The precursor to the pocket calculator is still sometimes found with wires across it, each threaded with ten beads. It is at least as old as the ancient Greeks (abacus is Greek for ‘cyphering table’), since it can also be used to teach writing and later modified by the Chinese. Crude examples from British schools and nurseries are common enough.
It is also used as a furniture term for a Roman sideboard, adopted from Asia where it was originally introduced around the 2nd century B.C.
Abalone are small to very large-sized edible sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs in the family Haliotidae and the genus Haliotis. Common names for abalones also include ear-shells, sea ears, as well as muttonfish or muttonshells in Australia, ormer in Great Britain, perlemoen and venus's-ears in South Africa and pāua in New Zealand.
The shells of abalones have a low and open spiral structure, and are characterized by several open respiratory pores in a row near the shell's outer edge. The thick inner layer of the shell is composed of nacre or mother-of-pearl, which in many species is highly iridescent, giving rise to a range of strong and changeable colours, which make the shells attractive to humans as decorative objects, and as a source of colourful mother-of-pearl, which is used in jewellery making.
The flesh of abalones is widely considered to be a desirable food, and is consumed raw or cooked in a wide variety of dishes.
The haliotid family has a worldwide distribution, along the coastal waters of every continent, except the Atlantic coast of South America, the Caribbean, and the East Coast of the United States.
Extravagant neo-Gothic furniture made during the 1820 – 30’s and named after the baronial house of Sir Walter Scott. It is heavy and spiky, and sometimes crudely made up from genuinely old fragments. The architect A.W.N. Pugin while admitting that he had designed such stuff for Windsor Castle, said of it ”All the ordinary articles of furniture which require to be simple and convenient, are made not only very expensive, but very uneasy.... A man who remains any length of time in a modern Gothic room, and escapes without being wounded by some of its furniture, may consider himself extremely fortunate.”
Brilliantly decorated pottery in the Wemyss style produced by the Fife Pottery’s neighbour and rival, the Kirkcaldy Pottery of David Methaven & Sons in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It is more likely that the two establishments used the same decoratons – all the owners were cousins. However Abbotsford does not seem to have produced the large pigs which are the best-known Wemyss products. The pottery had no connection at all with Sir Walter Scott – except to prove how bankable his name still was 70 years after his death.
An obvious change of tone in the background colour of a rug. It occurs because several batches of wool, coloured with dyes mixed at different times have been used.
French term for a spotted or ’fiddle-back’ mahogany. It has a ripple pattern similar to the veneers used for the backs of the best violins.
Acanthus is a classical ornament in the form of a stylised leaf decoration based on the scalloped leaves of the acanthus plant. Acanthus is the most prolific foliage to flourish as a decorative motif on architecture, furniture and works of art. Derived from the Mediterranean, in the hands of artists it can also resemble thistle, poppy or parsley leaves.
The acanthus leaf has been a motif that has continued in use for centuries. The use of acanthus leaf as decorative motif of a stylized leaf originated in ancient Greece where it was used as an architectural motif particularly on Corinthian capitals. Even Gothic and Romanesque architects and craftsmen employed it and from the Renaissance to the mid 1800’s it was constantly in favour. Eventually one critic was complaining of the inevitable scanthus leaf as if in the whole range of vegatable life this was the only kind of foliage worth imitating, and another that it requires so little thought.
Today the acanthus leaf motif is found most commonly on case goods, but you will find it in upholstery fabric patterns as well.
It gained much popularity during the French Louis XVI period, and is still used to give a rich opulent touch as in this mirror frame from Pulaski. When you look at the gentle curves of an acanthus leaf you will understand why it has been such a favourite in carved, painted or gilded furniture. On textiles it can be woven embroidered or printed.
William Morris was an artist associated with the Arts and Crafts movement, and is famous for his textiles and wallpapers among other things.
Cups made from silver or gold in the form of giant acorns. They were popular in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s in Britain. They were usually on twiggy stems, and the cover – the acorn itself – may well be engraved with a coat of arms. In the 1700’s and 1800’s, the acorn appears in wood as a Treen novalty, and sometimes in pottery for pepper and salt pots.
Acrylics are a type of thermoplastic, and include transparent and opaque in varied colours. Some commonly known acrylics are lucite and plexiglas.
A popular but misleading name for a Coaching inn or Tavern clock which arose from the extraordinary idea that philanthropic landlords might wish to save their clientele the expense of Pitt’s Act of 1797, taxing clocks and watches. They are hanging, weight driven wall clocks with short trunks, large wooden white dials and bold, black Roman numerals, or japanned black faces with gilt nummerals. They were used in coffee houses as well as coaching inns, and were later enlarged and adapted for station waiting rooms.
A neo-classical style, first introduced into the UK by the Scottish architect and designer Robert Adam, typified by the classical motifs such as rams’ heads, husks, palmettos and festoons. The popularity of the Adams style peaked in Britain around the 1760’s and 1770’s.
Robert Adam (1728-1792) was an eminent architect who designed furniture for the houses he built or re-modelled. He is famous for his revival of the classical style, based on Ancient Greek and Roman taste, begun in Britain during the 1760's.
Adularia is a common type of moonstone, a whitish-bluish semi-translucent stone that is usually set as a cabochon. It was very popular early in the 1900´s and was extensively used in Art Nouveau jewellery.
Adularia has a hardness of 6 and a specific gravity of 2.57
Adventurine is a misspelling of aventurine, and sometimes known as goldstone, is a shimmering quartz stone that ranges in colour from yellow to red to light green to light brown. The shimmer is caused by tiny metallic particles known as mica within the stone.
See also Aventurine and Goldstone
This might be called the ’arty’ end of the Arts and Crafts Movement. It was a reaction to the flamboyant ornamentation loved by the Victorians. From the 1840’s a new purity of design was championed by Pugin and Owen Jones, and in the 1860’s the idea of Art for Art’s Sake was taken up by the culturally aware. The Movement drew on diverse sources from Japanese and Chinese to Queen Anne and traditional metalwork. Walter Crane summarised it well in 1889: ”plain material and surfaces are infinitely preferable to inorganic or inappropriate ornament.”
African jade, also called Transvaal jade, is a misnomer for a massive green grossular garnet that is mined in South Africa; it is not jade, but does look like jade, and can be light green, white, or pink
Agate is a semi-precious gemstone that is a variety of chalcedony, a family of micro-crystalline quartz. Agate is a very common stone that is often used in jewellery. It is found in a wide range of colours, including black, grey, brown, reddish, green, pink, blue, and yellow. Agate can be flecked with colour and is often banded, exhibiting layers of quartz.
A Renaissance technique of blending molten glass of two or more colours to imitate semi-precious stones. The mixture was then turned into decorative objects. Depending on the mix, agate, chalcedony, onyx or jasper might be aimed at.
An agate-like pottery with blended clays by the Romans, and lately by Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters.
Loose term covering some surface treatment techniques used to make objects look old. Also a metallurgical term to describe hardening an alloy by heating it to a temperature where a precipitate forms from a super-saturated solid solution.
A 1700’s British method for stretching bubbles into single or double spirals in the stems of glasses. Sometimes the spirals were coloured.
A fine-grained white, yellow or reddish limestone, or gypsum that can be cut so thinly as to be translucent. It was even used for glazing and small church windows, in the Middle Ages. From the middle of the 1300’s, Nottingham was known as a centre for small-scale religious carvings in alabaster, but the Reformation killed the British industry in the 1500’s.
A watch chain, usually with oval links, each twisted to allow the chain to lie flat, named after Queen Victoria’s husband, the Prince Consort 1819 – 1861.
The term is frequently used to describe any watch chain that attaches a watch to a waistcoat. Often each link is graduated in size to give a tapered appearance and is referred to as a variagated chain.
1700’s built-in corner cupboard, used in the dining room for the disposition of silver, glass and porcelain.
Copper 90%, Aluminium 6%, Iron 3%, Manganese 1% corrosion resistant alloy for pickling tanks made by Durion Co, Dayton, Ohio, USA.
76% copper, 22% zinc, 2% aluminium brass made by Charles Clifford & Son, Birmingham under BNFMRA patent.
A tall, trumpet-shaped glass with a long or short stem and spreading foot, used in 1700’s Britain for beer and ale drinking. If engraved, the most common motif is the hop vine.
A copper or brass pan with wooden or iron handle that was put in a fire to prepare mulled ale. It is usually boot, shoe or coned shaped and was introduced in the 1700’s in Britain. Examples from the 1800’s are more common today.
The "Alexandrite Effect" is a phenomenon in which a stone appears to be different colours depending upon the type of light it is viewed in. For example, the stone alexandrite appears to be red when seen in candle light and blue to green when seen in fluorescent light. Many other stones exhibit the "Alexandrite Effect," including garnet and sapphire
An alloy is an amalgam form of two or more different metals mixed together chemically to produce a new metal with more suitable properties. Almost all metals found in the decorative arts are alloys, including various gold alloys, sterling silver, brass, bronze and pewter.
In silver the base metals are added for strength.
Furniture with aluminium or magnesium as their main metal. Both alloys have one important characteristic; their extreme lightness combined with strength. Often used for garden furniture since world war II.
Or "dole cupboard" is a kind of livery Elizabethan cupboard used in churches in which bread was kept to be doled out to the poor.
Alpaca (also spelled alpacca) is an alloy consisting of mostly copper (around 55 percent), and approximately 20 percent nickel, about 20 percent zinc, and about 5 percent tin.
This metal alloy is a substitute for silver and is also known as German Silver and Nickel Silver when there is no tin in the alloy.
See also German Silver and Nickel Silver
Brass containing up to 36% of zinc is usually the single alpha phase with good cold working properties.
Brass containing over 36% of zinc or with other additions usually has two phases present in the crystal structure, alpha and beta. They are used for castings, extrusions and for hot stampings.
Province in France, known for furniture making inspired and reflecting the cabinetwork of Germany, Austria and Switzerland in the French provincial period.
High copper brass with aluminium added for improved corrosion resistance. This is often used for condenser tubes.
Copper-aluminium alloys with up to 13% of aluminium, usually also with other additions such as iron, manganese, nickel and/or silicon. These alloys are strong, hard and have excellent resistance to marine corrosion. They are therefore commonly used for making propellers, bearings, gears, valves, and pipe fittings for seawater use.
A fossil resin chiefly found on the southern shore of the Baltic. Translucent, it has a rich, nicotine yellow-brown colour. It has been popular from the Middle Ages for decorative items and embellishments to furniture, as well as for beads and jewellery.
The term American clock was used in the Victorian era and afterward to refer to a particular style of clock design followed by the American clockmakers of the day.
In the 1800´s, many clocks and watches were produced in the United States, especially in Connecticut, where many companies were formed to mass-produce quality timepieces.
The most commonly found American clock in Britain is the mass-produced late 1800’s wooden wall or mantel clock by the American Clock Co. They may have pediments or flat tops and painted or transfer-decorated panels below the dials. However during the same period American makers were capable of better quality, and more impressive items.
Cupids or cherubs used in decoration. Popular in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s as well as in Adam designs.
Amorphous, means without form. An amorphous gem, like jet, amber, or ivory, does not have a regular internal structure, like those gems that fall within the seven crystal systems.
An amulet is a protective charm that is worn in the hope of protecting the wearer from evil or illness or to bring the wearer good luck.
Andirons are the forerunners of the fire basket and consist of two large wrought iron or cast iron supports for logs that stand in a hearth to contain logs. They were made in pairs from the 1400’s to 1700’s when coal replaced wood for heating most houses. They are vaguely dog shaped with upright stems usually on two feet and horizontal backs running to a hind foot. Their fronts are often made of reflective material such as silver, brass, polished steel or paktong. Most are simple and rustic, but great houses had grander versions in bronze, brass or even silver. Many of these were purely decorative and were replaced with smaller, humbler versions for actual use.
Andiron may be derived from Endiron, describing the end iron in the hearth.
See also Fire Dogs
A Frenchman, Lucien Vidie, invented the aneroid barometer in 1843. He produced a metallic barometer that he called an aneroid, from the Greek, meaning “without liquid”, and this form of barometer is so called because it uses atmospheric pressure on a partial vacuum rather than on mercury. The invention goes back to Leibniz (1646-1716), but its first commercial use was by Lucien Vidie, and his competitor Eugine Bourdon in the mid 1800’s.
The principle of the aneroid barometer is the change in height of a sealed metallic chamber that has flexible upper and lower surfaces. As the pressure changes, so the height of the chamber varies which, in turn, moves an index pointer. As there was no need for a long tube of mercury, it was possible to build a compact instrument. Aneroid barometers are less susceptible to shock and the transport problems associated with mercury instruments. All movements are tested and calibrated to sea level. Instructions are included so the instrument can be adjusted for height variations above sea level, as forecasts quote the sea level pressure, shown in isobars on a meteorological chart.
Desk or mantel versions with visible workings were popular, and pocket types were also made in many sizes with gold, silver or brass cases. They should not be confused with anemometers or wind gauges.
The angle barometer is a barometer in which the upper part of the mercury tube is nearly horizontal. In this form, the visible movement of the mercury is spread over a longer scale than in a stick barometer and the readings are clearer.
Angle barometers, also known as sign post or diagonal barometers were introduced in the early 1700’s.
Ancient Egyptian symbol for life adopted by Greek philosophers as the sign for copper.
Also called ‘Key of Life’ and ‘Crux Ansata’.
Annealing is the process of heating a metal and then cooling it to make it more workable.
As metal is worked, hammered, rolled, forged etc. the stresses make the metal brittle (the metal molecules are pulled into random structures during the working). Annealing the metal make the metal re-crystallize, putting the molecules in an orderly structure.
The temperature and amount of time it takes for annealing a metal depends on the metal or metal alloy. Large pieces are annealed in an annealing oven; small pieces are annealed using a blowtorch.
Annealing is also used to remove tension in a piece of metal before brazing, helping to reduce warpage.
After annealing, quenching is not necessary but may be of advantage in helping to remove scale.
A kind of mantel clock mounted in bronze doré having an annular or horizontal ring-shaped dial in white enamel with Roman numerals. Introduced during the Louis XVI style.
Cast slabs of copper from the fire refining processes used as starters for electrolytic refining.
Anodized metal has been through an electrochemical process that changes the molecular structure of the surface layer, giving it a thin, protective film.
In the anodization process, the metal is placed in an acid bath (at the "anode" or positive end of the electrical circuit) and an electrical current is passed through the tank. This process causes a controlled oxidation of the metal's surface to occur (oxygen atoms bond to surface atoms of the metal).
Aluminium is often anodized, as is magnesium, titanium, and tantalum.
Anodized metal has a lustrous sheen; the anodizing process can produce colourful surfaces.
Stylised ornament derived from classical architecture based on the honeysuckle flower and leaf. It was commonly used in Greek and Roman architecture for ornamental banding on friezes, architraves, cornices and the necks of Ionic capitals. Frequently combined with other motifs, it enjoyed renewed popularity in the 1700’s and during the Neo-Classical period. It was also used in Adam designs and also during the Regency period.
A term used in the past to describe Greek and Roman artefacts, but since Victorian times it has widened to include anything over 100 years old. This is the legal definition for exports and other purposes for most countries.
A general term used to indicated a dull matt copper finish with areas of darker relief which give emphasis to parts of the product. The base metal is often brass.
Also known as Ant. Cop, A/C, Oxidised Copper and Ox Cop.
Silver spoons with fig-shaped bowls and handles topped by figures of apostles, or in the case of the master spoon of a set of thirteen, by the figure of Christ. Apostle spoon sets comprise the twelve Apostles and the Saviour or Master. A number of full length figures of the Virgin Mary are also known, and a set in the British Museum has a figure of the Virgin Mary on the thirteenth spoon.
Wire, moulding or cast pieces, made separately and then soldered onto the main body of a piece, to ornament or strengthen it.
Decoration that is ’applied’ or stuck on, to a surface, such as crests applied to the backs of chairs. A popular idea in the early Georgian period was for faceted carved, turned or moulded ornaments to be applied to panels of doors on the flat surfaces of cabinets. Applique is fabric decorated in the same way with, shaped pieces forming a pattern on the material to which it is stiched.
Also fixed wall scones with branched supports for candles, occasionally designed with a mirror to reflect the light. Popular in the Chippendale period.
An ornamental piece of shaped and carved wood hanging from the scat rail of a chair or from the lower framework of a chest of drawers etc.
Aqua regia is a 3:1 mixture of hydrochloric acid and nitric acid.
Aqua regia is used to test gold and platinum; it is just about one of the few substances that can dissolve gold and platinum.
Decoration of intricate interweaving, scrolling foliage, calligraphy or flowing lines – also known as Saracenic or Moresque decoration. If it contains human figures it becomes Grotesqu.
Also called "seaweed" marquetry, especially fashionable in the William and Mary period.
Spanish chest, important in the Spanish renaissance, but also found in early Egyptian, Grecian and Roman furniture.
Furniture term for "coffre-bench", a massive wooden bench in French Gothic style, with back and arms, designed to seat several persons. The portion between the seat and the floor was enclosed to form a coffre.
Introduced in the Queen Anne period (first quarter of the 1700’s), and especially designed for the needs of draftsmen, artists and architects. Some varieties included, a table size easel, adjustable rising tops, and pull-out fronts fitted with many small compartments.
A new firestain free alloy with fantastic tarnish resistance. It contains a higher percentage of fine silver (93%, and the higher 97% fine silver). It can be stamped sterling.
Argyll or Argyle is a 1700’s British gravy warmer, drum shaped like a tea pot. The gravy was in a central cylinder connected to the spout, and surrounded by hot water. It was generally made of silver or other metals, but there are also pottery versions. Argyles are recorded from around 1760 and are said to be named after the 4th Duke of Argyll.
The earliest Japanese porcelain factories were found near Arita by a Korean, who discovered a source of kaolin in 1616. White wares were produced, decorated with underglaze blue like late Ming, and exported to Europe by the Dutch. Later in the 1600’s, enamelled Kakiemon and Imari wares were made, and in the 1700’s much of the best Japanese porcelain was made there.
Italian renaissance, tall, rectilinear, single-bodied, movable cupboard or wardrobe. Similar to the French "armoire".
Tall two body cupboard in the French renaissance period (2nd half of the 1500´s). As a rule the front and sides of the upper body were recessed, and the lower body, which was generally more oblong in appearance, was mounted on ball feet.
Primarily one refers to Chinese export porcelain decorated with the coats of arms of European, Americanor Brazillian families. From around 1700, drawings and instructions were sent to the Jingdezhen factories, but the majority of the arms enamelled in the centre of rims of plates or on treens and so on, were executed in Canton. As the decorators had no idea of what heraldry (or the written instruction) meant; hilarious mistakes were frequently made. Complete services are uncommon but single pieces appear on the market not infrequently.
Brass with improved corrosion resistance containing arsenic, and frequently aluminium.
Copper with phosphorus and arsenic additions that give good strength and resistance to fire cracking. It is used primarily for the manufacture of boiler fireboxes.
The first truly modern style, which made full use of mechanised production and new materials. The name derives from the first major exhibition of decorative arts held after the First World War in 1925 L’Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Inustriels Modernes, in Paris, France. The style was popular from around 1920’s until 1940’s. Geometric lines and angles, with very few curves, characterize Art Deco pieces. This art movement eventually became bolder and evolved into Art Moderne.
A new, short lived and excessive style, that thrived between circa 1890 – 1914. The style is characterised by curving, swirling, organic, naturalistic designs, particularly, the whiplash motif and long-haired sensual women. Louis Comfort Tiffany made archetypal Art Nouveau pieces. The name derives from a shop opened by Bing in Paris in 1895. Known as “Stile Liberty”. In Germany and Scandinavia, Art Nouveau is known as “Jugendstil” and “Secession” in Austria.
The initials marked on the base of painted china by the artist who carried out the colour work.
A group of 1800’s artists and designers, led by William Morris, who tried to restore interest in simple hand-craftsmanship, in direct conflict with the with the Victorian taste for over embelishment.
The Arts and Crafts was an artistic movement that produced hand-crafted pieces toward the end of the 1800's. The movement, led by William Morris and his artist and designer companions in UK, which sought to challenge increasing industrialisation by re-introducing the medieval concepts of craftsmanship. Pieces purposely look hand-made, incorporating hammer marks and simple cabochon settings. The Arts and Crafts movement also revived the art of enamel.
A prominent Arts and Crafts jeweller was C.R. Ashbee (1863-1942); Ashbee founded The Guild of Handicraft in 1888.
Other important Arts and Crafts jewelers include:
- Arthur Gaskin (1862-1928)
- Georgina Gaskin (1868-1934, Arthur's wife)
- Fred T. Partridge
- John Paul Cooper (1869-1933)
- Bernard Cuzner (1877-1956)
- Henry Wilson (1864-1934)
- Alexander Fisher (1864-1936)
- Edgar Simpson.
A tough, light brown wood, used for making country furniture and decorative veneers. When polished up it can resemble olive.
The testing and proving of precious metals namely gold, silver and platinum, to verify that they contain only the legal proportion of base metal alloy. The Assay Office strikes the relevant marks as proof that it has been tested.
In classical architecture this is a small, semi-circular moulding generally used with the Ionic Order. To cabinet makers however, an astragal is a glazing bar on the glass fronted doors of case furniture such as bookcases and escritoires.
A small decorative stand or table introduced under Louis XVI. Based on the antique Pompeiian tripod with decoration similar to that of the classical originals.
Victorious Roman armies used to divide their loot, and slaves, by auction. In Britain the first record of auctioneering comes only at the end of the 1400’s, with an official of Henry VII’s court known as the King’s Over-Roper. To rope was to shout out for sale and the word survives in Scotland and northern England where sales may be called ’roups’. After the restoration of Charles II in 1660, auctions became common in London, with Covent Garden as the centre of trade. Amongst the oldest British firms to have survived are Sotherby’s which stems from Baker’s book sales beginning in 1744, and Christies, founded in 1766. Dreweatt Neate of Newbury also has its origins in the 1760’s. Bonhams, which in part is still a family run firm, and Phillips, founded by James Christie’s sales clerk, followed at the end of the 1700’s.
Aumbry or ambry, is a large cupboard enclosed with doors and having shelves, movable or built in the wall. Used during the Gothic period in England, and was the English equivalent of the French word "armoire".
Green in colour, ranging from pale green to a deep forest green, and a member of the quartz family. Green aventurine is mainly from India.
See also Adventurine and Goldstone
An axis of symmetry, also called a rotational axis, is an imaginary line around which an object can be rotated a certain number of degrees and look like the original shape. When two planes of symmetry intersect, they form a straight line, which is an axis of symmetry.
The first carpet factory at Axminster, Devon, was established in 1755. It supplied a Chinoiserie carpet for the Brighton Pavilion and a Turkish one for Sir John Soane’s house. In 1835 it closed and its equipment was taken over by the Wilton factory. Since then the term Axminster has applied to carpets produced mechanically by Wilton and those from the Kidderminster carpet factory.
A low chest of drawers with folding top, introduced in the early 1700´s during the Georgian period. The top, when open, was supported on runners and served as a writing board.
Furniture term for a plate attached to a drawer or door on which a handle or knob is mounted.
The rearmost of two points on a gun provided for the purpose of visual alignment with the target.
See also Foresight
A badge or an emblem is an insignia of membership or office or dignity. Badges have been worn since the 1600’s with the early badges sewn onto the upper arm of a garment. Later ones were made from various metals and were pinned on, or suspended from the garment. Badges were issued by organisations such as Livery companies, Masonic lodges, Corporations etc.
A French Gothic shallow oblong box with a hinged lid, often attached to a coffre or chest. The combined piece was called a "coffre à bahut" and was used in traveling, the immediate articles needed for the trip being placed in the bahut.
Or "brass loop" was the principle type of handle in the first half of the 1700´s, attached to a flat-shaped back plate.
Bakelite, also called catalin, is the trade name for a dense, synthetic resin, phenol formaldehyde or phenolic, developed by the German chemist Leo Baekland and patented in 1907.
This hard non-flammable plastic could not be remoulded once set. It had a limited colour range, principally mottled brown or black, but also blue and green. When one Bakelite colour is inlaid into another, interesting designs like polka dots can be made.
Bakelite plastic is made from carbolic acid and formaldehyde, and when rubbed, Bakelite gives off benzene like smell.
Bakelite became popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s when it was used for domestic items, jewellery and electrical fittings.
Bakelite pieces are moulded, extruded, or carved.
Bakelite was first used to imitate amber.
A termination for furniture legs that became popular in the early 1700’s, derived from Chinese bronzes where the dragon holds a flaming pearl of wisdom. In Europe the claw of an eagle was sometimes substituted for the dragon’s claw.
Furniture term for an English Gothic motif, having three to four lobes with a ball in the hollow centre.
Turning in the form of a series of balls was a common design element in the 1800´s. Objects decorated with these turnings were often termed "spool-turned" and are associated with the Elizabethan Revival.
A chair with an open, oval back rest made by curving the cresting rail to meet the back legs. It shaped like a hot-air balloon, swelling at the top and tapering in near the seat.
Furniture term for a slight and easily transportable type of chair used in ballrooms.
Common pattern of turning on 1700´s chair uprights and banisters in the form of a column with cup or U-shaped element below.
Furniture term for a turned vertical post or pillar, often having a vase-or column shaped outline. Also known as a banister.
The bamboo form as a leg or otherwise was popular during the influence of Eastern designs in 1740-1760, and again at the turn of the 1700´s into the 1800´s. It took the form of clustered columns in mahogany furniture, with small double collars turned to look like bamboo joints, or, later, single columns so turned. In the Regency period actual bamboo reproduction was made in other woods (or even iron). Bamboo furniture itself tends to be a Victorian manufacture, since much bamboo furniture was produced in the late 1800´s perhaps as a feature of the heyday of Empire.
A French Gothic long and narrow bench, essentially a smaller variety of the "banc". Generally designed with a low back and side pieces, or simply with side pieces.
A 1400´s Italian renaissance flat-top writing table. It had an oblong top which extended well beyond the deep frieze that was fitted with two drawers.
A band is a ring of uniform width that is made from a thin, flat, ribbon-like strip of material, usually metal. The band can be unadorned or decorated.
Wedding rings are often bands.
Decorative feature of furniture where strips of veneer run around the edge of panels.
Used around the edges of tables or drawers for decorative effect, the art and proportion of the banding is vital to the success of the design. Straight banding is one which has been cut along the grain; crossbanding describes that where the wood has been cut across the grain.
Very decorative effects were obtained by using different and exotic woods for cross-banding. Herring-bone or feather bandings were used in walnut furniture.
See also Cross-Banding
A bangle is of rigid construction that is worn as an ornament on the wrist or forearm, whilst the bracelet although similar in use is a flexible band or series of links.
Bangles and bracelets have been worn as ornaments by men as well as by women from the earliest times. They were made from bone, coral or ivory, as well as metal, and were worn in primitive as well as civilised societies.
The chair back is composed of a series of upright turned spindles that are topped by a curving crest rail. Banister-back chairs were made in the early 1700´s.
Spanish Renaissance low stool of simple construction that usually has a rectangular wood seat. Occasionally the seat was covered with leather or velvet, fastened with decorative nails. The seat rested on trestle-end supports or on turned or carved legs.
A bar and ring clasp, also called a toggle clasp, is a jewellery fastener in which a bar can be inserted into a ring to fasten a piece of jewellery It is used to attach the two ends of a necklace or bracelet.
A bar brooch also known as a Bar Pin, is a type of brooch in the form of one or more horizontal bars. The bars may be left plain or decorated along its length or with gemstones or a decorative motif at the centre and gemstones or other decoration at the terminals.
A bar pin, also called a bar brooch, is a type of brooch in the form of one or more horizontal bars. The bars may be left plain or decorated along its length or with gemstones or a decorative motif at the centre and gemstones or other decoration at the terminals.
An alternative name for spiral twist-turned legs that were very popular in the late 1600's.
Barometers are used to measure atmospheric pressure.
Galileo¨s notes on measuring pressure were discovered after his death by an apprentice called Evangelista Torricelli (1608 – 1647) who improved on the master by using mercury instead of tubes of water. A scale was added to his first barometer only after his death, by the French philosopher Descartes.
Barometers were introduced to Britain in the 1680´s, in both the basic stick and the wheel types. The stick, which stands on three little legs, was popularised by the Irish scientist Robert Boyle (1627 – 1691). It had a visible vacuum at the top of the mercury column. The wheel type, invented by Robert Boyle¨s assistant, Robert Hooke (1635 – 1703) has a U-bend at the bottom of the tube.
In the 1800¨s, Clerkenwell was full of Italian barometer-makers as well as clockmakers. One of the most common mid to late 1800¨s types is the Fitzroy, invented by the commander of the Beagle on Charles Darwin¨s South American voyage. Most Fitzroy barometers have Victorian Gothic oak frames
Characterised by elaborate, flamboyant decoration and expansive forms, the Baroque style was fully developed by about 1620 in Italy. It was adapted and classified during the Louis XIV period in France, and it was an indirect influence on the William and Mary and Queen Anne styles in Britain and America.
A barrel clasp is a jewellery fastener that resembles a barrel. The two pieces of this clasp screw together, and it is used to attach two other rings or links of a necklace or bracelet.
A low cupboard generally designed with two or three doors and fashionable in the 1700´s. Placed between two doors or windows.
Base metal refers to non-precious metals such as copper tin, lead and zinc, as opposed to the precious metals gold, silver and platinum. The term is often used of plated articles when it is not obvious which metal has been plated over.
Washing stand particularly popular in America during the Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton period. The principal variety was a mahogany circular tripod. It had a moulded basin ring on three scrolled supports joined by a shelf containing two narrow drawers and often surmounted by a covered urn to hold the soap. When the washing stand was closed it resembled a small bedside table.
Basse-taille, meaning "low cutting" in French, is an enamelling technique in which the underlying metal, usually gold or silver, is carved in low relief (the metal's surface is cut away by engraving or chasing, producing a sculpted surface). The highest point of the relief carving is below the surface of the surrounding metal. Translucent enamels are applied over the carved metal, allowing the design to remain visible through the enamel. The hue of the enamel changes with the depth of the glaze, resulting in subtle variations in colour over the high and low design elements.
A baton is a jewellery term that describes a stone that is cut in a long thin rectangular shape that is larger than a baguette.
Batterium Metal Co, Market Harborough term for 90/10 copper/aluminium alloy with 1% nickel.
Escutcheon or drawer pull popular during the Queen Anne period which resembles the outline of a flying bat.
Used for two types of moulding: either a small plain moulding of semi-circular section or one in the form of a string of beads.
Beads are small objects, each with a hole through it for stringing, and are made of glass, stones, wood, plastics, seeds, and ceramics.
In the Sheraton style, these mahogany bed steps generally consisted three steps. The upper tread was hinged and opened to a well which was often fitted with a wash basin and a soap cup. Sometimes the bed steps were designed with a drawer under the middle tread, and rested on four short tapered cylindrical legs.
Made from honeycombs, the wax is sold either in its natural yellow colour, or in a bleached white form.
A bell cap is a jewellery finding that is used to convert a hole-less bead or stone into a pendant.
Copper tin alloy with much higher tin content than conventional bronze in order to make it hard and sonorous. It is too brittle to be used for many other applications.
The term was also sometimes confusingly used in the 1800¨s to describe a much cheaper 60/40 cast brass that does not contain the tin needed to make sonorous bells.
French for 'beautiful period'. A style of jewellery popular during the Edwardian period, or the reign in England of Edward VII 1901-1910). Belle Epoque jewellery is characterised by its delicacy and elegance, use of filigree work, bow motifs and pearls and diamonds
See also Edwardian Period
Furniture term for a hanging motif, consisting of several three- or five-petaled flowers, used during the first phase of Neoclassicism. Generally inlaid, it is sometimes called the husk motif.
Benares, now called Varenisi, is the Hindu Holy City and is sited in the River Ganges in India. It is in Utah Pradesh which has a long history of copper mining. The brassware is intricately decorated with Sanskrit inscriptions and Hindu icons.
Cast copper alloy products of great artistry and craftsmanship produced in Benin, Nigeria from the 1200¨s to 1800´s. Composition ranged from high-copper to brasses.
A furniture making technique. Solid wooden components are bent into shape after softening with steam.
An armchair, originally with upholstered sides, based on French prototypes and perfected during the Louis XV style, had a rounded back, closed arms, and a loose seat cushion. Now a furniture term used to describe a chair with cane woven sides and back, usually post-1800 in date.
A brass with very high zinc content may be mostly of beta structure. This is brittle and used only as a brazing filler alloy.
The bezel is the part of a cut stone that protrudes above the edge of a setting. It is also known as the crown.
A short necklace, usually with pendants or other ornaments hanging from the front . It is also known as a collarette
Derived from the name of a political caricature appearing in a German newspaper, who typified a well-to-do middle-class man without culture. Biedermeier furniture, which was in vogue from around 1815-1825 to about 1860, was always commonplace and a potpourri of some Sheraton, Regency, Directoire and Empire features.
Following the turmoil of the Napoleonic wars, many of the countries of Europe were in financial crisis and none more so than Prussia. Precious metals were unobtainable. Gold and silver jewellery had to be surrendered to the State to further the war effort, and the State provided substitutes in iron. The link between iron and patriotism was further reinforced by the introduction of the Iron Cross as the highest military honour.
Between 1813 until around 1842, enterprising jewellers and metalworkers set to work and produced some remarkable jewellery made from iron and steel. The finest jewellery was made at Gleiwitz in Silesia and also in Berlin. Casting was used to make much of the jewellery, and pieces of amazing delicacy were produced, attributable so it was claimed, to the type of sand used. Other pieces such as necklaces and brooches were made by drawing out the iron into fine wire, and weaving it to make a delicate mesh.
The quality of workmanship in the finest pieces is astonishing and deservedly finds a place amongst the jewellery made from gold and other precious metals.
Originally shipped from Spain, and produced in America, this mirror had a rectangular upright wooden frame that was entirely covered with various coloured pieces of marble.
Wood of the American sweet gum tree, and frequently used as a substitute for mahogany because of its pronounced resemblance. Much used in the Revolutionary War period when mahogany from the West Indies was not available.
A British 1600´s weight driven clock, enclosed with a metal (brass) case. They where hung against the wall or set upon a wall bracket with the chains and weights exposed and hanging down. Also known as the "lantern" clock.
Furniture term for the section of a tilt-top table, consisting of two blocks separated by columns located between the top and the pedestal, which allows the top of the table to tilt and pivot. It became popular in the Chippendale period.
Birefringence is another name for double refraction.
In doubly-refractive stones, the light entering the stone is split into two light rays, and the rays travel in different paths. These stones have more than one refractive index.
Calcite, peridot, zircon, tourmaline, and titanite are doubly-refractive stones.
In France this candlestand was called "guéridon" since the early stand (1600´s) was in the form of a young negro (name given to a young Moor brought from Africa to work as a servant). The Moor in his costume was made either of painted and gilded carved wood or of bronze, and held a candleholder in either of his hands.
Sometimes he supported a small top on his head with his raised hands.
Fretwork glued or carved upon a solid surface, Used in mahogany furniture as a frieze under top mouldings and on canted corners.
An upholsterer’s stitch used to pull stuffing to the side of the seat in order to form a firm edge.
Furniture term for a section of wood used for support in furniture. Rounded or triangular corner blocks support slip seats in chairs, and glue blocks are used for support in case pieces with drawers.
Furniture term for a 1700´s chair stretcher, combining baluster or other turned elements with blocks.
Combination of square and vase-shaped sections. Pattern of turnings associated with the William and Mary period.
Piece visually divided into three vertical sections: The center section is concave, and the sections on each side are convex. Popular in the 1700´s in New England, America.
In textiles, printing a repeat design on to a fabric from engraved wooden or metal blocks.
Misty appearance to the varnish of an oil painting, that is caused by the damp conditions at the time of varnishing.
Essentially the Chinese tradition of blue and white porcelain began in the 1300¨s and continues today. Their wares were prized by Moslem rulers, and made their way to European courts in the 1500¨s. In the same way, the taste moved eastwards, first to Korea and then to Japan.
In the mid 1500¨s the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch from the early 1600¨s, began to import directly, and this stimulated European potters to compete. Blue and qhite became standard for Dutch delft, and much was produced elsewhere in Europe by makers of Maiolica and Faience. No European imitations could compare with the quality of the imported Kangzi porcelain wares (1662-1722), which were avidly collected by connoisseurs. The Dutch sent to Japan delft-decorated wooden samples of the designs they wanted, which were then turned out en masse by the Japanese potters at Arita. Blue and white retained its popularity despite the discovery of true or hard-paste porcelain by Johann Böttger.
Once the British factories such as Worcester, Lowestoft and Liverpool came into production in the mid 1700¨s, they each made blue and white, as did Staffordshire earthenware potters. Part of its popularity was due to its cheapness as against coloured wares. Shapes were largely derived from silver designs, and the decoration either imitated the Chinese directly or built up its own Rococo Chinoserie world – of which the willow pattern later became the most famous example.
The controlled production of an oxide film on steel to inhibit further corroding and enhance the appearance. Blueing is achieved by heat or chemical treatment.
Developed from the short cavalry carbine, the blunderbuss was a favourite weapon for self-defence from the 1670s to the 1840´s, when it was superseded by much more effective pistols and shotguns.
Because of the typical trumpet barrel it is often assumed that it had a wide spread but in fact the opposite is true. The wide muzzle was designed for easy loading on a bucking coach or pitching ship. Thus. Although it was generally inefficient, it was popular on stagecoaches and with the navy. It was good for physical intimidation, especially when fitted with a spring bayonet.
Furniture term for a tapered, cylindrical foot. One version was found on Philadelphia Windsor furniture.
Empire style day bed (also called "lit bateau"). It was designed with ends of equal height which usually narrowed towards the top and rolled over. The side piece had a concave line that continued the curves from the head and the foot in an unbroken line. The lower line of the side piece was straight and close to the floor.
The three dimensional vegetation that forms the background tp porcelain and earthenware figures made in Germany from about 1740 and Britain from around 1760. The leaves which often resemble those of the hawthorn, are arranged in groups usually with coloured flowers at the centre of each group.
It was here that the best sgraffito (scratched) ware of the late 1500´s and early 1600´s were made. The clay vessel was dipped into liquid clay (slip), dried, and the decoration scratched through to the underlying colour before firing. The lines could be filled with colour or a double-layer of slip applied and then engraved. The piece was then glazed and fired. The earliest are fairly crude but in the late 1400´s the Bolognese tried to compete with the Maiolica factories and produced much finer wares decorated with Putti, youths and maidens within a border of stylised leaves. Sgraffti like the trilobed jug shown were made at Bologna until the 1700´s with, from 1749, a factory making cream-coloured earthenware.
A bolt ring, also known as a spring ring, is a hollow circular metal fastening ring with a spring opening. It is used to attach two other rings or links of a necklace or bracelet. The bolt ring was invented early in the 1900's
A French term used to describe a swelling curve. The fronts of some later 1700's commodes and chests of drawers curve from top to bottom as well as from side to side. Such fronts are called bombe.
Bonding is a process in which a colourless bonding agent like plastic, is applied on and into a porous gemstone to make the stone more durable and have an enhanced appearance.
Bone is animal bone, carved to make beads, pins, bangles, etc. It superficially resembles ivory, but has a less-complex characteristic internal patterns and a more yellow colour.
Encompassed by the term “soft paste”
A type of porcelain containing 25% china stone, 25% china clay and 50% ground cattle bones.
Made exclusively in UK from the early 1800’s and still produced today.
Furniture term for a very fashionable feminine bureau introduced late in the Louis XV style. It had a small oblong recessed superstructure designed with doors that were often of tambour construction and which opened to a series of small drawers and compartments. The top was usually surmounted with marble and a three-quarter pierced metal gallery. The table generally had either a hinged writing lid or a pullout writing board and stood on four slender legs.
Another name for fluted frieze, so called because it resembles the side view of a stack of books. Most often seen on New York and Newport furniture of the first period of Classicism.
A bookchain is a metal chain made in gold, gold filled or sterling silver, in which each link is a folded piece of metal, each of which resembles a book. They were often elaborately engraved and had large lockets attached.
This style dates from the Victorian Era, when these chains held lockets.
These are made from a variety of materials and date from the 1800´s onwards. They were often trowel-shaped with a slit cut in them to slip over the page. The most costly were made of delicately engraved silver, with ivory handles, but base metals, wood, bone and, from the 1930´s, plastics were also used. They often had a souvenir or commemorative function. Later, many were produced in silks, card or leather as advertisements.
French for the upholstered Victorian Ottoman seat. A round or oval seat with a cone-shaped or cylindrical-shaped back rest, the top of which very often served for the reception of a vase of flowers, a palm, or marble sculpture.
Furniture term for an applied three-dimensional ornament, usually round or oval, seen on 1600´s-style furniture such as court cupboards and Wethersfield chests.
Leather upholstered chair made during the early 1700´s, so called because the type was exported from Boston to other American cities in large numbers.
Painted rocking chair with wide crest rail, splat, or spindles in back, and S-shaped rolled seat, first introduced during the early 1800´s.
A French Louis XVI circular marble top card table made of veneered mahogany. It had a pierced metal gallery over a panelled frieze that was fitted with two small drawers and two pull-out slides. It was mounted on four cylindrical and tapered legs that terminated in sabots.
Furniture term for a form of French Louis XIV marquetry.
Decorative inlay composed of thin slices of brass sheet and tortoiseshell.
Matthew Boulton was a British manufacturer and business partner of Scottish engineer James Watt. In the final quarter of the 1700¨s the partnership installed hundreds of Boulton & Watt steam engines, which were a great advance on the state of the art, making possible the mechanisation of factories and mills. Boulton applied modern techniques to the minting of coins, striking millions of pieces for Britain and other countries, and supplying the Royal Mint with up-to-date equipment.
At his great Soho works near Birmingham, begun in 1762, Boulton made steel jewellery, silver, ormolu (gilt bronze) and Sheffield Plate item using designers such as Adam and William Chambers, as well as in-house workers. Manufacturers of buttons, buckles, watch chains and the like has to help finance more ambitious products such as ormolu-mounted blue john chimneypiece decoration. Despite clients such as George III and the Empress of Russia, and a strong market in France, ormolu production was stopped in 1785. Boulton retired in 1800, but his son carried on the business until 1846.
Furniture term for a motif of a ribbon tied in a bow, found inlaid on furniture made during the first phase of Classicism, namely the Federal period.
Soft-paste porcelain factory founded at Bow, London c.1747 and closed in 1776. It produced a wide range of figures and domestic ware which were often enamelled in Kakiemon style or with botanical flowers in soft colours. After 1760 the quality deteriorated and when the factory closed, many of the models were taken by William Duesbury for use at Derby. Marks include incised planet symbols, blue & white marked with B, script G, or planet symbols in underglaze blue. Marks on later figures include anchor and dagger in red, under-glaze blue letters, dots and crescents.
A greenish fawn colour obtained by baking solid bronze metal in a damp atmosphere. The same colour can also be obtained by oxidising brass.
Also known as B.M.A.
A banding veneer in which the grain runs at right angles to the main veneered panel.
See also Banding
The Edwardian period (also known as the Belle Époque) was the time of the reign of Edward VII of England (1901-1910). Edwardian jewellery is delicate and elegant. Edwardian designs frequently use bows and filigrees. Pearls and diamonds were also frequently used.
Andirons or Fire Dogs are the forerunners of the fire basket and consist of two large wrought iron or cast iron supports that stand in a hearth and were used for supporting either the grate or large logs directly. They were made in pairs from the 1400’s to 1700’s when coal replaced wood for heating most houses. They are vaguely dog shaped with upright stems usually on two feet and horizontal backs running to a hind foot. Their fronts are often made of reflective material such as silver, brass, polished steel or paktong. Most are simple and rustic, but great houses had grander versions in bronze, brass or even silver. Many of these were purely decorative and were replaced with smaller, humbler versions for actual use.
Andiron may be derived from Endiron, describing the end iron in the hearth.
See also Andirons
A cheap serviceable mercury stick barometer that was massed produced from circa 1870. It includes printed-paper weather forecasting charts based on “Fitzroy Rules” which were introduced in earlier marine barometers designed by Admiral Robert Fitzroy, first Superintendent of the British Meteorological Department. Fitzroy barometers were made in variously styled cases, and typically also included a thermometer, a storm gauge and two recording pointers. The pointers – one for “Yesterday”, and the other for “Today” – enabled atmospheric pressure to be recorded on successive days.
The point near the muzzle of a gun barrel that assists in aiming the weapon.
See also Backsight
German silver, also know as nickel silver, is an alloy consisting of mostly copper (roughly 60 percent), and approximately 20 percent nickel, about 20 percent zinc.
When approximately 5 percent tin is added, the alloy is called alpaca.
There is no silver at all in German silver. This alloy was invented around 1860 in Germany as a silver substitute.
See also Alpaca and Nickel Silver
Adventurine is a misspelling of aventurine, and is sometimes known as goldstone. It is a shimmering quartz stone that ranges in colour from yellow to red to light green to light brown.
The shimmer is caused by tiny metallic particles known as mica within the stone.
See also Aventurine and Adventurine
Nickel silver, also know as German silver, is an alloy consisting of mostly copper (roughly 60 percent), and approximately 20 percent nickel, about 20 percent zinc.
When approximately 5 percent tin is added, the alloy is called alpaca.
There is no silver at all in German silver. This alloy was invented around 1860 in Germany as a silver substitute.
See also Alpaca and German Silver
A semi-precious gemstone that is available in a wide range of colours, and that can appear to have more than one colour in itself. Tourmaline has a hardness of 7-7.5 on the Mohs Scale.
Tourmaline is a dichroic gemstone that comes in many, many different colours; it also appears to have different colours depending on the angle at which it is seen.
Tourmaline has the greatest colour range of any gemstone – the lighter colours are more valuable than the darker colours. It ranges in colour from pink to green to red (rubellite) to purple to blue-green (indicolite) to colorless (achroite) to black.
Watermelon tourmaline is both pink and green.
Tourmaline Tourmaline occurs as an elongate three-sided prism and is mined in Brazil, the Ural mountains in Russia, Namibia, Sri Lanka, and California.
Tourmaline was only discovered in the 1700's.
Tourmaline has a hardness of 7-7.5