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Definitions of Common Terms used to Describe Antiques and Collectibles

Acanthus: A carved ornament, typically a finial or pendant drop resembling acanthus leaves, used decoratively, especially on furniture.

Acorn: A carved ornament, typically a finial or pendant drop resembling an acorn, often used on William and Mary furniture.

Aesthetic Movement: Simplified household decoration in the late 19th century.

Alabaster: A smooth, white, somewhat soft stone of gypsum that is often used in place of costly marble.

Ambrotype: A photographic image printed on glass

Antique: generally as a legal term any object 100 years or older, but in practice may refer to objects at least 75 years old

Applique: Any applied ornament to surface

Arabesque: A painted, inlaid, or carved design in interlacing patterns of floral, geometric, or figural forms.

Art Nouveau: A late 19th century decorative art movement. Designs are curvy and usually based on natural forms

Aventurine: Crystals or strands of shimmering metal oxides in glass. Created by adding copper or other metal oxides to cooling molten glass to add color accents.

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Bail: A curving drawer pull, usually brass, hanging from bolts and backed by a decorative plate.

Ball Foot: A round, turned foot used chiefly on furniture of the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Bargello work: A needlework pattern of zigzag stripes. Also called a flame stitch or Hungarian stitch.

Baroque: A style of art and architecture developed in the late 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, featuring dynamic curved elements and extravagantly and dramatically contorted classical forms.

Bas-Relief: sculpture and architecture in which figures project only slightly from the background.

Bébé: 19th century French doll modeled as an eight to about twelve year old child

Betty Lamp: An early device for illumination in iron or tin, consisting of shallow holder for grease, a wick, and a handle for hanging

Bible Box: An early, carved wooden box to hold books or writing materials, with a hinged and often sloping lid.

Bisque: Unglazed Pottery

Blown in Molded (BIM): Glass blown into a small mold to impress a pattern or establish a shape, then withdrawn and expanded, by further blowing and manipulating, into final form. generally has mold seems.

Bobeche: A plain or ornamental disk, often of glass, set on the candle socket of a candlestick, chandelier, or sconce, to catch the drippings.

Brazier: A pierced receptacle, usually with a wooden handle, to hold burning coal or charcoal for warming a plate or vessel placed upon it. May also be called a chafing dish.

Bright-Cut: A metal engraving technique created by chiseling light reflecting facets. This design stand out brilliantly on the metal's surface.

Britannia Metal: A form of pewter, used as a base for silver plated wares in the 19th century.

Britannia Silver: English silver of a purity of 95.84%. Rarely used except on very old pieces and is identified by the Britannia Hallmark instead of the Passant Lion.

Bronze Doré: bronze guilted with gold.

Burl: an irregular and finely knotted wood cut from an irregularly grained growth on a tree; and used in sections as a thin veneer, or hollowed into bowls.

Cabochon: A gemstone cut that is un-faceted, dome shaped, and highly polished

Cabriole: A reverse-curved leg ending in a shaped foot that was extremely popular during the Queen Anne and Chippendale periods. looks to be S curved and terminates with an ornamental foot. Also known as a Cabriole Leg.

Calico: Cotton fabric imported from Calcutta in the 17th and 18th centuries. Also called chintz when painted or printed

Cane: Split rattan used to weave char back and seats

Cartouche: A decorative motif in the form of a shield or partially unrolled scroll with curled edges.

Carver Chair: A pilgrim chair usually with a rush seat, similar in turnings to the Brewster chair, but with spindles only on the back

Cased Glass: An object composed of different color layers of glass. Cut forms include cameo glass and cut to clear glass.

Chasing: A decoration on metal surfaces produced by a relatively blunt instrument that does not cut into the surface, and often adding fine detail.

Chinoiserie: A style of decoration in the imitation of Chinese; in the Chinese taste

Claw and Ball: A carved foot resembling a bird's claw holding a ball, generally used in the termination of cabriole leg in the Chippendale period.

Cloisonné: A decorative enamel technique; the pattern is outlined by metal wire on a gold, brass, or copper setting, and each section is filled in with colored enamel.

Colonial Revival: A late Victorian style popularized by the American Centennial in 1876.

country furniture: General term for furniture made by provincial craftsmen using local and indigenous woods such as oak, elm, ash and fruitwoods. Durability and function were of greater importance than aesthetic design and comfort. Country furniture is typically individual in design.

Crackle glass: Glass objects made with fine cracks thoughout the body or surface. Intentionally made by immersing molten glass into cold water and then reheated to seal the cracks, and either molded or hand blown into the desired shape. It was popular in the late 18th and 19th centuries and is still made today. variations are known as Ice Glass and Overshot Glass.

Craquelure: An all-over crazing frequently seen on the surface of oil paintings.

Crazing: minute cracks in varnish or paint in artwork or as fine lines on ceramics

Creamware: A lead glazed, ivory colored earthenware perfected by Josiah Wedgwood; first called by him, the commonly known as "Queen's Ware", in homage to Queen Charlotte.

Crewelwork: A type of needlework using embroidery of worsted yarn on linen or cotton.

Delftware: A tin-glazed earthenware of type made in Holland, England, and elsewhere, often decorated to resemble Chinese porcelain. Often decorated in cobalt blue.

Egg and Dart: A convex molding with an alternating design resembling an egg and a dart

Emboss: To raise decorations in relief from a surface.

Escutcheon: Shaped surface on which armorial bearings are displayed; also a decorative brass plate about a keyhole. This protects the edges of the keyhole.

Faience: Tin-glazed earthenware, similar to majolica by made in France and Germany.

Famille Rose: Predominantly rose hued enamel decoration on 18th and 19th century Oriental export porcelain.

Famille Verte: Predominantly green hued enamel decoration

Fiddle-Back: The violin shaped solid splat of a chair, a characteristic of the Queen Anne style.

Filigree: Delicate and intricate ornamental work of silver or gold.

Finial: A device used as a terminal ornament or a piece that tops a piece of furniture.

Flint Glass: Glass of a heavy, brilliant quality containing lead; also called lead glass or crystal

Fluting: A series of half-round parallel furrows or channels carved into the surface of a piece of wood.

Foxing: Spots of discoloration on paper

Fraktur: Term used for Pennsylvania German hand-lettered illustrated manuscripts and drawings.

Free-Blown Glass: Glass blown without molds, given from by the use of hand tools.

Georgian: A term broadly used to refer to the style developed during the reigns of Georges I-IV

German Silver: An alloy of copper, nickel, and zinc. Developed in England in mid 19th century and contains no silver.

Gesso: Plaster of Paris applied to the surface of a piece to provide a smooth base for painting or gilding.

Girandole: A wall mirror having candle branches as part of its structure

Gothic: originally an architectural style characterized by the pointed arch, rib vault, and flying buttress; flourished from the eleventh to the 15th centuries, revived in the 18th century in furniture

Gouache: opaque watercolor.

Grandfather Clock: A tall case clock

Grandmother Clock: A term for a miniature tall case clock

Guilloche: 1) enameling in which a metal surface is first engraved, then coated with translucent enamel that allows the pattern beneath to be seen. 2). An ornamental motif consisting of series of loosely interlacing, circular forms.

Hallmarks: The marks stamped on the English gold and silver to indicate its maker, date, origin, and quality. There is thousands of various trademarks.

Hepplewhite: An English furniture style characterized by graceful curves and light woods, named for George Hepplewhite, its creator.

Herringbone: Decorative inlay composed of veneer cut obliquely and fitted together in a herringbone pattern

Highboy: A modern term for a high chest of drawers comprised of two sections: an upper case, with drawers of varied depth and length, set upon a lower case, also with drawers, supported by legs.

High-Relief: sculptured or cared work that stands out sharply from its background

Hollowware: vessels such as silver and silver-plate bowls, vases, and pitchers, as well as hollow handled utensils

Imari Ware: A type of Japanese porcelain exported from the port of Imari in the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Inlay: Decoration formed by contrasting materials set into the surface of a piece.

Intaglio: Designs depressed below the surface, opposite of relief.

Japanning: The process of simulating Oriental lacquer by the use of varnish or paint with decoration in low relief, usually in Chinoiserie designs.

Japonesque: In the Japanese way or manner.

Jardiniere: A term used for the ornamental container for a plant pot. Heavily molded and glazed majolica jardinières, usually on a stand, were a feature of Victorian drawing rooms.

Kneehole: The open space in the center front of a desk or chest of drawers, flanked by two rows of drawers.

Knop: 1) The knob or finial on the lid of a glass vessel. 2) The bulbous part of the stem on a wineglass or goblet.

Knotty Pine: Pine wood with knots, usually avoided by colonial craftsmen.

Ladder-back Chair: A type of chair, with horizontal back slats resembling the rungs of a ladder, found on early simple country furniture. Also may be called a slat back chair.

Lantern Clock: A small, weight driven wall or bracket clock, usually brass and resembling a lantern, surmounted by a bell to sound the hours.

Lowboy: The modern term for a from of dressing table with small drawers, mounted on legs, often matching a highboy.

Majolica (ceramic - lead glazed - earthenware): 19th Century British and US lead-glazed earthenware which echoed the strong colors, rich relief work and thick glazes of 16th Century Italian majolica, especially that produced by the della robbia family in Florence, Italy, in the 16th Century. Majolica was introduced in Britain by Minton, using a cane-colored body to set off the thick, colored glazes. Wedgwood followed suit, reviving its 18th Century green-glazed ware with leaves molded in relief, and using a white earthenware body and translucent glaze. The finest exponent of all, however, was probably George Jones, also of Staffordshire. The popularity of majolica spread to Sweden, throughout Europe and North America in the late 19th Century, often drawing design ideas from the Far East.

Majolica: tin-glazed earthenware made in Italy, Portugal, and Spain during the Renaissance period.

Marbleize: To paint wood or other material to the have the appearance of marble.

Marquetry: Decorative inlay in which a pattern is formed of various woods or other materials before being glued to a groundwork.

Marriage: Combination of unrelated furniture, glass, or ceramics to create a functional unit. A cup can be married to a very similar but different manufacture saucer.

Nemadji Pottery: Clay that was dug out of the Nemadji River by the arrowhead region in Minnesota. Company that had started in 1923 uses "Indian themes" for base stamping of their pottery.

Ogee: A decorative motif on furniture molding, and frames consisting of a double s- curve shape.

Openwork: A general term for the decorative technique of cutting variously shaped holes through the body of a piece of silver, furniture or ceramics to form a pattern. See pierced decoration, lace work and reticulated

Overshot: A type of blown glass where the molten gather has been rolled over clear or colored small glass particles then reheated and blown, then shaped into its final size and form, giving the object a rough outer texture.

Parian: A semi-matte biscuit porcelain often used to imitate marble statuary in the 19th century

Patina: The color or finish achieved by the mellowing of the surface of woods and metals from age of use.

Planishing: Light hammering of metal to produce a smooth surface.

Plastic: a man-made substance which can be molded under heat and pressure and then hardens on cooling. The first usable plastic, celluloid, was developed in the USA c1863, and used for making dolls heads and bodies and in both the USA and in Europe for various objects such as combs and cutlery handles, but it was brittle and highly inflammable. The first completely synthetic and relatively efficient plastic was Bakelite, patented in 1907. In the 1930s, PVC, polystyrene, acrylic and nylon were adapted to textiles and a wide range of useful wares.

Pontil Mark: A mark on a piece of blown glass where it was attached to the pontil for the final stages of shaping.. Also may be called a punty mark. Pontil is an iron or steel rod (creates a solid pontil)or pipe (creates an open pontil) that held the hot glass.

Porcelain: A fine ware, distinguished by its hardness, translucency, and superior whiteness, made of clay (Kaolin) and stone (pentuntze), fired at extremely high temperatures.

Porringer: A small shallow bowl with slightly domed bottom and tab handle

Pottery: Earthenware made from clay and fired at a low temperatures.

Provenance: A record of previous ownership of an item.

Quatrefoil: A stylized decoration with four lobes or leaves

Rat-Tail Hinge: A type of hinge with a tapered, curved extension running downward, usually with a cutout decoration at the end.

Rat-Tail: An ornamental reinforcement, resembling a tail, on the underside of the bowl of a spoon.

Relief: Decoration that is above the surface.

Repousse: Designs in metal that are raised by hammering from the back.

Rigaree: A form of applique glass decoration in a crimped, a ribbon-like highlight on some Victorian art glass pieces.

Rococo: A style of art and decoration developed in the 18th century France, characterized by designs curvilinear in form and imitative of shell worked, scrolls and foliage asymmetrically arranged.

Rose Bowl: A bowl with edges curved inward and a small center opening, often footed and used to display small rosebuds or potpourri of rose petals.

- popular 19th century

Runcible Spoon: A fork with two broad tines and one with a curved, sharp edge. Also known as a Ice Cream fork.

Salt Glaze: A hard, rough, transparent glaze produced by introducing rock salt to the kiln during the firing of earthenware or stoneware.

Salver: A silver tray form without handles, often on feet.

Sand Cast: to make an object by pouring metal into a mold formed in sand.

Sconce: A wall bracket fitted with one or more candlesticks.

Sheffield Plate: Metalware consisting of thin sheets of silver fused over copper, dating from the mid 19th century

soda glass: Glass made with soda (sodium carbonate) rather than potash (see Bohemia) as the flux agent. The soda was originally derived from marine plants (see cristallo), but later produced chemically. In its molten state, soda glass is easier to manipulate than potash glass, but in its finished form it is light and fragile, and cannot be cut. In Britain, soda glass was superseded in the 17th Century by lead crystal, which was stronger and more resonant, but continued to be made until the early 19th Century on the Continent, and is still used for some Venetian-style glass today.

Spelter: an inexpensive alloy of zinc, lead, and tin that is silver or blue-white in color, also called white metal.

Splat: The upright, center support in a chair.

Sponge ware: Inexpensive pottery with mottled color effects applied by a sponge. It was produced and exported in quantity by Staffordshire potteries in the 1820s, and was popular for the next three decades. In the USA it is known as spatterware.

Spoon Back: Chair back curved to accommodate the contours of a human back.

Sterling: established standard by English law. Customarily indicated by a stamping on silver articles. Indicates the relative purity of the item. contains no less tan 925 parts silver in 1,000 parts of metal.

Stoneware: A form of hard, nonporous pottery made of clay fired at a high temperatures; often salt glazed.

Tall Case Clock: A clock incorporated within a tall, standing case to protect the works and accommodate the pendulum. May also be called a long case clock or grandfather clock.

Tankard: A large drinking vessel with handle and hinged lid.

Tin or Tinplate: Thin sheets of steel coated with tin to prevent rusting, commonly used for toys, household articles, and food cans, which are called tins in Britain and cans or tincans in the US.

Tintype: A photo on a tin backing.

Tole: Painted tin ware.

Treen: Small objects made of wood, typically carved.

Trefoil: A stylized decoration with three lobes or leaves.

Tureen: A large, covered, footed bowl, usually with handles, and generally used for serving soups or broth.

Veneer: Thin layers of wood or other materials glued to a solid ground.

Vintage: A term now in common usage to mean something that is old but not antique. Some have tried to define the term as items made between 50 and 100 years old, but in common use seems to more typically refer to items between 25 and 75 years old.

Wag on the wall: An early wall clock in which a short pendulum hung freely without a covering.

Whatnot stand: A stand with multiple open shelves for holding ornamental objects.

White Metal: an inexpensive alloy of zinc, lead, and tin that is silver or blue-white in color, also called spelter.

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