Porcelain is a white ceramic material made by heating substances, generally including a material like kaolin, in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C (2,200 and 2,600 °F). Relative to other ceramic materials, porcelain is uniquely strong, and translucent, as a result of its partial transformation into glass during firing (vitrification) and the formation of the mineral mullite within the body at these high temperatures.
Porcelain was first made in China in a primitive form about 1400 years ago and started being produced in Europe in the early 18th century. Initially it was composed of kaolin and alabaster and fired in a wood-fired kiln, however later, the alabaster was replaced by feldspar and quartz, which continue to constitute the basic ingredients for most continental European hard-paste porcelains.
Its name comes from the old Italian porcellana (cowrie shell) and it was used by Marco Polo to describe the pottery he saw in China because of its resemblance to the surface of the shell.
Porcelain is an excellent insulator and has many applications in engineering. Because of its durability, inability to rust and impermeability, glazed porcelain has been in use for bathroom fittings since at least the third quarter of the 17th century, as well as in the form of tiles or large rectangular panels. The same qualities make it a great material for dentistry.