There are several differences between Stoneware and Earthenware.
The difference between the two types of pottery can be indistinct. Many companies on the internet pages seem to include the same pieces as both earthenware and stoneware and that is a bit confusing.
However if you are intending to use your dinnerware set with application of high heat, and put it in the microwave and dishwasher, check carefully that it is indeed stoneware.
Earthenware can be used in the oven but at lower temperatures, put it in a cold oven and bring the heat up gradually if you do use it for cooking: Solay Gourmet Pomaire Clay Bean Pot with Lid (3 sizes) Certified Fair Trade.
For these reasons, the better material for dinnerware is stoneware that can be used in the oven, microwave, and dishwashers, whereas earthenware is best washed carefully by hand in soapy water.
The names give some clues; Earth is softer and porous, while stone is hard and non-porous. The same applies to earthenware and stoneware.
To make it watertight, earthenware needs to be glazed in a second firing, whereas stoneware dinnerware is fired at a higher temperature and has a vitreous look that is watertight immediately. The glaze on stoneware is incorporated in the first firing, whilst earthenware is fired first to a bisque finish, then the glaze added and fired again.
Because it is softer, earthenware will chip, while the harder stoneware does not, unless treated very roughly.
A little bit of history
Earthenware was the original material used by humans; the oldest finds were in the Yuchanyan caves in Southern China dated at around 16,000 BC.
Samples of ceramic pottery even older were discovered at Moravia near Brno, now in the Czech Republic. The most famous is the Venus of Dolni Vestonice, guarded and treasured in a museum amongst many other finds at nearby sites.
These are dated at an amazing 29,000-25,000BC and the Venus has a child’s fingerprint fired into the surface.
Because it is heavier and sometimes thicker, earthenware is good for ornaments and decoration. The colours and patterns are added after the first firing making the colours vibrant and clear.
Dinnerware sets in both earthenware and stoneware look beautiful on a dinner table, either for casual dining or in a formal setting: Pfaltzgraff Margarita 16-Piece Dinnerware Set, Service for 4.
Earthen dinnerware is suited best to casual dining. The bright colours if glazed look lovely in a rustic setting of a country kitchen as does the reddish brown earthenware dishes so popular to use as crocks. The crocks are ideal for slow cooking stews and soups on a low setting in the oven. A pot roast cooked in an earthenware casserole dish is tender and juicy due to the slow cooking. The thicknesses of the crocks hold the heat well and are ideal for serving oven to table: Brown 3 Quart Ceramic Baked Bean Pot.
Earthenware crockery is also ideal for slow cookers; the thick earthenware allows food to cook slowly on a low steady heat. Put the stew, bean jar, or soup on before you set off to work in the morning and the meal is ready to serve with crusty bread when you get home.