The higher cost of red and orange ceramics comes down to chemistry.
Why are red and orange ceramic mugs are so much more expensive to produce than other customizable mug colors? It's because the cost of those particular ceramic glazes is higher due to the complex chemistry involved in producing red and orange ceramics.
Brilliant red and orange glazes have been popular for many years, and an well-known example was the Fiesta Ware produced by the Homer Laughlin Company. The red Fiesta dinnerware, along with four other colors, was first offered for sale in 1936. The red was extremely popular and the most expensive to produce due to the material costs and the unpredictability of the red glazes when fired.
One of the ingredients in the red glaze was a radioactive material called uranium oxide, and lead was also used in the past to produce the brilliant reds and oranges of ceramics (in countries other than the United States, lead could still be used in mass production). These harmful substances tended to leach from the fired surfaces of the ceramic pieces and became a great health concern; efforts were made in the United States to eliminate as much of the toxic materials as possible.
Today’s red and orange glazes do not use uranium, and the lead content is controlled in the United States. However, because red and orange pigments are cadmium-based, the cost rises for ceramic glazes made with these colors (just as it does with paints and chalks used by artists). Cadmium-based colors also carry health risks. Another contributor to the high cost of red and orange ceramic promotional products is the four to five coats of necessary glaze as opposed to the two or three coats needed for other colors. Glaze is already pricey, and using twice as much increases the cost.
The firing process to create red and orange glazes requires more expertise and care than the firing process of other colors does. Reds and oranges are notoriously fickle colors in the kiln; they need to be fired in a high-oxygen environment because carbon monoxide is produced when the carbon in the clay is burned out. This gas can negatively affect the glaze if it isn’t replaced by oxygen. Bisque ware that is glazed with reds or oranges needs to be fired at a lower temperature, such as Cone 04, 05, or 06. The length of time the items are fired is also important because the reds and oranges can burn out, disappear, or change color at higher temperatures. Also, other colored pieces in the kiln can affect the reds and oranges due to the behaviors of various gases and the reactions of glazes and clay ingredients.
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