becomes apparent because a stain appears. That stain is the result of organic matter like tea and coffee or even wine (we’re not judging) that have evolved into bacteria under the glaze. Now, it’s a tiny city of multiplying microbes is waiting for your next tea break. They will turn black or brown sitting between the crazed lines or on the porcelain body itself. Nearly inaccessible, bacteria enjoy this environment. You must recognize that regardless of the method you use to clean crazed china, it is no longer food safe.

Now that you’ve learned all about crazing, we would love to give you the opportunity to win this lovely vintage teacup. The contest opens today, October 7th, 2019 and closes on October 28th, 2019. The contest is open to everyone and includes free worldwide shipping to the winner. Please see our complete contest rules here

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