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Antiques Glossary - B

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Author: Jim Coyle

  • Baccarat
    Leading French glassworks founded in 1764. Its first products were SODA GLASS tableware and window glass. From 1816 it began to produce high-quality lead crystal and decorative glassware. It is especially noted for its MILLEFIORI paperweights and SULPHIDES, which became popular in the mid 19thC and remain highly collectable to this day.

    Bacchus, George, & Sons
    Birmingham glassworks founded in the early 19thC that produced some of the first PRESSED GLASS in Britain. Its high-quality CASED-GLASS wares were shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851. The works also specialised in CUT, ENGRAVED and coloured tableware, and paperweights.

    bachelor's chest
    A low, compact chest of drawers made during the first half of the 18thC, with a top that folds out to form a table. A bachelor's table has compartments for dressing and shaving equipment and surfaces for playing cards or writing.

    back board
    The wooden backing to an ite,m of CASE FURNITURE or a framed mirror. Good-quality 18th and early 19thC furniture usually has panelled back boards. From the late 19thC, PLYWOOD became more common.

    back plate
    Hindmost member of the pair of metal plates which holds the mechanism of a clock in place, sometimes engraved with decorative motifs and/or the maker's name.

    back screen
    An article, usually of woven cane, which was clipped to the back of a dining chair to shield its user against the heat of a fire, introduced in the early 19thC.

    Navigational instrument with rods supporting two scaled arcs, invented by Englishman John Davis in 1594. It was the precursor of the 18thC octant. The observer stood with back to the sun and aligned one scale on the horizon, the other on the shadow cast by its sighting piece. The two scale readings added together gave the sun's height and thus latitude could be calculated.

    Term used by commercial potteries fo the mark printed on the underside of their wares.

    An early form of armless chair introduced in the late 16thC. It is a three or four legged stool with a back extending from the rear legs. At the time, the word 'chair' only applied to seats with arms, and it was not until the early 18thC that the backstool became known as the single or a SIDE CHAIR.

    bacon cupboard
    A type of SETTLE, made up of a long bench with a panelled cupboard doubling as a backrest, and often drawers set beneath the seat. It was a familiar item of farmhouse furniture from the Middle Ages to the 19thC.

    British Antique Dealers' Association, and organisation of antique shops and individual dealers, formed to maintain standards within the trade.

    The Farsi word for 'knot' in the context of carpets. Armeni-baff are knotted by Armenians; bibi-baff are, strictly speaking, very finely woven rugs knitted by a bibi (princess) of the bakhtiari nomads of central Persia, but came to be used to describe any finely knitted bakhtiari rug.

    Jewel cutting

    bail handle
    A simple, curved metal handle, as in a semicircular drawer pull, or the handle of a kettle.

    Baillie Scott, Mackay Hugh
    (1865-1945) British architect of international repute, who designed plainly shaped furniture decorated with colourful INLAID work and metalwork, in the style of the ARTS AND CRAFTS MOVEMENT.

    Bain, Alexander
    (c.1811-77) Scottish clock-maker and scientist who patented the first ELECTRIC CLOCK in 1840.

    Loose-woven, woollen material, usually dyed green or red and used from the 17thC to describe a flannel-like cloth produced in the eastern counties of England. It was used for covering card and billiard tables, and for lining drawers.

    A durable, opaque, easily dyed plastic patented by Leo Backland in 1907. It is a 'thermosetting' plastic - the ingredients heated under pressure in a mould, resulkting in a very hard, heat-resistant material. Bakelite was used for cheap ART DECO jewellery, in the form of imitation amber or jet buckles, for example - ornaments and numerous other articles, from ashtrays to radio cabinets.

    A wheel in a clock or watch that regulates the action of the ESCAPEMENT mechanism and thus of the timepiece itself. Its effect was erratic before the invention c.1675 of the balance spring. This uses a spiral hairspring to make the movement of the balance wheel more regular and ISOCHRONUS; it was as significant a development in the field of portable clocks and watches as the PEBDULUM was for standing clocks. However, the elasticity of the spring is very susceptible to heat and cold, making a spring balance less acurate than a pendulum. The problem was overcome by the development of various forms of compensation balance form the mid-18thC, especially in association with the development of CHRONOMETERS.

    Sword belt, usually of leather which is worn over the shoulder and diagonally across the chest.

    ball turning
    A series of turned wooden spheres of equal size used as ornamentation on the legs and horizontal STRETCHERS of chair and table legs, mid-17th to early 18th centuries.

    A turned column or post, usually one of many supporting a rail to form a balustrade. The shape is seen in table legs and chair backs, drinking-glass stems and silverware.

    bamboo furniture
    Furniture made either from, or in imitation of, bamboo. It was popular during the vogue for CHINOISERIE in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, usually crafted in strong woods such as beech and then turned, curved and painted to imitate real bamboo. A late Victorian craze for genuine bamboo furniture resulted in an abundance of rather fragile tables, bookcases, chairs, WHATNOTS and pot stands; in the USA at the same time, sturdier simualted forms were fashionable.

    A decorative, INLAID or VENEER strip, in contrasting wood or sometimes metal. Banding may be used as a border on a door panel, table top or drawer front. Straight banding is cut along the grain of the wood; cross banding is cut across the grain; feather banding or herringbone banding is formed of two narrow pieces of veneer laid at an angle to each other to give a chevron effect. Very fine banding is known as stringing or line inlay.

    banjo barometer

    banjo clock
    Pendulum WALL CLOCK resembling an upturned banjo, introduced by the Willard family of clock-makers in Boston, USA. Many reproductions were made in the late 19th to mid 20th centuries. See also GIRANDOLE.

    Bank of England dollar
    Silver coin struck for a few years at the beginning of the 19thC. Circulating examples, also known as bank tokens, were all dated 1804, inscribed with the word 'dollar' beneath an image of Britannia on the reverse, and had a face value of 5s (25p). The 3s and 1s6d denominations were struck in 1811. The entire coinage was made obsolete in 1816.

    Banko ware
    Pottery made by, or in the style of, Japanese 18thC potter Numanami Shigenaga. The wares are typically decorated with human figures, monkeys or other animals picked out in enamels or glazes with touches of UNDERGLAZE blue. The style was revived in the late 19thC. Most common are enamelled grey stoneware teawares, often in the form of a lotus or other flower.

    banner screen

    bantam work

    bar back
    See CHAIR


    barber's bowl
    Shaving dish, usually ceramic but also silver or other metal, used by barbers in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. A semicircular section cut out of the rim fitted beneath a client's chin. This could also be placed around an arm and used as a bleeding bowl for blood-letting (surgery being one of the barber's major functions until the 19thC)

    Barcelona chair

    barefaced tenon

    barge ware
    A dark brown, glazed EARTHENWARE with white clay relief patterns, produced in Derbyshire, c.1860-1910. Motifs of birds and flowers were tinted green, blue and pink. Practical containers such as large teapots (with a miniature teapot FINIAL), jugs and chamber pots were the main lines. It was sold at Measham, Leicestershire, on the banks of the Ashby-de-la-Zouch canal, and is also known as bargee or measham ware.

    Embroidery design in which the colours, usually worked in pointed or flame-shaped patterns, graduate through their various shades. It is also known as flame stitch, Florentine stitch and Hungarian stitch.


    barion cut

    barley-sugar twist

    Barnack, Oscar
    (1879-1936) German microscope designer and inventor of the Leica camera, launched in 1925 by the German company Leitz. The Leica was the miniature precision camera of its kind.

    A type of ANEROID BAROMETER that records air pressure, introduced in the 18thC. The aneroid mechanism moves a pen against a slowly turning drum on which a graph is mounted.

    Instrument for registering atmospheric pressure and forecasting weather conditions, first made in the late 17thC. See ANEROID, ANGLE, FITZROY, STICK and WHEEL BAROMETERS.

    baroque pearls
    Pearls of irregular shape that were widely used in Baroque and Renaissance jewellery of the 15th to 17th centuries. The pearls were often decorated with gemstones or enamelling to take the form of mythological figures.

    Baroque Style
    An extravagant and heavily ornate style born from the architechture of 17thC Italy. For the first time, sculptors played a crucial role in the design of furniture, ceramics, ivory and silver, joining forces with gilders and earning recognition as craftsman in their own right rather than as the employees of joiners and CABINET-MAKERS. Their influence was evident in elborate, rather architectural furniture and in the abundance of cupids, carnucopias, and other such decoration set in symmetrical, curvaceous designs. The style dominated the decorative arts thoughout Europe in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and in a less elaborate form in the USA during the first half of the 18thC. It paved the way for the lighter, more frivolous and colourful ROCOCO.

    Barr, Flight & Barr

    A hollow, cylindrical metal box or drum in a clock or watch that contains the driving or going spring and is connected ti the first wheel in the TRAIN. The casing has, from c.1580-1600, almost universally been of brass. A going barrel has the first wheel of the train mounted in the same ARBOR, thus dispensing with the two-part FUSEE. It was used for the striking trains of the 17thC German Renaissance clocks from c.1680, as it gives adequate timekeeping for most domestic purposes.

    Bartoluzzi, Francesco
    (1727-1815) Pioneer of the process of stipple ENGRAVING and owner of large print works in london in the 18thC. He produced society portraits and domestic and rural scenes.

    Barum ware
    Earthenware pottery made in Barnstaple, North Devon, and popular from c.1879 until the early 20thC. Specialities include simple jugs and vases with respresentations of birds, flowers, marine life or dragons painted in SLIP in soft colours, and sometimes wuth outlines incised.

    bas d'armoire
    French term for a low 18thC chest with double doors enclosing cupboards and drawers.

    bas relief
    See RELIEF

    basal rim
    See FOOT-RIM

    basaltes ware
    A very hard abd fine-grained STONEWARE made by a number of Staffordshire potters and improved by WEDGEWOOD c.1768. It found a ready market as a relatively cheap medium for reproducing, in ceramic form, the Classical bronzes abnd cameos which were popular in the late 18thC. Products included vases (some examples are bronze-glazed), large busts, medallions and domestic pots.

    base metals
    The term for all non-precious metals including copper, lead, iron and tin and their alloys such as brass, pewter, bronze and nickel silver.

    basin stand

    Baskerville, John
    (1706-75) Although best known as a typographer, Baskerville was also a key manufacturer of JAPANNED metalware. He was based in Birmingham and is credited with intriducing polychrome painting on japanned bases.

    basket glass
    Glass container in the shape of a basket, for sweets or fruit. OPENWORK sides, attached to a moulded base, are made from pieces or threads of glass pincered together.

    basket-top clock
    A BRACKET CLOCK with either a REPOUSSE metal dome or a cushion-moulded (flat-topped with curved edges) wood dome.

    A generic term for chairs and other furniture made of wicker, cane, or woven, coarse sea grass. Wickerwork furniture, in which the basket weave is worked around a frame of stiff rods, was popular in Victorian times for use both indoors and outside, and ranged from round-seated single chairs to lounge chairs with foot-rest extensions. See also LLOYD LOOM.


    bassine-cased watch
    Shallow, circular pocket watch dating from the mid-17thC, with a rounded cover and back which curves gently into the central band. The case is often finely decorated with enamel.

    A hooded WICKERWORK basket used as a cradle, and later used to describe late 19thC baby carriages with a hooded basketwork body.

    Batavian ware
    Early 18thC CHINESE EXPORT PROCELAIN named after the Dutch East India Company trading station in Batvia (now Jakarta), Java. It is typically in the form of tea services decorated with blue nad white, often fan-shaped panels, and with a coffee-brown glaze on the outer side of bowls and saucers. Copies of the style made at MEISSEN in Germany and LEEDS, England, were also known as Batavian and Kapuziner ware.

    Bateman family
    London family of silversmiths producing domestic silverware in the 18th and 19th centuries. Hester Bateman (1708-94), the best known member, was trained by her husband John, and on his death carried on the business with her sons. A vast amount of domestic silver marked by its grace of line and simplicity of decoration was produced with her mark, including tableware, snuffboaxes, seals and wine labels. Hester retired in 1790, and her sons Peter and Jonathan, and Jonathan's wife, Ann carried on the firm. The change in management was marked by substituting a thread decoration for Hester's beading. Ann Bateman's son William took the business - and the style of Bateman silver - into the Victorian era.

    Bath metal
    An inexpensive bronze-like alloy used by some independent 18thC coiners (ass opposed to the Royal Mint) and from the late 18thC for small bozes and buttons.

    Distinctive patterned and dyed fabric from the East Indies, brought to Europe by the Dutch in the 16thC. In the batik process, melted wax is applied to parts of the design not intended to take colour, and the cloth is then dyed. This is repeated as necessary for other colours, the wax being washed out with hot water after each dyeing. Some batik is also hand-painted. The process was used in the 16th and 17thC Europe for dyeing expensive facbrics such as velvet, but the bold batik colours and patterns were printed on cotton and dyed by other processes from the 19thC.


    ENAMEL factory based in Battersea, London, specialising in items such as snuffboxes, plaques, wine labels, and watch and toothpick cases. Early porcelain boxes made at CHEALSEA had Battersea enamel lids. Designs were often transfer-printed onto a white enamel ground, then painted in delicate colours. The factory, run by John Brooks, pioneer of the TRANSFER-PRINTING process, only lasted three years (1753-6) but its influence lived on in enamelware produced in South Staffordshire and Birmingham.

    A German school of design founded in Weimar in 1919 by Walter Gropius, an architect-designer. The Bauhaus aimed to produce prototype designs for everyday, mass-produced items. It explored the amnufacturing processes and new materials of the 'machine age' such as stainless steel and plastics, and coordinated the skills of architects, engineers, painters, sculptors and designers. The school was closed by the Nazis in 1933, but revived in the German city of Ulm after the war and insired industrial design in the mid-20thC.


    bead moulding

    A form of embroidering textiles using small, coloured glass beads with, or instead of, needlework. Beadwork was a popular covering for small boxes and mirror frames in late 16th and 17th-century Europe, particularly in Britain, and in the 19thC for chair covers, purses, pictures and other objects.

    Drinking cup without handles or stem, and usually with a foot rim. Early beakers were made in wood, glass and pottery, although from the 11thC there were silver, silver-gilt and gold examples. British beakers are usually more plainly decorated that their continental counterparts. In the 18thC, glasses generally replaced beakers for table use.

    Tall, military black fur hat, originally made from bear skin. It has been worn by British guardsmen since the 18thC, and is now part of their ceremonial dress.

    Centre for weaving in northern France. The Beauvais Tapestry Factory was founded in 1664, and ultimately amalgamated with GOBELINS in 1940. Typical Beauvais tapestries - in the form of wall-hangings, carpets and furniture covers - have COMMEDIA DELL'ART scenes or extracts from contemporary paintings, framed by heavily festooned drapes; Classical and CHINOISERIE motifs are also seen. They are brilliantly coloured, often with a dominant yellow ground known as 'Spanish tobacco'. From 1725, imitation Beauvais tapestries were made in Berlin. The 19thC brought specialisation in furniture covers.

    Becker, Carl
    (d.1830) Notorious German forger of ancient Greek coins, who operated in the early 19thC. Fortunately for modern collectors, his extensive repertoire of copies was exposed and published after his death.

    The framework of a bed, which raises mattress and bedding material above floor level. Bedsteads only became widespread in Europe from the early 17thC. Monument-like bedsteads with eleborately carved wooden canopies were made during the RENAISSANCE, the canopies designed to provide privacy, protection from draughts, dirt and insects. The emphasis shifted from woodwork to fabric hangings in the mid-17thC, and a host of different bed styles were introduced over the next century. 19thC bed designs tended to be more functional.

    A pale, smooth and straight grained wood, one of the most inexpensive hardwoods available. Beech was often stained and used as a substitute for walnut in coun try furniture, expecially chairs, of the 17th and 18th centuries. It is also seen gilded or painted. Although subject to woodworm, beech has the advantage of taking close nailing without splitting.

    Behrens, Peter
    (1868-1940) German illustrator, architect, craftsman and designer of industrial and domestic fittings. Behrens's early furniture, ceramics, jewellery and glass designs were in ART NOVEAU style, but by 1898 he was designing simple, stream-lined household onjects for commercial production. He was a founder member of the DEUTSCHER WERKBUND, 1907, a group of German artists and manufacturers. LE CORBUSIER, Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe all worked under Behrens c.1910.

    Beilby, William and Mary
    A brother and sister team of glass enamellers in the late 18thC. They decorated wine glasses and decanters with colourful heraldic designs or rustic scenes with romantic ruins and creepers, usually in white enamel.

    Bulbous brown STONEWARE jug with a bearded head in low relief on the narrow neck, and frequently with relief coats of arms on the body. Bellarmines originated in 16thC Germany, the bearded head said to be that of Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino, a leader of the Counter Reformation much hated by German Protestants. Many Bellarmines were exported t Britain (where they were also known as greybeards), and copied particularly at John DWIGHT's Fulham pottery in London. Reproductions were made in Germany until the late 19thC.

    belle epoque
    French for 'fine period', generally used to describe an elaborate and sumptuous decorative arts style which was prevalent in Europe from the end of the 19thC up until World War I.

    A ceramics factory in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, founded in 1857. Its speciality was a delicate PARIAN procelain. Wares are wholly or partly treated with a clear or pearlised, and sometimes iridescent, glaze. Belleek table and ornamental items are often decorated with or in the shape of shells and other marine life. Porcelain strips woven into baskets and perforated designs are also typical.

    A tough bronze alloy used for bells and occasioanlly for cooking utensils such as skillets.

    Belter, John
    (1804-63) German-born US cabinet-maker, after whom Belter Furniture (carved and upholstered bentwood suites) was names. Belter's revived ROCOCO style was very popular and he displaced cabinet-maker Duncan PHYFE as New York's leading craftsman. He patented a plywood process using rosewood which was then ornately carved.

    Benares brassware
    Indian-style brassware, including trays and table tops. The genuine articles were made in India, but imitations were produced in Birmingham from the late 19thC, and sometimes exported to India and imported back again to suggest authenticity.

    The curved runners of rockers of a ROCKING CHAIR located between the back and front feet.

    Benson, William
    (1854-1924) British architect and leading furniture and metalwork designer in the ARTS and CRAFTS movement. Unlike the more purist members of the movement, Benson was not dismissive of mass-production methods, and his factory at Hammersmith, London, produced commercial domestic objects such as chandeliers, 1883 - 1923.

    bent-limb doll
    Doll with limbs that are in one carved piece rather than jointed. The bent-limb style is normally reserved for baby dolls and was first introduced on COMPOSITION dolls in 1910, and on vinyl models from the late 1930's.

    Lightweight solid or laminated timber, usually birch, soaked in hot water or steamed to make it pliable so that it is easily worked into curves. The technique was originally used for 18thC WINDSOR CHAIRS, but a distinctive style of bentwood furniture really became established in the mid-19thC with the work of the Austrian furniture-maker Michael THONET. Thonet Bentwood is strong, light, graceful and made from solid timber; it was soon seen in homes, cafes and hotels throughout Europe. In the 20thC, designers such as Alvar Aalto, marcel Breuer and others, widened the range of the bentwood styles, usually by using laminated timer.

    Berain, Jean
    (1637-1711) French draughtsman, engraver and designer, and one of the originators of the LOUIS XIV style. Berain worked as court designer from 1674, and his published symmetrical designs influenced ornamentation on contemporary furniture, carpets and silverware. Mid-18thC Moustiers FAIENCE was very often decorated in so-called style Berainesque.

    French name for a deep, tub-chaped, upholstered armchair of the early 19thC, with continuous top and arm rails and a slightly concave back. Some versions are caned between the arms and seat and have a loose seat cushion.

    German ceramics centre with FAIENCE factories from 1678, a minor porcelain factory founded 1751, and a factory established 1763 which was known mainly for the production of dinner services and figures in restrained ROCOCO style. In the 19thC this factory produced BLANKS which were sent to outside decorators for painting.

    Berlin iron jewellery
    Early 19thC cast-iron jewellery made principally in Germany. People were given Berlin iron in exchange for their precious jewellery to boost the Prussian State gold reserves. Items such as brooches, necklaces and crosses in CLASSICAL or GOTHIC-style designs were typically crafted in delicate OPENWORK patterns and laquered black. Production continued in Germany and Paris until the end of the 19thC.

    Berlin woolwork
    Home-worked embroidery popular in the 19thC in Europe and the USA, using wool which was originally dyed in Berlin. German wool manufacturers marketed the wools by providing coloured pattern charts that could be easily transferred onto canvas.

    A mineral that forms several varieties of gemstones, notably EMERALD and AQUAMARINE. The stone in its purest form is colourless, but impurities cause pale-coloured varieties of gems including yellow, pink and green beryl.

    General term for any edge cut at an angle to a flat surface.

    1 Metal rim or band set around the edge inside the shutting edge of a container. 2 Rim or setting edge of a ring that holds the stone or ornament, often loosely applied to the whole setting. 3 Metal rim holding the glass or watch or clock face.

    Flat jade disk, also spelt pi, with a hold in the centre. It symbolised heaven and was used ritualistically in China until the end of the reign of the last emporor in 1912.

    Itlalian for 'white-on-white', referring to TIN-GLAZED EARTHENWARE with white-painted decoration introduced by the Italians on MAIOLICA in the 16thC. It is seen in mid to late 18thC Lambeth and Bristol DELFTWARE and Chinese and English porcelain.

    Bible box
    17thC box, usually of oak with a hinged lid. Bible boxes were designed to hold the family bible or other books or writing materials. Some, designed to double as a lectern, have a sloping lid.

    Indian metalwork - copper, lead and tin alloy, blackened with a mixture of sal ammoniac and saltpetre, and INLAID with silver or brass. Bidri ware such as spice boxes and the bases for hookah pipes was imported from India in the 19thC.

    A restrained NEOCLASSICAL decorative art style originating in Germany in the early 19thC, which was most evident in furniture design.

    Biemann, Dominik
    (1800-57) Prominent BOHEMIAN glass engraver. He specialised in portraits but also engraved hunting scenes, landscapes and Old Master paintings. His work appears on glasses, beakers and medallions, usually signed with various pellings of his name (Bieman, Biman or Bimann).

    Late 18thC and 19thC style of British coffee pot in silver or SHEFFIELD PLATE. The design is attributed to the London silversmith George Biggin (d. 1803). The pots have a cylindrical or barrel-shaped body and a short spout with built-in filter for ground coffee; the handle is usually of hardwood, such as ebony, or ivory. Biggins were either warmed on a stand over a spirit lamp or placed on a fire hob.

    1 A Romanesque (pre-GOTHIC) ornamental motif of moulding using alternating blocks or cylinders. 2 The THUMBPIECE on tankards and flagons.

    Billies and Charlies
    19thC forgeries of medieval amulets, pilgrim badges, figures and seals. Many were cast by William Smith and Charles Eaton of London - hence the name. The men claimed to have found the objects in the Thames' riverbed. The forgeries were often made in poor-quality pewter with relief decoration.

    Billingsley, Willian

    Bilston enamels
    Articles of jewellery and OBJECTS OF VERTU made in Bilston and other parts of Staffordshire in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Most enamelled objects made in Britain at this time, including boxes, scent bottles and candlesticks, came from the Bilston area. Some incorporated small enamel plaques, others were coated in white enamel and then painted with motifs of landscapes, flowers and birds.

    A native timber of northern Europe, creamy in colour, tinged with pink or yellow, and with a fine, even, wavy grain. It has been used mainly as a solid wood for chairs and country furniture, especially in the 18thC, and is seen in BIEDERMEIER furniture. Selected pieces were occasionally used as a cheap substitute for SATINWOOD. In the 19thC cheap birch furniture was mass-produced, and after the invention of the rotary cutting lathe in 1890, it was common as a veneer and for PLYWOOD.

    The wooden hinged mechanism which is found on some 18thC TRIPOD TABLES. It is fixed at the top of the the pedestal and enables the table surface to swivel, tilt, fold or be fixed horizontally.

    bird's-eye maple
    See MAPLE.

    Fired but unglased ceramics. Biscuit procelain has a crisp, dry appearance that was used for statuettes and reproductions of Classical sculptures, initially by SEVRES from 1753, and later by DERBY and porcelain factories throughout Europe. Biscuit-firing is the term for the first firing prior to glazing. See BISQUE and PARIAN.

    biscuit barrel
    Barrel-shaped biscuit container dating from bear the end of the 19thC. Some examples have a matching tray to catch falling crumbs. Biscuit barrels were made in various materials including electroplated silver, solid silver or ceramics, and often with metal mounts.

    biscuit warmer
    Late 19thC silver stand for serving and keeping warm biscuits at the table. The warmers, also known as folding biscuit boxes, consist of a stand with a central column with either a handle of finial and two or more bowls which open out horizontally and close vertically onto the column.

    Term for the unglazed, matt-surface BISCUIT porcelain that was the most popular material for doll's heads from the mid-19thC to the 1930's, and revived 1960-80. Flesh colour and features are painted on after an initial firing, then fired again at a low termperature to fix the colours. The term all-bisque refers to a doll with head, limbs and body made of bisque.

    bizarre silk
    A FIGURED silk cloth fashionable for dresses in Europe c.1695-1720. Designs were inspired by Oriental textiles, typically with tropical foliage, flora and jagged lines, woven in gold or silver thread. The cloth was produced in Britain at the SPITALFIELDS SILK FACTORIES.

    black basaltes

    black jack
    British tankard-shaped leather jug, popular until the 18thC. It was lined with pitch to make it water-tight, and often had a metal rim.


    A rust-resisting treatment applied to guns or armour, using either chemicals or paint.

    18thC French term for porcelain made in Fujien province in south-eatern China from the 17thC (late MING dynasty) to the present. Unpainted wares, including small, finely modelled figures, large sculptured models of deities and other wares often with relief decoration were exported to Europe. The ware was copied by nearly all early European porcelain factories including ST CLOUD, MENNECY, BOW and CHEALSEA during the 18thC.

    1 A prepared piece of metal ready for striking into a coin, also known as a flan, or, particuarly in the USA, as a planchet. 2 Undecorated glass or ceramic item (also called in-the-white in ceramics) that is passed to an outside decorator for painting or printing.

    bleeding bowl

    Bleu persan
    See NEVERS

    blind earl

    blind fret

    blind tracery
    Typical GOTHIC decoration carved in relief on a solid background, often found on furniture.

    An Americal 18thC CASE FURNITURE design in which the centre section is a flattened concave curve flanked by outer section of flattened convex curves.

    Dull, matt surface on old glassware. This may be caused by too much alkali in the glass, by the presence of sulphurous smoke during reheating, or by wearing away of decoration such a gilding.

    blue and white
    The most widely-used and longest-lasting decorative ceramic colour scheme, in which cobalt blue is an UNDERGLAZE colour. Cobalt blue retains its true colour over a wide range of firing temperatures, from low-fired earthenwares to the most highly fired porcelains.

    blue cloth helmet
    Cloth-covered helmet with a top soike worn by the British army from 1879 and still worn by some military bands.

    blue dash
    Simple blue on white decoration comprising oblique, regularly spaced, cobalt-blue dashes. The decoration is found on the rim of 17th-18thC London and Bristol delftware CHARGERS.

    blue john
    A type of Crystalline fluorspar with bands of yellow, purple, blue and white, mined in Derbyshire. It was popular in the late 18th and late 19th centuries, when it was used for OBJECTS OF VERTU, candlesticks and candelabra.

    The heat treatment of iron or steel which forms a thin surface layer of blue oxide. This retards rusting, and was also used to decorate armour.

    A shoulder gun with a flared muzzle for scattering shot widely, increasing the probability oif a hit without taking aim. In the 18thC it was commonly used as a house or coach defensive weapon.

    boarded construction

    board-ended stool
    The dining seat of the 14th, 15th ad 16th centuries. Instead of legs, the stools were supported on boards which were vertical or inclined inwards towards the seat and held firm by horizontal APRON pieces.

    bob pendulum
    A short, light-weighted PENDULUM which swings through a wide arc, and is associated with a verge ESCAPEMENT. It can be either pear or lens-shaped.


    A French term meaning 'thicket', used to describe ceramic foliage or flowers that provide a background for a central subject. Bocage is typical of ROCOCO style, often framing figures in a canopy or arbour, and was particularly popular from the 1750s to the 1770s.

    Mix of materials that forms the basic structure of an article, as in the paste of PORCELAIN.

    body colour
    See GOUACHE.

    Region of what was later Czechoslovakia, renowned for its elaborately engraved glass. The earliest wares, dating from the 14thC, were made of WALDGLAS (forest glass) - a crude, mould-blown product which used wood as a source of potash for the FLUX. Venetian techniques were introduced in the 16thC and wheel engraving was common. The development of LIME GLASS a century later provided a better medium for decoration and led to facet CUTTING and elaborate engraving. One of the most noted engravers was Ludwig Moser who specialised in portrait work. Although independent artists produced much of the finest work under the patronage of German princes, factories such as those at Haida (now Novy Bor) and Karlsbad (now Karlovy-Vary) also produced fine-quality ware from the mid 19th to early 20th centuries, including CASED GLASS and FLASHED GLASS in brilliant colours.

    bois clair

    bois durci
    Mid-19thC EBONY substitute, made from sawdust and animal blood or other water-soluble protein. The mixture coagulated on heating and could be die-stamped into decorative mouldings for furniture, medallions and trays.

    French term for 17th and 18thC wooden wall panelling ornately decorated with carving. Boiseries were often painted white with the ornamentation highlighted in gold or bright colours, and might also incorporate paintings.

    Red or yellow, fine ochre clay used as a ground by gilders prior to applying gold leaf (see GILDING).

    bolection moulding
    A furniture moulding used where two surfaces of differing levels meet.

    A large jug made of sewn leather and lined with pitch or resin to make it watertight; used from medieval times to the 18thC.

    Literally translated form the French as 'bulging', a term used for a swelling shape seen originally on chests of drawers and commodes of the Louis XIV period. The outward swell or curve towards the base of a piece was a popular feature during the Rococo period.

    Small container for sweets, popular in the 18thC. Also known as comfit and sweetmeat boxes, they were crafted in a variety of materials, particularly silver and porcelain, and often in novelty shapes such as a shoe or a head.

    bone ash
    Calcium phosphate from burned and ground animal bones, which was used as a fusing and stabilising agent in soft-paste porcelain, particularly in 18thC English factories, in BONE CHINA, and as a whitening agent in CREAMWARE.

    bone china
    A modified hard-paste PORCELAIN containing up to 50 per cent bone ash. Its introduction by SPODE in 1794 was an important step in the development of European ceramics; by the early 19thC, most British porcelain factories were making bone china, and the recipe is still used today. Bone china is tougher and cheaper to make than soft-paste porcelain, and slightly softer but again cheaper to mass-produce than thard-paste porcelain.

    bone lace
    See LACE.

    A lady's elegant, clender-legged writing table often fitted with toilet accessories. Shelves and pigeonholes, sometimes enclosed by a TAMBOUR or CYLINDER FALL, are set at the back of the table surface. There may be a cupboard or shelves above for ornaments. Bonheurs-du-jour were introduced in France in the 1760s and soon afterwards produced in Britain.

    Inner surface of a gun barrel. The diameter of the bore is the calibre.

    Boreman, Zachariah
    See DERBY.

    Circular, upholstered Victorian OTTOMAN-type sofa, sometimes known as a conversation seat, which has three or four seat divisions and a central cone providing a backrest.

    Boston rocker

    One of the most common motifs used on Oriental weavings, and the inspiration for the European PAISLEY pattern.

    Bottger, Johan
    (1682-1719) German alchemist and inventor of European hard-paste PORCELAIN. Bottger also pioneered a very hard RED STONEWARE (1709), a glazed, white procelain (1709) and Bottger lustre, a pale purple lustre glaze made with gold (c.1715). In 1710 he was appointed director of the newly formed MEISSEN procelain factory.

    bottle stand

    bottle ticket
    A small plaque. Also known as a bottle label or wine label, for hanging around the neck of a wine bottle or decanter, which bears the name of the contents. Bottle tickets were first made in silver in the 1730s, and later in enamel on copper, SHEFFIELD PLATE, procelain or glass. Some bottle tickets carry the name, initials or family crest of the owner.

    boudoir doll
    Elaborately and fashionably dressed, long limbed doll designed as an ornament for an adult's bedroom, rather than as child's toy. The dolls were popular c.1915-1930, but continued to be made in the 1940s. Most have cloth bodies, although there are also some COMPOSITION, wax and ceramic examples.


    A MARQUETRY technique, also known as buhl work, using metal (usually brass) and tortoiseshell in reverse patterns, sometimes combined with other materials and often set in an ebony veneer. It was a popular technique in France from the late 17thC through to the 19thC, and in Britain from 1815. The term is associated with the French cabinet-maker and EBENISTE Andre Boulle (1642-1732) of the Louis XIV period in France. He specialised in elegant, highly ornamental furniture - mainly for the nobility. He also produced cases for LONGCASE CLOCKS and barometers, gilt-bronzed chandeliers, candelabra and ANDIRONS.

    Boulton, Matthew
    (1728-1809) Inventor, entrepreneur and leading metalware manufacturer. His factory at Soho, Birmingham produced not only furniture mounts, buckles, buttons, snuffboxes and sword hilts, 1759-66, but also, as a private mint, struck Britain's first copper pennies in 1797. Boulton established the Birmingham assay office in 1773 and his factory, using the designs of Robert Adam and a a host of local craftsmen, greatly contributed to the city's successful silver industry. From the 1760s he specialised in SHEFFIELD PLATE, becoming Britain's primary producer. ORMOLU objects, such as vases, candlesticks and clock cases, and mounts for ornaments and ceramic pieces were also produced. Much of Boulton's later work was staff-designed for mass production.

    Oval-shaped receptacle, designed for use by woman when travelling. Bourdaloues, also known as coach pots or slippers, date from c.1710 and were generally made of porcelain or pottery, occasionally of silver, japanned metal or glass. They look rather like sauceboats, but the front lip curves inwards rather than out.

    With CHELSEA, one of the first soft-paste porcelain producers in Britain. It was the largest of the 18thC English porcelain factories, and made a broader range of products for a wider market than Chelsea. Bow was founded in the East end of London by Irish painter Thomas Frye in 1744. Soft-paste procelain was produced in 1748, introducing the use of BONE ASH. The body is tougher than that produced at Chelsea, but has a 'lumpy', bluish tinge to the glaze and an orange TRANSLUCENCY when held to the light. Until the late 1750s, the bulk of Bow's output imitated Oriental procelain. For a time it was the largest producer of BLUE AND WHITE porcelain in Europe and also made BLANC-DE-CHINE wares. Figures were a feature too, and often of native British design. They are less finely modelled and more thickly glazed than those made at Chelsea ad often unpainted. Some table and decorative ware followed a modified ROCOCO style and contemporary fashions in silverware, with applied shells and seaweed on table centrepieces and scrolled bases for figures, for example. From the late 1750s, Bow decorations were inspired by MEISSEN, SEVRES, and WORCESTER, but with lower-quality results. Some 30 years after its foundation, Bow was bought by Derby following a period of decline. Few Bow wares carry a mark, although the device of a dagger and anchor painted in dark iron red is occasionally found on flatwares and figures.


    A curving, convex front on a chest of drawers, commode, cabinet or sideboard, also known as swell front.

    bowie knife
    A knife with a broad curved-back blade, named after James Bowie (1796-1836), a Kentuckian colonel. It was popular in the USA but most were manufactured in Britain.

    box bedstead
    Bed enclosed on three sides by framed panelling, on the fourth side by curtains or sliding panels, and above by a flat TESTER. Box bedsteads were seen in poor households in Scotland and the North of England and Wales u to the mid-19thC.

    box stool
    a 17thC JOINED oak stool with a box beneath a hinged seat.

    A FLINTLOCK or percussion firearm with the firing mechanism mounted centrally on the stock.

    A very close-grained, yellow HARDWOOD native to Europe. It was expecially popular for stringing (see BANDING) in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was also ideal for blocks for wood ENGRAVING and for moulds. The undulating figure of the wood from its roots and branches made box a popular material for INLAID WORK and MARQUETRY in the 16th and 17th centuries.

    bracket clock
    A general term for a spring driven clock, usually wooden-cased, with a vertical dial on the front face and generally with a PENDULUM-controlled ESCAPEMENT. The movement, or mechanism, is contained between two vertical plates. The term originates from the fact that lthough most clocks of this type stood on pieces of furniture, some were furnished with a suporting wall bracket. In the 17th and 18th centuries, they were called spring clocks.

    bracket foot
    See FEET

    braganza foot
    see FEET

    Brandt, Edgar
    (1880-1960) The most renowned French metalworker of the ART DECO period, and designer of furniture, screens and decorative panels. He used a combination of mettals, such as iron, brass and copper and is also known for this wrought-iron work, often with a hammered finish. Brandt formed a company in New York called Ferrobrandt.

    brandy bowl
    Shallow, oval bowl with two opposing handles, used both for tasting and for drinking brandy. Brandy bowls were made in Holland in the 17th and 18th centuries abnd revived in the 19thC; in the early 18thC, versions made in New York were exported to Britain.

    brandy saucepan
    See PIPKIN

    A strong yellow alloy of copper and zinc; a higher level of zinc prouces a yellower metal. Brass is malleable and easy to work. It has been worked in Britain from the Middle Ages. Large-scale production came c.1700, with better quality metal from c.1720. Some small brass ornaments and mounts for clocks were silvered. In the 19thC, thin sheet brass was introduced and designs were stamped out under presses to produce ornaments, inkstands, letter racks and door furniture.

    breakfast can

    breakfast table
    A small, light, four-legged table with two extendible hinged flaps. The custom of entertaining friends to a late breakfast died out towards the end of the 18thC, and the term becamse more generally applied to lighter and smaller versions of dining tables for use in the breakfast room.

    Term used to describe a piece of furniture with part of its fromt projecting. Breakfront bookcases, sideboards, wardrobes and clothes presses were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.

    The closed end of a barrell, where the charge or cartridge is placed. Beech=loading weapons were easier to load than muzzle-loading ones. Although they were used from the 15thC, it was not until the 19thC that they were perfected.

    breguet, Abraham-Louis
    (1747-1823) Swiss born watchmaker working in Paris from c.1762. He specialises in subscription watches or souscription watches which were made to order for clients or subscribers, and self-winding watches. In 1795, Breguet invented an escapement mechanism-called the tourbillon which reduced errors caused by the changing position of a watch as it was carried around. He also developed montres a tact which have knobs set at each hour for telling the time by touch in the dark. Breguet's watch cases are often very thin, with gold or silver dials. He signed his pieces 'Braguet a Paris' until 1791, when he developed a hidden signature to discourage forgeries. He went into partnership with his son Louis-Antoine c.1807.

    Small ornament worn on a watch chain or CHATELAINE. It was typically made of gold or enamel and often in the form of a tiny statuette. Porcelain breloaques were made at CHELSEA and DERBY in the 18thC.

    Bretby Art Pottery
    Derbyshire earthenware pottery, established 1883. Bretby made pieces to the designs of Christopher DRESSER.

    Breuer, Marcel
    (1902-81) Hungariab-born furniture designer and architect, specialising in interiors. Breuer trained at the BAUHAUS school of design. His furniture was easily mass-produced and he was largely responsible for introducing chrome into ordinary households for the first time. Many of Breuer's designs were produced by the THONET brothers' furniture factory in Vienna. Breuer left Germany for Britain in 1935 and two years later settled in the USA.

    See LACE

    bright-cut engraving
    method of engraving metal articles especially ADAM-style silverware, developed in late 18thC Birmingham. The engraving instrument, or graver, has a double edge which removes slivers of metal and burnishes the cut surface to produce a smooth, polished, FACETED decoration.

    Radiant brightness of a diamond or other transparent gemstone, enhanced by the skilled arrangement of FACETS. A stone's brilliance is enhanced if the facets cause a greater deflection of light entering a stone and minimal loss of light through the stone's base.

    brilliant cut

    See FAN


    Briot, Nicholas
    (c.1579-1646) French DIE-sinker who produced machine-made coins of very high quality for Charles I in the 1630s.

    brise fan
    See FAN

    bristle doll

    1 A centre for British glassmaking from the mid 17th to 19th centuries. Bristol glass-making was established c.1651; in the 18thC opaque white glass resembling porcelain and often decorated in similar style was important, but the city best became known for its 'Bristol' blue glass made in the late 18thC, most notably by Lazarus and Isaac Jacobs. It was used to make DECANTERS, finger bowls, patch boxes and liners for silver casters, and other wares, which were often gilded. Blue glass was produced at many other factorties in Britain and firm attribution is usually impossible. The city's glass-makers were also noted for their high quality cutting, engraving and enamelling. See also NAILSEA. 2 An important ceramics centre for the production of TIN-GLAZED EARTHENWARE in the 17th abd 18th centuries. This initially followed the style of Italian MAIOLICA, and later of DELFTWARE. In 1750 a soft-paste PORCELAIN formula containing SOAPSTONE was pioneered at a Bristol factory founded by Benjamin Lund. A limited range of BLUE AND WHITE domestic ware as produced. This soapstone formula was perfected by WORCESTER, which took over Lund's company in 1752. In 1770, William COOKWORTHY, the chemist who made Britain's first hard-paste porcelain, transferred his PLYMOUTH factory to Bristol. The Bristol factory closed in 1781, the patent rights transferring to NEWHALL in Staffordshire.

    britannia metal
    A type of PEWTER containing no lead but a high proportion of tin, and shaped by a process known as SPINNING. This formed objects around a pattern (or model) on a power-driven wheel, which produced thinnner wares than the earlier cast pewter. Britannia metal was made extensively in Sheffield, London and Birmingham. From the second half of the 19thC it was often used as the base metal in ELECTROPLATING instead of copper or nickel silver and marked 'EPBM' (electroplated britannia metal). This is softer that electroplated nickel cilver (EPNS) and melts easily, so is difficult to repair.

    Britannia standard
    The compulsory standard for silverware in Britain 1697-1720. The proportion of pure silver (95.8 per cent). It was introduced as a deterrent against the practice of melting down sterling silver coinage to make domestic silverware. After 1720, the production of Britannia silver was optional.

    Gold ?1 coin struck in 1656 which was circulated for only a short period. Broads usually bear a portrait of Oliver Cromwell.

    A cutting sword with a flat, wide, double-edged blade.

    Finely woven textile with coloured threads added to form a raised pattern on the upper surface of the material, making a richly figured cloth. (The word brocade derives from the Latin brocare meaning 'to figure'.) Originally the ground patterns of flowers and scrolls were in gold or silver, and the fabric was known as cloth of gold; coloured silk threads came later, and today, cotton and man-made fibres are used. Brocade can be made in various weights for dressmaking or furnishings. Brocantine is brocade with a raised pattern that imitates embroidery.

    Brocard, Phillippe-Joseph
    (1867-90) French glass maker who recvived 13th-century Syrian techniques of enamelling in brilliant colours. Early works copied Islamic lamps and tableware, but later output was original - mainly MOULDED GLASSWARE decorated with more subdued ENAMEL colours.

    1 Imitation BROCADE made of cotton or silk, with a raised pattern in the warp and a flat weft background. The term is often used to refer to any cloth with a raised pattern. 2 A variegated marble which was used to make table tops in the 18thC, also known as brocatello.

    A mis-struck coin, on which the design appears normally on one side, but with the same design in INTAGLIO or INCUSE form on the other. It is caused by a previously struck coin failing to eject from the pair of DIES.

    Brocot, Achille
    (1817-78) French clock-maker who devised the BROCOT SUSPENSION which enabled timekeeping to be regulated by altering the length of the PENDULUM suspension spring by a key turned in the dial. He also introduced a JEWELLED deadbeat ESCAPEMENT, sometimes called a visible escapement as it was often mounted in the middle of the dial.

    broderie anglais
    Mid-19thC CUTWORK embroidery, usually of linen or cotton, made in Britain and parts of Europe from the late 18thC. Floral patterns are formed by embroidering around holes cut in the fabric in buttonhole stitch.

    Brogden, John
    (fl.1842-85) London based jeweller who specialised in antique and archaeological styles. Typical Brogden pieces incorporate Classical motifs and reliefs inspired by the Etruscan, Assyrian and Egyptian civilisations and pieces mounted with the claws of tigers or vultures.

    Matt black decoration painted on glass. The technique, also known as BRONZITE, was developed c.1910 in Vi
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