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Kaolinite, feldspar and quartz (or other forms of silica) continue to constitute the basic ingredients for most continental European hard-paste porcelains.
Soft-paste porcelains date back from the early attempts by European potters to replicate Chinese porcelain by using mixtures of clay and frit.
Kaolin is the primary material from which porcelain is made, even though clay minerals might account for only a small proportion of the whole.
The toughness, strength, and translucence of porcelain, relative to other types of pottery, arises mainly from vitrification and the formation of the mineral mullite within the body at these high temperatures.
Biscuit porcelain is unglazed porcelain treated as a finished product, mostly for figures and sculpture.
Unlike their lower-fired counterparts, porcelain wares do not need glazing to render them impermeable to liquids and for the most part are glazed for decorative purposes and to make them resistant to dirt and staining.
It combines well with both glazes and paint, and can be modelled very well, allowing a huge range of decorative treatments in tablewares, vessels and figurines. The European name, porcelain in English, comes from the old Italian porcellana (cowrie shell) because of its resemblance to the surface of the shell.
Properties associated with porcelain include low permeability and elasticity; considerable strength, hardness, toughness, whiteness, translucency and resonance; and a high resistance to chemical attack and thermal shock.