Basically all fine china is a form of porcelain dinnerware. When comparing fine china dinnerware, you really want to explore the quality and durability of the dishes. Of course the available dinnerware patterns matter to dish lovers and to some, the expense of dishes and the availability of replacements play a role in selection of dinnerware sets.
The quality and durability of china has a lot to do with the materials used in forming the dishes, the glaze and decorative methods, and the temperatures at which the pieces are fired. In general, the desired quality of fine china has to do with translucency. The more translucent the dishes are, the greater the value in the dinnerware world.
Fine china can be divided into three basic categories
You don't often hear the term "paste" in relation to dinnerware because that is an old term that was used to describe the material that the dishes were made of.
Anyway, soft paste is a term used to describe the earliest invention of porcelain dinnerware that consisted of different formulations of clay and ground glass, sometimes including materials like soapstone and lime. Later, materials like kaolin and quartz (among others) were added to the formulation to improve the production of the dishes.
The strength and hardness of the dinnerware was improved in the development of hard paste porcelain which was made up of quartz, kaolinite, alabaster, feldspar, and other silica forms which are used in the production of porcelain today.
Like I said before, translucency is the most desired in fine china. This translucency combined with strength and chip resistance was achieved with the production of bone china dinnerware which today is deemed the highest quality of dinnerware.
The concept of bone china can be credited to Thomas Frye who was the first known to use bone ash in a formulation of porcelain. However, the process of producing bone china was perfected by Josiah Spode, an English dinnerware producer, who was the founder of the world renowned Spode dinnerware company which was recently acquired by the Portmeirion Group.