Although all stoneware dishes are ceramic dishes, not all ceramic dishes are stoneware. Stoneware is one of the three types of traditional ceramics or pottery.
Ceramics or pottery refers to a process of forming, firing or baking, and glazing or decorating a mixture of clay and other materials, then refiring it to harden the glaze. The three ceramics are earthenware, stoneware and porcelain.
Stoneware is made from a particular type of clay that is fired at high temperatures, generally between 2,012 and 2,372 degrees Fahrenheit. It was first produced in China, during the Shang Dynasty (circa 1,400 BC).
Stoneware, named after its dense, stonelike quality after firing, is tougher and more durable than earthenware. And unlike earthenware, stoneware is waterproof. Earthenware can be made waterproof by being coated with a vitreous (glasslike) liquid and refired.
The qualities of stoneware traditionally made it useful for dishes used for food, for drinking vessels and for storage. Today it is often used for cookware, bakeware and serving dishes.
Earthenware is often referred to as "ceramics" or "ceramic ware." Stoneware can be distinguished from earthenware by several qualities. Stoneware feels dense for its size and is often uncoated, undecorated or unglazed on the bottom. Earthenware has a white, chalky look when fired, whereas stoneware has a darker, textured look. Stoneware can be left undecorated.