Antiques Auction Glossary
The world of antiques and collecting can be a mysterious and mystifying place. Premiums' jargon, strange terminology and weird names don't help. This online guide, kindly supplied by Reader's Digest (taken from their publication TREASURES in your HOME), lists everything you ever need to know... from the Finnish architect and furniture designer Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) to Zwischengoldglas – literally 'gold between glass' – a method of decorating 18th century beakers and goblets.
All material within the glossary Copyright © 10/2004 Reader's Digest Association Limited.
Aalto, Alvar - 1898-1976) Finish architect and furniture designer whose work during the 1920s and 30s had an enormous impact on 20thC design. Although mass-produced, Aalto's furniture is highly original, distinguished by clean, simple lines and curves, and the innovative use of materials such as moulded plywood and tubular steel.
abacus - See COLUMN.
Abbotsford style - Term introduce in the late 19thC for imitation Jacobean, Stuart, Tudor and Gothic furniture made in the 1820s and 30s. It was named after Abbotsford, the Scottish home of the 18th-19thC poet and novelist Sir Walter Scott, which was furnished in this style.
abrash - Term for the faint banding of colour shades usually found in vegetable-dyed Oriental carpets made by nomadic tribes. This is due to slight variations in shade of different batches of wool that were dyed at different times. Abrash is most obvious over a large, plain field of uniform colour. Unfortunately, unscrupulous modern weavers often fake an abrash to try to make a rug look older.
acacia - Very durable, whitish-yellow wood with brown veining, also known as robinia. Acacia was used as a veneer in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, as a decorative crossbanding on 18th and early 19thC country furniture, and occasionally for chairs and small cabinet work such as boxes in the ARTS AND CRAFTS MOVEMENT of the late 19thC.
acanthus - See DECORATIVE MOTIFS
accordion pleat - A series of narrow, machine-made, overlapping pleats, often used on lightweight fabrics for soft furnishings.
achromatic lens - An 18thC development combining FLINT GLASS and crown glass to remove distorting colour fringes from the image. It was patented by Englishman John Dollond in 1758 and used in telescopes and microscopes.
acid etching - See ENGRAVING
acid gilding - See GILDING
acid polishing - A chemical process which restores a polished surface to glass after it has been cut. The glass is dipped in acid solution which removes a fine surface layer.
acorn flagon - Pewter vessel about 12in (30cm) high, with its base in the shape of an acorn cup, and a domed, acorn-like lid capped by a FINIAL. It was used for serving wine or ale in Yorkshire in the first half of the 18thC, and is also known as York Flagon.
Act of Parliament Clock - See TAVERN CLOCK.
Adam, Robert - (1728 - 92) NEOCLASSICAL architect and interior designer.
adjustment marks - File marks found on many pre-19thC coins which have been 'adjusted' (filed down) to the correct weight. It was a worldwide practice which occurred from ancient times until the early 19thC, when new manufacturing techniques made it possible to cut blanks from consistently rolled metal sheets. Excess metal was filed off overweight blanks before the coins were struck to ensure that they were of consistent weight. Sometimes blanks were made deliberately overweight to avoid the more expensive remelting process necessary for underweight coins.
adze - Long-handled axe with the blade at right angles to the shaft, used in furniture-making, for heavy trimming and shaping. The slightly hollowed-out seats of WINDSOR CHAIRS, for example, were shaped with an adze with a curved cutting edge.
AE or âˆ† - Common abbreviation for bronze and copper from the latin aes, found in coin catalogues and also seen as ae.
aerography - Late 19thC technique of applying colours to ceramics through a stencil with an airbrush or atomiser. It resulted in a gradual transition of colours ad soft-edged, slightly grained images, and was often used to 'dress up' cheap pottery and porcelain.
Aesthetic movement - Decorative arts movement with a Japanese influence, which flourished in Britain from c.1870 - a precursor to ART NOVEAU. The movement was recognised in the USA but not in France or elsewhere in Europe. It overlapped with the ARTS AND CRAFTS MOVEMENT although it had begun to decline by the late 1880s.
affenkapelle - A set of porcelain monkey musicians - the term is German for 'monkey band'. The sets, each one comprising some 20 figures, were introduced by MEISSEN in Germany during the mid-18thC, and were reproduced there and at many other European factories in the 19thC. See also SINGERIE.
agate - Fine-grained quartz used as a semiprecious stone in CAMEO and INTAGLIO work and in jewellery such as signet rings and brooches, particularly during the 19thC. When polished, agate reveals variegated tones of soft browns and oranges, blues, greys or greens, foten with irregular milky bands.
agate ware - Staffordshire pottery resembling the veinings and colouring of natural agate. It was produced in the 18thC by firms such as WEDGWOOD and WHIELDON. There were two types: solid agate, made from kneading together two or three different coloured clays to give a marbled effect all the way through the body; and surface agate, in which a plain earthenware body was applied with a 'joggled' liquid clap SLIP of mixed agate-like colours to give a surface-only finish.
aide-memoire - Slim, decorated case fitted with a pencil and note pad, usually measuring about 31/2 x 21/4 x 1/4in (90 x 55 x 5mm). The ivory leaves of the 18thC aides-memoire, or tablettes, continued until the early 20thC, although some have been replaced with paper. The cases were decorated ub materials such as gold, silver, ivory, enamel and tortoiseshell. See also CARNET DE BAL.
aigrette - Hair or hat ornament, usually of gold or silver, made in the shape of a feather or as a holder for a feather. Aigrettes were fashionable in the 17th and 18th centuries and from the lat 19th to early 20thC.
air twist - See TWIST
air-beading - Circular or tear-shaped bubbles of air incorporated into glassware for decorative effect. The molten glass is pricked with a metal point, and glass drawn over the hole. A tear is formed when the glass is drawn into shape.
Akerman, John - (fl. 1719-55) London glass merchant who introduced CUT GLASS to Britain c.1890.
albarello - Cylindrical, slightly waisted ceramic drug pot, with a groove around the neck for securing a parchment cover. Albarelli originated in 12thC Persia, but ornamental MAIOLICA versions were made in Spain and Italy in the 15th and 16th centuries, with a revival in the 19thC, and in Dutch and English DELFTWARE from the second half of the 16thC.
albert - Single or double metal chain with a bar for securing ina buttonhole at one end, and a swivel attachment to hold a pocket watch at the other. A Virmingham jeweller presented Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert, with one of these in 1845, and so the name was coined.
album quilt - Personalised patchwork quilt, its design being of particular significance to the recipient. A typical design might have names and dates stitchted into some of the patches. The quilts were fashionable in the USA in the mid-19th C.