Why Are Red and Orange Mugs More Expensive?

Gianna Petan

Promo Expert

Published: July 23rd, 2020

Ceramic mugs can be found in nearly every household, but not all mugs are made equal. Each glaze color contains a unique blend of chemicals which must be baked at certain temperatures. Some colors, like white or pastel, are simpler and even cheaper to make than bolder colors like red and orange.

The real reason red and orange mugs are more expensive isn’t because you’re getting scammed, it has to do with history and science! It might not seem fair that avid coffee and tea drinkers must pay more for the right color ceramic mug they want, but there is a more involved process when creating red and orange glazes.

How Does Ceramic Glazing Work?

Glazing is the process of painting a ceramic item like a mug. A glaze is a complex mixture of chemicals, and once it is applied to the ceramic, it is baked at high temperatures. This gives a mug a glossy appearance.

When glazing a mug, there are several tips you should be mindful of that could ultimately affect the result and color!

Different Glazes Require Different Firing Temperatures

Tip 1: Different Glazes Require Different Firing Temperatures

Not all glazes can be fired at the same temperature, so it is important to make sure you use just the right amount of heat. For instance, red and orange glazes are typically fired at high temperatures.

Glazes can have Different Finishes

Tip 2: Glazes Can Have Different Finishes

Most glazes will add a glossy finish; however, some could have textured finishes like grainy or stone. Along with considering the firing temperature, it is important to know which type of finish a glaze will have on the final product.

Know the Ingredients

Tip 3: Know the Ingredients

Certain glazes are intended for different uses, meaning some may not be safe for food or drink and can be considered toxic! Food-safe glazes will usually contain bone ash and iron. However, this is only a concern if you plan to purchase your own glaze for homemade ceramics. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the food-safe glazes used on store-bought ceramics.

Whether you’re planning to glaze your own mugs or purchasing an item that is already finished, knowing these tips about the glazing process is important. It could save you from purchasing the wrong type of glaze, or it can help you better understand how a finished mug came got its color!

Why Red and Orange Glazes Can Be More Expensive

Red and orange glazes can be more expensive because the process involved to create them is more intensive compared to other colors. The chemicals used to create both glazes requires careful measurement, while the firing process involves closely monitoring temperature.

Why is Red Glaze More Expensive? www.cherricopottery.com

Why is Red Glaze More Expensive?

Red glaze is more expensive because the chemicals needed to make it are pricier than those needed to make other colors. Any small change in the ingredients can create brown, dull, or even green colors!

In addition to the glaze mixture, firing red glazes can be equally as touchy. Red glaze needs extra oxygen, so a loosely loaded kiln is required, and less mugs can be fired at once. For the brightest red colors, experts recommend firing for 4 hours at 1,828°F. The image to the right shows what can happen when a red glaze isn’t fired correctly!

Why is Orange Glaze More Expensive?

Similar to red glaze, orange glaze is expensive because it is finnicky when it comes to ingredients. This color requires extra labor compared to other glazes. Orange glazes are notorious for turning out brown, and it can be challenging to get a vibrant color.

Why is Orange Glaze More Expensive? www.ceramicartsnetwork.org

When firing orange glazes, the ideal temperature is around 1,915°F. The chart above that shows a ceramic item fired at the same temperature, but with different recipes for orange glaze. You can see how drastically the color changes with small chemical changes in the oxides present. The darker shades have more oxides.

History of FIESTA® Dinnerware www.wvpublic.org

What is the History of Fiesta® Dinnerware?

Orange, red, and other earth tone ceramic glazes were made popular by a company called FIESTA® Dinnerware. This ceramics company produces millions of pieces of dinnerware each year and paved the way for the popularity of bright colored red and orange glazes.

History of FIESTA® Dinnerware www.wvpublic.org

FIESTA® was created by The Homer Laughlin China Company in 1936. The dinnerware collection was created by Fredrick Hurten Rhead and became hugely popular. Red was included in the original six colors and was produced until the beginning of the 1950’s. Orange did not become popular until a decade later. In 1972, the FIESTA® collection was discontinued due to declining sales.

People began collecting the retired FIESTA® dinnerware, and the value of the remaining pieces went up. In 1985, Bloomingdale’s approached Homer Laughlin Company asking to revive FIESTA® dinnerware once again. After improving the ceramic and glazes, FIESTA® made a comeback with lead-free dinnerware. FIESTA® is still produced today, with a total of 47 different colors in the collection.

Are Red and Orange Glazes Toxic?

Historically, ceramic glazes have contained several toxic chemicals like uranium oxide and lead. Red and orange glazes specifically can contain an unregulated material called cadmium because it brightens the colors. While cadmium is safe in low doses, it can be toxic in high doses.

While you’ll never have to worry about toxic glazes with Quality Logo Products®, there are several tests that are used to determine if a piece of ceramic is dinnerware safe before it is sold in stores and online.

Resistance to abrasion

Resistance to abrasion

Does the item scratch easily with silverware? If yes, then it may not be dinnerware safe.

Ability to handle acidic foods

Ability to handle acidic foods

Test this by either submerging the item in vinegar for 3 days or leaving a slice of lemon on the item overnight. If there is color change or damage, the item may not be dinnerware safe.

Ability to withstand thermal shock

Ability to withstand thermal shock

This can be tested by placing the item in the freezer and then directly into boiling water to check for cracks or crazing on the glaze.

Ability to go from dishwasher to microwave

Ability to go from dishwasher to microwave

If water is trapped inside the clay, the water will expand in the microwave and the item will crack. The glaze should properly prevent water from penetrating the ceramic.

No need to worry, in addition to the tests for dinnerware safety, lawmakers have also passed additional laws and regulations against harmful materials in ceramic glazes. For example, California passed a law called Prop 65 that requires specific labeling on items that may contain and of the elements the California Air Resources Board consider a potential toxin. Every product from Quality Logo Products® has been tested for quality assurance and meets every federal and state requirement.

The Bottom Line

In order to achieve the perfect red or orange, the right chemical mixture and firing temperatures are required. Next time you see a perfectly vibrant mug, appreciate the time and precision that went into creating it!

Gianna Patan

References

Peterson, Beth. (2018, June 2). Ceramic and Glaze Colorants. Retrieved July 2, 2019, from
https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/ceramic-and-glaze-colorants-2745859

Gamble, David. (2018, October 10). Red Hot Reds: All You Need to Know to Make Beautiful Red Glazes. Retrieved July 2, 2019, from
https://ceramicartsnetwork.org/daily/ceramic-supplies/ceramic-glazes-and-underglazes/red-hot-reds-need-know-make-beautiful-red-glazes/

Big Ceramics Store. Glaze Toxicity and Dinnerware Safety. Retrieved July 2, 2019, from
https://bigceramicstore.com/pages/info-ceramics-tips-tip53_glaze_toxic_dinnerware_safety

Britt. John. (2019, May 8). Ceramic Stains: The Easy Way to Create All the Colors of the Rainbow on Your Pottery. Retrieved July 2, 2019, from
https://ceramicartsnetwork.org/daily/ceramic-supplies/ceramic-colorants/ceramic-stains-the-easy-way-to-create-all-the-colors-of-the-rainbow-on-your-pottery/

Fiesta Factory Direct. (2019). Our History. Retrieved July 2, 2019, from
https://fiestafactorydirect.com/pages/our-history