Faience in general
Faience is a type of earthenware of high quality, which is made to look like Chinese porcelain with its opaque white glaze. This glaze was for the first time developed in the 9th century in Baghdad and was introduced in Europe through Spain and Italy. To check if a ceramic object is made of porcelain or faience, look for a chip. If the ceramic within is brown or beige, then it is a faience object. A chip of porcelain is always white.
Earthenware pieces are always baked first in an oven (biscuit), thereafter they are covered with a lead and tin oxide glaze and baked again. When baking the second layer, the oxides combine with the potash silicate in the clay giving the faience a white exterior. Lead-oxides will give an extra brilliance. Earthenware can be decorated with an underglaze. This will be applied before the earthenware is baked for the second time. The decoration will combine with the glaze layer when baked and hence burn in. Modifications are then no longer possible.
In Italy, France, Scandinavia and Spain this type of earthenware is called majolica. In the Netherlands it is called Delft blue or Delft faience. In the U.K. it is called English Delftware. The word faience origins from Faenza, a village in Italy where potteries were renowned in the middle of the fifteenth century.
Faience in France
In 1672 Louis XIV is looking for money to finance his wars and so he imposes a tax on the possession of silver and gold tableware. In 1689 he even prohibits the production of this tableware. From then on the popularity of earthenware increases.
In Europe people had been searching for a long time to reveal the secret of producing porcelain, which had been discovered in the Chinese Tang dynasty (618-917). The attraction of this product can mainly be explained by the mystery to obtain a white, clear, shining product by transforming clay by means of fire.
The Europeans mastered the art of making glass and earthenware, but lacked the necessary material, kaolin, which gives whiteness, hardness and translucidity to porcelain.
It is in the 18th century when finally the right riverbeds are found: in 1709 in Germany, and in 1768 in France, in Saint-Yriex-La-perche, near Limoges.