Glossary beginning with B

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.

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.