Antiques Glossary - O
Author: Jim Coyleoak
Pale, hard and heavy timber that darkens to a rich brown
with age and polishing. It was the main furniture-making
wood during medieval times up until about c. 1660 ? a period
sometimes referred to as the Age of Oak. Oak furniture tends
to be solid, heavy and simple in design. From the 1660s, the
timber was mainly used for provincial furniture and for
carcass work and drawer linings, but was again popular in
the arts and crafts movement of the late 19thC.
A tall, four-sided shaft, usually monolithic and tapering,
rising to a pyramidal point.
ide sash or waistband used to hold a kimono in place, part
of Japanese national dress. See inro.
objects of vertu
English term, roughly translated as 'precious objects', for
small luxury articles in gold, silver or porcelain and often
decorated with precious and semiprecious stones, enamel and
lacquer. Objects of vertu, such as seals, snuffboxes,
bonbonni?res and ?tuis, were popular in the 17th to 19th
Natural glass produced by volcanic action. It is usually
black or black-banded, and can be cut and polished and used
as a gemstone.
The side of a coin or medal upon which the principal minting
authority is recorded, usually (but not invariably) the
'head' side. The opposite side of the coin, the 'tail', is
known as the reverse.
Small, portable table which can be moved about easily to
suit the occasion.
Navigational instrument which measures the angle of the sun
above the horizon. It was invented by John Hadley in 1731,
but was superseded by the more accurate sextant in the late
Double curve shape used to describe an onion-shaped arch of
'S'-shaped moulding and reproduced in many decorative forms.
See shelf clock.
A picture painted with coloured pigments ground in an oil
such as linseed and applied onto a prepared surface such as
canvas or wood. The finished painting is usually coated with
varnish which tends to disco lour with age.
A slip bead securing the cord on a Japanese netsuke. See
Japanese sculptured figures usually made of ivory but also
of bone or wood. They were made as ornaments for the home
during the Meiji (1816-1912) andTaisho (1912-26) periods,
and exported to Europe and the USA.
Early Victorian revival of Louis XV Rococo style.
Yellow-green, fine-grained timber with a wavy, mottled
grain. It was introduced to Britain from Spain and Italy in
the second half of the 17thC and used mainly for its
decorative quality, particularly in ornamental veneers.
See deutsche blumen.
London workshops founded in 1913 by Roger Fry (1866-1934) to
encourage young artists and improve standards of decorative
design - aiming to relate modern art to daily life and bring
out the creative pleasure of the artist. Designs were simple
and decorated in bright colours, the most successful
products being textiles and pottery. Simple panelled
furniture, often flimsy, was bought ready-made from
manufacturers and painted in the distinctive style. Fry
belonged to the Bloomsbury Group of writers and artists,
members of which, including painters Duncan Grant
(1885-1978) and Vanessa Bell (1879-1961), were also involved
in the project. Although the workshops closed in 1919, they
heralded a new approach to British 20thC design.
Porcelain decoration first used on 18thC meissen tableware
and popular at many other potteries. It was derived from a
Chinese design that included stylised peaches, leaves and
flowers, which were mistaken for onions. See decorative
Scroll pattern used mostly on the handles of mid- 18thC
serving spoons and ladles. It was named after Sir Arthur
Onslow (1691 -1768), six times Speaker of the House of
Commons. See cutlery.
Translucent white glass developed in 17thC Venice and later
made throughout Europe. It was particularly popular in
Britain during the 19thC for cheap ornamental wares.
translucency was achieved by adding bone ash to the molten
glass. When held up to the light, the glass shows slight
1A specific type of iridescent glass developed by the
British glass-maker Frederick carder for the steuben
glassworks in the USA. Its appearance, similar to that of a
natural opal, was created by cooling the glass object with
compressed air and then reheating it. The glass was produced
in pink, blue, yellow and green. 2 American art glass which
has a raised design in opalescent white glass against a
coloured background. The technique was developed in the late
19thC, and produced in Britain on art glass and pressed
Pocket watch with a glazed dial exposed to view and backed
by a single metal case, dating from c. 1830 into the 20thC.
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
order of architecture
Mercury-gilded bronze used for figures and decorative mounts
on clocks and furniture. The word is from the French or
moulu, 'ground gold'. Highly toxic fumes emanating from the
mercury made this process dangerous and it was superseded by
electroplating in the mid- 19thC.
Swedish glass factory founded 1898. In the 1920s, the
factory was known for its innovative engraved glassware,
including Graal glass, a form of cameo glass. In the 1930s,
designer Sven Palmqvist developed ravenna and kraka - heavy
glass with inlaid colours.
Small clockwork or hand-cranked model of the planetary
system - a popular astronomical demonstrational apparatus or
educational demonstrator during the 18th and 19th centuries.
An orrery might complement an astrolabe or a pair of
celestial and terrestrial globes in a library or schoolroom.
Raised basketwork ceramics pattern in sections between
radial ribs, first used as an edging on 18thC meissen
A low upholstered seat without arms and with or without a
back (also known as a Turkey sofa), which was designed to
seat several people. The idea was introduced to Britain from
Turkey (the Ottoman Empire until 1922) in the late 18thC.
The ottoman footstool, introduced in the early 19thC, was
used as a fireside seat. A box ottoman has a hinged seat
which lifts to reveal storage space below. See borne, divan.
Oriental carpets woven in workshops anywhere in the Ottoman
Empire from the mid- 16th to the late 17th century, as
opposed to indigenous Turkish weavings of the same period.
Ceramics decorator who worked independently of a factory on
bought-in blanks. In Germany the decorators were known as a
Hausmaler and were responsible for some of the best
decoration in the first half of the 18thC. Dutch enamellers
decorated meissen, Chinese and Japanese porcelain and
Staffordshire cream ware, and there were several independent
studios in Britain from c. 1750 to the early 1800s.
over and under
Two-barrelled gun with one barrel above the other.
A term used in ceramics for the method or order of painted
or transfer-printed decoration applied on the glaze rather
than beneath it (underglaze). Overglaze enamel colours are
mixed with a flux such as potash or lime which enables them
to fuse onto the glaze when the article is fired again - at
a lower temperature firing than for underglaze
See cased glass.
Upholstery in which the padding is carried over the
chair-frame edges. Overstuffing was commonly used on early
Silver in which the surface is heated to give it a dark
coating of silver sulphide. This enhances the shadows on
decorated areas. See also patina.
A decorative form of veneering using slices of wood cut in
vertical cross-section from the branches of small trees,
such as laburnum and walnut, to create a pattern of
repetitive whorls on furniture. The technique originated in
Holland. It was popular in Britain for drawer fronts, and
for cabinet and bureau doors from the late 17th to early
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