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Glossaries

Term Main definition
Button Hook

buttonhook is a tool used to facilitate the closing of buttoned shoes, gloves or other clothing. It consists of a hook fixed to a handle which may be simple or decorative as part of a dresser set or chatelaine. To use, the hook end is inserted through the buttonhole to capture the button by the shank and draw it through the opening.

Bas Relief

A form of carving or moulding in which the design projects out from the flat surface of the background.

Baroque

An elaborate ornamented style which was popular in Europe from approximately 1600 to 1750. In furniture, the Baroque style favored flamboyant carving, painting, and gilding. Typical motifs included acanthus, shells, and elaborate scrolls. A style of architecture, art and decoration which is bold details and sweeping curves usually gilt in decoration.

Bakelite

An unmeltable, transparent but easily coloured resin, created by the reaction of phenol and formaldehyde with alkaline and acid catalysts. It was first discovered in 1872, and then rediscovered in 1907 by L.H. Baekeland who gave it his name. It is the most universal and long-lasting of early plastics and could be used from anything from jewellery to light-switches, Thermos jugs, tea sets and even furniture. The most popular colours were mottled blue and green, but plain brown and cream that was used to imitate ivory, were common.

Although the first commercially successful plastic, Bakelite was not the first. Earlier claims to the name (although there is argument about the exact definition) would be Bois Durci, made from ground ebony and blood, Parkesine (cellulose nitrate), shellac from insect secretions and gutta-percha based on bark. There was also vulcanite or ebonite from rubber, celluloid from camphor and casein from milk.

These plastics are now widely collected and the range of articles is seemingly endless: jewellery, book bindings, pseudo-bronze plaques, combs, fountain-pens, photograph frames, shoe horns and salad servers. For identification, wet Bakelite smells of carbolic and celluloid smells of camphor when rubbed with a cloth.