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.
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.
backstaff - 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.
backstamp - Term used by commercial potteries fo the mark printed on the underside of their wares.
backstool - 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.
BADA - British Antique Dealers' Association, and organisation of antique shops and individual dealers, formed to maintain standards within the trade.
baff - 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.
baguette - 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.
baize - 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.
Bakelite - 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.
balance - 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.
baldric - 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.
baluster - 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.
banding - 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 - See WHEEL 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 - See POLE SCREEN
bantam work - See LACQUER