Peppered with unusual terms and descriptive phrases, the language of the antiques world is colourful to say the least. With our handy glossary, you'll soon be able to distinguish your maiolica from majolica and your chinoiserie from cloisonne.
Famous for his neoclassical take on popular Palladian architecture, alongside his brother he remodeled many country houses.
A pair of similar figures that face one another, rather than the same way.
The spiral pattern in the stem of a glass created by twisting a rod of glass in which columns of air are trapped.
A mixture of metals.
The process of gradually cooling a completed glass object.
A silver spoon with the image of an apostle on the end of the handle.
Pottery studio set up by British potter Frederick Hurten Rhead. Created as an occupational therapy centre, pieces produced have a unique impulsiveness, making Arequipa wares harder to distinguish than other studios.
A silver or plated gravy warmer with a central well to hold the gravy and an outer casing for hot water.
A mark that is stamped on silver or gold to signify that the metal has been tested for the standard of purity required by law.
The unpolished back of furniture meant to stand against a wall.
A chair with a back that forms an open O shape with a slender waist beneath it.
Small section or strips of veneer used around the edges of drawer fronts and surfaces to complement the main veneer.
(basaltes) A type of vitrified black stoneware developed by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1760s, inspired by ancient Greek pottery.
The French term for a winged armchair from c1725. It has come to mean chairs and sofas with caned backs and sides.
The upper part of a ring which usually holds the stone.
The tilting mechanism on the underside of tables. It enables the surface to be dropped down when not in use.
Unglazed pottery or porcelain, fired once.
The ceramic flowers and foliage forming part of a free-standing figure group.
Bulging shape often seen on Continental furniture from the rococo period, particularly on commodes and other cased pieces.
A type of porcelain containing china clay, china stone and ground cattle bones.
An elegant writing table designed with ladies in mind, often with shelves or a cupboard above the surface for the placing of ornaments.
Where a line at the front is broken or interrupted, often where the central section protrudes slightly in front of side sections. Most common on bookcases and cabinets.
Engraving performed with a double-edged graver which causes the decoration to stand out sharply.
A type of high-grade pewter containing a high proportion of tin used as a silver substitute.
The standard mark for a grade of silver higher than sterling, consisting of 958.4 parts of silver per 1,000. Look for Lion’s Head Erased and a figure of Britannia as part of the hallmark.
A type of pot made in China specifically for the home market, characterised by its straight sides. Its exclusive purpose is to hold Chinese writing brushes.
The central bulge in a piece of glass marking where it was attached to the end of iron rod (the pontil). one glass: Glass made opaque by the addition of bone ash.
(or burr ) In furniture, the beautiful whorled pattern found by cutting across the bulging sections close to the base of tree trunks. Used as a veneer.
An elongated ‘S’ shaped leg on a piece of furniture, often made with a pronounced ‘knee’.
Cased glass in two or more layers where the outer layer is carved away to reveal a design in relief.
Beautiful relief carvings usually depicting classical scenes. Initially cameos were popular with men, adding flamboyance to their cabinets of curiosities, however, now generally linked to women's jewellery.
Porcelain imported from China in the 18th century.
Also known as a 'gossip chair' this is a lighter style of open armchair, developed in the Renaissance.
The main body of a piece of furniture before veneers are applied, or doors, shelves or drawers are added.
A type of dining chair with arms.
Glass made up of several layers of different colours.
A deep, lockable box used for storing wine. First made during the 18th century.
Enamel laid in cavities or channels created by scooping out metal.
The circle of numerals or other symbols of the hours on a clockface
A large, flat plate used for serving food.
A method of decorating the surface of metal by indenting it, usually with a hammer and punches. This method creates patterns without removing any metal.
A sofa type introduced in the late 19th century, with upholstery which covers the frame.
A large floor-standing mirror which pivots in a frame.
A cupboard similar to a small dresser
These ceramic objects display an all over transfer-printed floral pattern.
Generic term used to describe furniture in the style associated with English designer Thomas Chippendale (1718-79).
Enamel decoration in which a network of metal wires is fixed to the body of the piece. The resulting cloisons (compartments) are then filled with coloured enamel paste before firing.
Delicate, moulded, bead-shaped decoration, usually around the edges of drawers.
A chest of drawers or a cabinet. It later came to mean a bedroom chair or cabinet that concealed a chamber pot.
A side table supported by wall brackets with two front legs.
A defect in ceramics resulting in a network of fine lines on the glaze, caused by different rates of contraction between the body and glaze during firing, or extreme changes in temperature.
A network of fine cracks on a glass object caused by progressive deterioration in the chemical balance.
Setting contrasting metals into a metal body. Used mainly on swords and caskets.
A small writing desk with sloping top and drawers set sideways into the case beneath.
English tin-glazed earthenware that was produced between the early 17th century and c1800.
Table with narrow central surface, extended by raising drop leaves supported on hinged arms or brackets.
A central stand supporting two or three revolving trays designed for use in the dining room.
These heavy, glass objects usually take a domed form and commonly contain flowers or air bubbles. Their weight, sometimes up to 5kg, made them effective paperweights and doorstops.
A widespread practice in Britain between 1784 and 1890 of transposing silver marks from a small vessel to a large one to avoid duty.
As the first Britain to attempt to produce porcelain, John Dwight became famous for his stoneware.
Porous pottery made from clay, lightly fired but still pervious to liquids. Glazing makes it waterproof.
A large bowl used for serving soup, with a domed cover and commonly, its own stand.
The process of silvering base metal by using electrolysis. Invented in 1840.
Beating or pushing out silver or other metals from the reverse side to form patterns.
The mark usually found on Electroplated Britannia metal.
An elaborate centerpiece involving a central bowl surrounded by smaller dishes, allowing it to act as a space-saving device.
The mark found on electroplated metal objects.
A cabinet with a pull-down front forms a writing surface. The forerunner of the bureau.
Decorative metal or ceramic plates surrounding keyholes on furniture. Also a shield shape on a coat of arms.
The term used to describe a narrow necked jug, with distinguishing features such as a wide spout and swollen body.
Term used to describe Venetian-style glass made in other parts of Europe, notably England, Holland and Germany during the late 16th and 17th centuries.
Small, brightly painted figure groups in porcelain, mass-produced in Germany for the British market in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Literally ‘pink family’. Chinese porcelain made for export to Europe and decorated in a palette where predominant colour is pink. Terms also exist for mainly green (famille verte), yellow (famille jaune) and black (famille noir) wares.
Pottery figure groups. Mainly 19th century Staffordshire with flat, undecorated backs, made to stand against a wall.
In metalwork terms, this means cutlery.
Primitive glass made using the ashes of burnt wood and ferns to provide the alkaline content. Produced in European glass houses in medieval times and later.
The framework immediately below the a table top.
Gallé's work in glass became synonymous with the Art Nouveau period due to the progressively sculptural forms it took. He is renowned for his carefully inlaid 'marquetry' furniture.
This is the term used to describe a collection of ornaments or figures.
A drop leaf table with leaves supported on gateleg mechanism which swings out underneath the surface.
Initially produced metal lamps, mirrors, vases and tableware but became more famous for his figures. They link clean, unbroken lines with interesting materials e.g. wood, brass, copper and steel, making them perfect for a minimal interior.
The set of marks put on silver and gold items to denote standard of purity, date, town where marked, and maker.
A term used to describe a set of chairs that are all alike but do not match.
A furniture style associated with the designer Thomas Hepplewhite (d.1786).
Japanese porcelain painted in iron red, underglaze blue and gilding, first made in the late 17th century Arita and shipped to Europe from the Japanese port of Imari.
The earliest method of marking ceramics by roughly scratching the unfired clay with initials or symbols.
Hard, white, opaque stoneware made by adding glassy ironstone slag to the mix.
A term used to describe brightly coloured Turkish tin-glazed pottery made in and around the town of Iznik, from the 15th century.
A lead or zinc lined container to cultivate indoor plants, found both ornately decorated or in much simpler designs.
Dense, fine, satiny, unglazed stoneware made by Wedgwood in a range of colours with decoration in white, applied in relief.
A rare mark usually seen on ceramics, indicating a piece which is part of the personal collection of Augustus the Strong. Very desirable.
Two factories in Keene produced this 19th century glass, which is now valued by museums and collectors.
A desk with a recessed space below the frieze drawer. Originally produced as dressing tables.
The swelling in the stem of a wine glass.
A decorative effect on porcelain using pieces of read lace dipped in slip (watered down clay) and applied to the body of a pot/object. The lace burns away upon firing, leaving a lacy pattern in the clay.
These fine-quality, low-relief plaques in porcelain only reveal an image when held up to the light.
A 19th century, bohemian glass maker, determined to re-establish a high level of artistic design previously lost with the introduction of pressing machines and moulded designs.
Producers of blue and white porcelain, similar to that of Limehouse but much more durable.
Pottery or porcelain with a distinctive sheen created by adding metallic oxides such as silver, gold, platinum or copper to the glaze.
Tin-glazed Italian earthenware produced from the 13th century.
19th century earthenware covered in brightly coloured lead glazes, produced in England and the USA.
An ornamental pattern on the surface of furniture or works of art, created by laying together shaped pieces of coloured veneers and/or slivers of ivory, tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl or metals.
The process of creating a matt, silver surface. Using small, plain or round headed hammers, a pattern of dense indentation or dots is produced.
Founded in 1710, this is Europe's first porcelain factory.
The substance of glass, used to describe it in both the molten and cold states.
Glass whitened with tin oxide to make it opaque.
Formed by cutting a hole or mortoise in one piece of wood, into which is fitted a projecting section, the tenon, from another. The joint is then glued, or held together by a wooden peg or dowel.
An 18th century factory near Bristol, which was famed for its colourful, novelty glass that often featured twists, stripes and swirls.
A black, engraved design on metalwork, especially silver.
Following the passing of the McKinley Tarrif Act, all Japanese wares imported into the USA had to be marked with the word 'Nippon' (Japanese word for Japan). These imports became known as Nippon wares.
A device allowing you to measure an angular distance in the form of an eighth of a circle. Most octants were made in London after their invention in 1731.
Bronze gilded with a thin layer of gold. Used mainly for mounts on furniture, works of art and clocks.
A leading Swedish glass company renowned for its engraved designs.
A tough alloy of copper, zinc and nickel from China, used to make hinges for furniture and candlesticks. It is a Cantonese word meaning ‘white copper’.
Unglazed, marble-like English porcelain used mainly for figures in the mid and late 19th century.
A pattern on the surface of furniture or works of art made using a similar technique as employed to create marquetry, but with the veneers laid in strictly geometric patterns using the contrasting grains and colours of wood.
A tough alloy of copper, zinc and nickel from China, used to make hinges for furniture and candlesticks. It is a Cantonese word meaning ‘white copper’.
Literally ‘paste on paste’ and applied to porcelain in fine layers to create an effect in relief similar to cameo.
Earthenware with a slightly blueish tinge in the glaze, created by adding minute amounts of cobalt oxide to it.
A light table with small, falling flaps supported by brackets.
Designed to go against the wall between two windows.
A gold substitute used especially for watches.
A solid metal rod used to remove blown glass from the blow pipe. Leaves a pontil mark on the glass which is ground away on modern glass.
White translucent material formed from china clay and china stone, fired at a high temperature.
A blob of glass applied to a glass object as a form of decoration.
Two handled, shallow drinking bowl. Popular in Scotland in 17th and 18th centuries.
A commonly used technique on the surface of early Georgian Walnut chests. From one piece of timber, four sheets of veneer are cut and then placed side by side, diagonally and in pairs to create a pattern.
A registered name which relates to bone chine produced in the Queen's pottery in Longton.
A type of cream-coloured earthenware developed by Josiah Wedgwood and first known as ‘creamware’ but renamed after Queen Charlotte placed a large order.
A type of chasing in metalwork that involves first pushing out shapes from the reverse and then pushing back to create the finer details.
Also known as 'rocaille'. Term used to describe an unequal form of decoration seen in Rococo wares.
A decorative style which formed as a reaction to Baroque in the 18th century. Rococo includes flamboyant scrollwork and asymmetrical embellishment.
This term describes a variety of wine glasses which are distinguishable by their wide bowl and thick stem.
A glaze on pottery with a translucent, hard, orange-peel appearance achieved by shovelling salt into the kiln as soon as it reaches a sufficiently high temperature.
Originally, a row of three chairs that were fused together and sold as part of a suite.
Solid, high backed, wood-panelled forerunner of the settee.
Known for his light, delicate furniture designs published in his Cabinet Maker’s and Upholsterer’s Drawing Book and the Cabinet Dictionary. Influenced many cabinetmakers.
Upholstered seating where the wooden frame shows around the edges.
Earthenware pots that have been decorated with slip (a watered-down clay applied to the surface before glazing).
Glass with soda as the alkaline content rather than potash as in Forest glass.
A range of decorative glazes developed by Ruskin. Distinguished by a colourful mottled effect upon firing.
A zinc alloy used to make figures, clock cases and various other decorative objects during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a cheap substitute for bronze.
A vertical piece of wood at the centre of a chair back.
A chair back with a splat in the shape of a spoon.
925 parts per 1,000 of silver mixed with another metal, usually copper.
Sterling sliver 925 parts per 1,000 of silver mixed up with another metal, usually copper.
A hard-fired waterproof ceramic body.
Top hat worn in the 19th and early 20th centuries
A chest on a chest.
Originally, a tray-top table with a central stem on a tri-pod support. It has come to mean a large tea caddy on a similar support.
A process that was developed in the 1750s to decorate pottery and porcelain. A design is etched onto a copper plate, which is heavily inked, transferred onto a sheet of paper and applied to the piece.
A device designed to hold a cup on raised feet. Usually in silver.
When designs are printed onto ceramic bodies before firing.
This describes small jars or flasks which would hold aromatic oils.
Referring to japanned tin wares which were produced in the town of Usk. From the second half of the 18th century.
A range of furniture commissioned by the British government in 1942, to refurnish bombed houses and help younger families set up home.
The company was founded by Artus Van Briggle, who chose to focus on organic shapes for his ceramic vessels. Artus was keen to experiment with matt glazes and in 1900 succeeded in discovering the secrets of the lost glazes of the Chinese Ming Dynasty.
Greenish-yellow, smooth glass, resembling the ointment, produced during the Victorian period.
Thin layers or strips of usually fine wood applied to a carcass of much coarser wood.
A way of decorating glass by gilding it and engraving designs in the gold leaf.
A glass-fronted cabinet used to display silver, china and other treasures.
A UK based potters founded in 1759 by Josiah Wedgwood. Particularly well known for their creamware, basalts, pearlware and jasperware.
A set of free-standing open shelves, sometimes with one drawer, designed for the display of ornaments.
The name for white, lucid, porcelain which is generally undecorated. Pieces would be made for domestic use, which when struck have a pleasant sound.
Red stonewares exported from the Jiangsu Province. Commonly small teapots and cups would be exported. This style was mimicked by Delft in the 1670s.
An English sculptor. His style reflects a more conservative and restrained style associated with British artists.
The term for glass objects where engraved gold leaf is sandwiched between two layers of clear glass.