Glossary

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.

a
Adam, Robert (1728-1792)

Famous for his neoclassical take on popular Palladian architecture, alongside his brother he remodeled many country houses.

Affronted

A pair of similar figures that face one another, rather than the same way.

Air twist

The spiral pattern in the stem of a glass created by twisting a rod of glass in which columns of air are trapped.

Alloy

A mixture of metals.

Annealing

The process of gradually cooling a completed glass object.

Apostle Spoon

A silver spoon with the image of an apostle on the end of the handle.

Arequipa Pottery

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.

Argyle

A silver or plated gravy warmer with a central well to hold the gravy and an outer casing for hot water.

Assay Mark

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.

b
Backboard

The unpolished back of furniture meant to stand against a wall.

Balloon Back

A chair with a back that forms an open O shape with a slender waist beneath it.

Banding

Small section or strips of veneer used around the edges of drawer fronts and surfaces to complement the main veneer.

Basalt

(basaltes) A type of vitrified black stoneware developed by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1760s, inspired by ancient Greek pottery.

Bergère

The French term for a winged armchair from c1725. It has come to mean chairs and sofas with caned backs and sides.

Bezel

The upper part of a ring which usually holds the stone.

Birdcage

The tilting mechanism on the underside of tables. It enables the surface to be dropped down when not in use.

Bisque

Unglazed pottery or porcelain, fired once.

Bocage

The ceramic flowers and foliage forming part of a free-standing figure group.

Bombe

Bulging shape often seen on Continental furniture from the rococo period, particularly on commodes and other cased pieces.

Bone China

A type of porcelain containing china clay, china stone and ground cattle bones.

Bonheur-de-jour

An elegant writing table designed with ladies in mind, often with shelves or a cupboard above the surface for the placing of ornaments.

Breakfront

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.

Bright-cut engraving

Engraving performed with a double-edged graver which causes the decoration to stand out sharply.

Britannia metal

A type of high-grade pewter containing a high proportion of tin used as a silver substitute.

Britannia standard

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.

Brush Pot

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.

Bull's eye

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.

Burl

(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.

c
Cabriole leg

An elongated ‘S’ shaped leg on a piece of furniture, often made with a pronounced ‘knee’.

Cameo Glass

Cased glass in two or more layers where the outer layer is carved away to reveal a design in relief.

Cameos

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.

Canton

Porcelain imported from China in the 18th century.

Caquetoire

Also known as a 'gossip chair' this is a lighter style of open armchair, developed in the Renaissance.

Carcass

The main body of a piece of furniture before veneers are applied, or doors, shelves or drawers are added.

Carver

A type of dining chair with arms.

Cased glass

Glass made up of several layers of different colours.

Celleret

A deep, lockable box used for storing wine. First made during the 18th century.

Champlevé

Enamel laid in cavities or channels created by scooping out metal.

Chapter ring

The circle of numerals or other symbols of the hours on a clockface

Charger

A large, flat plate used for serving food.

Chasing

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.

Chesterfield

A sofa type introduced in the late 19th century, with upholstery which covers the frame.

Cheval mirror

A large floor-standing mirror which pivots in a frame.

Chiffonier

A cupboard similar to a small dresser

Chintzware

These ceramic objects display an all over transfer-printed floral pattern.

Chippendale

Generic term used to describe furniture in the style associated with English designer Thomas Chippendale (1718-79).

Cloisonné

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.

Cockbeading

Delicate, moulded, bead-shaped decoration, usually around the edges of drawers.

Commode

A chest of drawers or a cabinet. It later came to mean a bedroom chair or cabinet that concealed a chamber pot.

Console table

A side table supported by wall brackets with two front legs.

Crazing

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.

Crizzelling

A network of fine cracks on a glass object caused by progressive deterioration in the chemical balance.

d
Damascening

Setting contrasting metals into a metal body. Used mainly on swords and caskets.

Davenport

A small writing desk with sloping top and drawers set sideways into the case beneath.

Delftware

English tin-glazed earthenware that was produced between the early 17th century and c1800.

Drop leaf table

Table with narrow central surface, extended by raising drop leaves supported on hinged arms or brackets.

Dumb waiter

A central stand supporting two or three revolving trays designed for use in the dining room.

Dump Weight 'Dumpies'

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.

Duty dodging

A widespread practice ­ in Britain between 1784 and 1890 ­ of transposing silver marks from a small vessel to a large one to avoid duty.

Dwight, John

As the first Britain to attempt to produce porcelain, John Dwight became famous for his stoneware.

e
Earthenware

Porous pottery made from clay, lightly fired but still pervious to liquids. Glazing makes it waterproof.

Ecuelle

A large bowl used for serving soup, with a domed cover and commonly, its own stand.

Electroplating

The process of silvering base metal by using electrolysis. Invented in 1840.

Embossing

Beating or pushing out silver or other metals from the reverse side to form patterns.

EPBM

The mark usually found on Electroplated Britannia metal.

Epergne

An elaborate centerpiece involving a central bowl surrounded by smaller dishes, allowing it to act as a space-saving device.

EPNS

The mark found on electroplated metal objects.

Escritoire

A cabinet with a pull-down front forms a writing surface. The forerunner of the bureau.

Escutcheon

Decorative metal or ceramic plates surrounding keyholes on furniture. Also a shield shape on a coat of arms.

Ewer

The term used to describe a narrow necked jug, with distinguishing features such as a wide spout and swollen body.

f
Façon de Venise

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.

Fairings

Small, brightly painted figure groups in porcelain, mass-produced in Germany for the British market in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Famille Rose

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.

Flatbacks

Pottery figure groups. Mainly 19th century Staffordshire with flat, undecorated backs, made to stand against a wall.

Flatware

In metalwork terms, this means cutlery.

Forest glass

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.

Frieze

The framework immediately below the a table top.

g
Gallé, Émile

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.

Garniture

This is the term used to describe a collection of ornaments or figures.

Gate leg table

A drop leaf table with leaves supported on gateleg mechanism which swings out underneath the surface.

h
Hagenauer, Carl

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.

Hallmark

The set of marks put on silver and gold items to denote standard of purity, date, town where marked, and maker.

Harlequin

A term used to describe a set of chairs that are all alike but do not match.

Hepplewhite

A furniture style associated with the designer Thomas Hepplewhite (d.1786).

i
Imari

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.

Incised mark

The earliest method of marking ceramics by roughly scratching the unfired clay with initials or symbols.

Ironstone

Hard, white, opaque stoneware made by adding glassy ironstone slag to the mix.

Iznik

A term used to describe brightly coloured Turkish tin-glazed pottery made in and around the town of Iznik, from the 15th century.

j
Jardiniere

A lead or zinc lined container to cultivate indoor plants, found both ornately decorated or in much simpler designs.

Jasperstone

Dense, fine, satiny, unglazed stoneware made by Wedgwood in a range of colours with decoration in white, applied in relief.

Johanneum Mark

A rare mark usually seen on ceramics, indicating a piece which is part of the personal collection of Augustus the Strong. Very desirable.

k
Keene Glass

Two factories in Keene produced this 19th century glass, which is now valued by museums and collectors.

Kneehole Desk

A desk with a recessed space below the frieze drawer. Originally produced as dressing tables.

Knop

The swelling in the stem of a wine glass.

l
Lacework

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.

Lithophanes

These fine-quality, low-relief plaques in porcelain only reveal an image when held up to the light.

Lobmeyr

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.

Lund's Bristol

Producers of blue and white porcelain, similar to that of Limehouse but much more durable.

Lustreware

Pottery or porcelain with a distinctive sheen created by adding metallic oxides such as silver, gold, platinum or copper to the glaze.

m
Maiolica

Tin-glazed Italian earthenware produced from the 13th century.

Majolica

19th century earthenware covered in brightly coloured lead glazes, produced in England and the USA.

Marquetry

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.

Matting

The process of creating a matt, silver surface. Using small, plain or round headed hammers, a pattern of dense indentation or dots is produced.

Meissen

Founded in 1710, this is Europe's first porcelain factory.

Metal

The substance of glass, used to describe it in both the molten and cold states.

Milk glass

Glass whitened with tin oxide to make it opaque.

Mortoise and tenon joint

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.

n
Nailsea Glass

An 18th century factory near Bristol, which was famed for its colourful, novelty glass that often featured twists, stripes and swirls.

Niello

A black, engraved design on metalwork, especially silver.

Nippon Wares

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.

o
Octant

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.

Ormolu

Bronze gilded with a thin layer of gold. Used mainly for mounts on furniture, works of art and clocks.

Orrefors

A leading Swedish glass company renowned for its engraved designs.

p
Paktong

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’.

Parian

Unglazed, marble-like English porcelain used mainly for figures in the mid and late 19th century.

Parquetry

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.

Pâte-de-verre

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’.

Pâte-sur-pâte

Literally ‘paste on paste’ and applied to porcelain in fine layers to create an effect in relief similar to cameo.

Pearlware

Earthenware with a slightly blueish tinge in the glaze, created by adding minute amounts of cobalt oxide to it.

Pembroke table

A light table with small, falling flaps supported by brackets.

Pier table

Designed to go against the wall between two windows.

Pinchbeck

A gold substitute used especially for watches.

Pontil

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.

Porcelain

White translucent material formed from china clay and china stone, fired at a high temperature.

Prunt

A blob of glass applied to a glass object as a form of decoration.

q
Quaiches

Two handled, shallow drinking bowl. Popular in Scotland in 17th and 18th centuries.

Quarter Veneering

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.

Queen's China

A registered name which relates to bone chine produced in the Queen's pottery in Longton.

Queen's ware

A type of cream-coloured earthenware developed by Josiah Wedgwood and first known as ‘creamware’ but renamed after Queen Charlotte placed a large order.

r
Repoussé

A type of chasing in metalwork that involves first pushing out shapes from the reverse and then pushing back to create the finer details.

Rockwork

Also known as 'rocaille'. Term used to describe an unequal form of decoration seen in Rococo wares.

Rococo

A decorative style which formed as a reaction to Baroque in the 18th century. Rococo includes flamboyant scrollwork and asymmetrical embellishment.

Rummer

This term describes a variety of wine glasses which are distinguishable by their wide bowl and thick stem.

s
Salt glaze

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.

Settee

Originally, a row of three chairs that were fused together and sold as part of a suite.

Settle

Solid, high backed, wood-panelled forerunner of the settee.

Sheraton, Thomas (1715-1806)

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.

Show Frame

Upholstered seating where the wooden frame shows around the edges.

Slipware

Earthenware pots that have been decorated with slip (a watered-down clay applied to the surface before glazing).

Soda Glass

Glass with soda as the alkaline content rather than potash as in Forest glass.

Soufflé Wares

A range of decorative glazes developed by Ruskin. Distinguished by a colourful mottled effect upon firing.

Spelter

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.

Splat

A vertical piece of wood at the centre of a chair back.

Spoon back

A chair back with a splat in the shape of a spoon.

Sterling Silver

925 parts per 1,000 of silver mixed with another metal, usually copper.

Stoneware

Sterling sliver 925 parts per 1,000 of silver mixed up with another metal, usually copper.
A hard-fired waterproof ceramic body.

Stovepipe

Top hat worn in the 19th and early 20th centuries

t
Tallboy

A chest on a chest.

Teapoy

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.

Transfer printing

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.

Trembleuse Stands

A device designed to hold a cup on raised feet. Usually in silver.

u
Underglaze printing

When designs are printed onto ceramic bodies before firing.

Unguentarium

This describes small jars or flasks which would hold aromatic oils.

Usk Ware

Referring to japanned tin wares which were produced in the town of Usk. From the second half of the 18th century.

Utility Furniture

A range of furniture commissioned by the British government in 1942, to refurnish bombed houses and help younger families set up home.

v
Van Briggle

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.

Vaseline Glass

Greenish-yellow, smooth glass, resembling the ointment, produced during the Victorian period.

Veneer

Thin layers or strips of usually fine wood applied to a carcass of much coarser wood.

Verre Églomisé

A way of decorating glass by gilding it and engraving designs in the gold leaf.

Vitrine

A glass-fronted cabinet used to display silver, china and other treasures.

w
Wegdwood

A UK based potters founded in 1759 by Josiah Wedgwood. Particularly well known for their creamware, basalts, pearlware and jasperware.

Whatnot

A set of free-standing open shelves, sometimes with one drawer, designed for the display of ornaments.

x
Xingyao

The name for white, lucid, porcelain which is generally undecorated. Pieces would be made for domestic use, which when struck have a pleasant sound.

y
Yixing Wares

Red stonewares exported from the Jiangsu Province. Commonly small teapots and cups would be exported. This style was mimicked by Delft in the 1670s.

Youngman

An English sculptor. His style reflects a more conservative and restrained style associated with British artists.

z
Zwischengoldglas

The term for glass objects where engraved gold leaf is sandwiched between two layers of clear glass.

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