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.
Waals, Peter - See cotswold school.
Wackerle, Josef - (1880-1959) German porcelain modeller who broke away from the convention of imitating 18thC figures and produced statuettes of sporting girls and figures in contemporary dress. He was artistic director of the nymphenburg porcelain factory 1906-9, and later produced some models in modern dress for the berlin porcelain factory.
Wagner, Otto - (1841-1918) Viennese architect and furniture designer, a pioneer of functionalism with his conviction that 'nothing that is not practical can be beautiful'. His work influenced other key designers such as Josef Hoffmann and Adolf Loos, and from 1899 he was a member of the vienna secession. Wagner's furniture is distinguished by its lack of ornamentation, functional quality and combined use of metal and wood. Some of his bentwood designs were produced by the thonet brothers.
wainscot - Wood panelling or a piece of furniture with much panelled work. The term was used in medieval times to describe oak timber suitable for wagon (wain) construction, and later for straight-grained oak suitable for panelling. A wainscot bed is one with solid panels at its head and/or foot; a wainscot chair is a panel-backed chair.
Waiter - See salver.
Waldglas - See bohemia.
wall clock - A general term for a weight or spring-driven clock intended for wall-mounting, including the cartel clock, lantern clock, girandole, tavern clock and regulator. A hooded wall clock has a hood that can be lifted off from the wall-mounted movement. A wall dial is a Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian spring-driven timepiece with a circular dial in a wooden surround. Some versions have a short box extension with a glazed aperture through which the motion of the pendulum can be seen.
wall pocket - Pottery or glass vase for hanging on the wall to hold flowers, popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is most often in the shape of a flat-backed cornucopia.
walnut - A close-grained hardwood, light golden-brown to dark greyish-brown in colour with dark streaks and often with a rich grain pattern. Walnut took the place of oak as the most favoured wood for furniture-making c. 1660 until the introduction of mahogany in the 1720s. The European species was used for high-quality solid furniture in Tudor England, and for the finest Italian, German and French furniture of the 16th and 17th centuries European walnut became scarce after 1709 following severe weather in France, but the darker American walnut was used throughout most of the 18thC.
Walter, AlmÃˆric - (1859-1942) French art nouveau and art deco glass-maker. He specialised in thick, opaque pate-de-verre pieces, such as sculptural ornaments, ashtrays and small dishes in greens, yellows and turquoise, often decorated with naturalistic forms such as insects, small reptiles and sprays of berries.
Waltham Watch Company - The first of several American watch companies to mass-produce cheaper watches for the general public. The company was established in the mid- 19thC, and together with the Swiss industry initiated the decline of the more conservative and exclusive British watch trade.
Walton, George - (1867-1933) Scottish architect and designer of metalware, textiles, furniture and glassware. He was a member of the glasgow school, which established the British version of art nouveau style, and his polished iron and copper candlesticks and chandeliers are typical of this genre. His furniture designs, some for the retail business liberty and some for High Wycombe manufacturers, echoed 18thC forms with their emphasis on high backs and strong vertical lines.
Wandering-hour watch - See chronoscope
wardian case - A glass-sided case like a miniature greenhouse for growing display plants such as ferns or tropical species indoors. The name comes from Victorian naturalist Nathaniel Ward, who transported botanical specimens from his travels in this way. Domed wardian cases mounted on stands were popular in Victorian parlours.
wardrobe - Term used from the early 19thC for a large, freestanding cupboard with hanging space for clothes. In the 18thC, clothes were stored in presses.
warming pan - Round, lidded container made of copper or brass, with long wooden, iron or brass handle. The pan held hot coals or charcoal - or later water - and were used to warm beds. It became popular in the 16thC but was replaced in the 19thC by metal or stoneware hot-water bottles. Most later examples were purely decorative.
washstand - A three or four-legged stand for holding a washbasin, a common item of furniture in the USA and Europe from the 18thC. Larger, heavier models with a marble or tiled top, drawers, and a cupboard for a chamber pot beneath were popular in the 19thC.
watch paper - A disc of paper with the name of the watch-maker or repairer decoratively printed on it, used in Britain from the 18thC. The papers are usually placed at the back of an open-face watch case or in the back of the outer pair-case.
watch stand - Small stand of wood, ceramics, brass or other metal designed to hold a pocket watch at night or for standing on a table so that it can serve as a miniature clock.
watchman's clock - See tell-tale clock
water clock - Clock run by the regular flow of water from one container to another, based on the clepsydra, an ancient timekeeping device, and revived in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many copies of these revivals, with false signatures and dates, were made in the 1920s and 30s.
water gilding - See gilding.
watercolour - Water-soluble pigments mixed with a preparation of gum and dissolved in water before being transferred to paper. Watercolour is translucent, whereas gouache is opaque.
Waterford - Irish glass was produced at Waterford from 1729. Flint glass was superseded by the fine-quality lead crystal for which the town is best known in 1783. From then until it closed in 1851 the factory produced various tablewares, including bowls, glasses and decanters. The bluish tinge often said to distinguish Waterford glass is a myth. A new factory opened in 1951 producing traditional Waterford styles.
Waterloo leg - See sabre leg.
wax doll - Doll with head, and sometimes limbs, made wholly or partly of bleached beeswax, popular c.1750-1930s. Solid wax may be carved into shape or liquid wax poured into a mould. Eyes are either painted on or small black beads stuck on with a drop of wax. Waxed-composition refers to a wax coating over a composition base; colour can be applied to the base itself prior to the wax coating, or directly onto the wax.
waywiser - Large, wheeled device for measuring distances on the ground. Waywisers were used by the Post Office to measure postal routes prior to 1840, as the charge for sending letters was based on distance. As the device was pushed along, the distance was recorded on a brass dial situated beneath the handle.
Webb, Philip - (1831-1915) British architect and furniture designer, closely linked with William morris, Webb designed jewellery, glass, metalwork and embroidery for Morris's decorative arts firm, but concentrated mainly on the design of solid oak furniture. He disliked veneers but sometimes adopted stained or painted surface finishes, or an applied gesso or lacquered leather feature. Webb's designs were highly influential in the arts and crafts movement with its ideals of handcraftsmanship.
Webb, Thomas, & Sons - Family firm of glass-makers based around stourbridge, Worcestershire, since the early 1830s. From its founding the firm has made a variety of household wares, but in the 19thC it was especially noted for engraving and fine cameo glass, and from 1886 it also made burmese glass. The company closed in 1991.
Wedgwood pottery - The pottery founded in 1759 at Burslem, Staffordshire, by Josiah Wedgwood that gave Britain, and Staffordshire in particular, its special place in the history of world ceramics. The factory was a pioneer of new products such as those modelled by William greatbach, and coloured with lead glazes developed by Wedgwood during his partnership with the Staffordshire potter Thomas whieldon. Then came creamware - the Wedgwood version was known as Queen's Ware in honour of Queen Charlotte, the firm's patron - which rivalled porcelain throughout Europe in the 1760s and 70s and competed with the endless supplies of chinese export porcelain. Other landmarks included a fine red stoneware such as rosso antico, the black basaltes and the jasperware that came to be the company's best-known product. By the mid- 18thC the products ranged from brooches and snuffboxes to statuettes, plaques and tablewares. They were widely copied and exported all over Europe and the USA. The successes of the 18thC maintained styles for some time into the 19thC, and emphasis shifted from handcrafted pottery to production of bone china, still produced, and majolica. In the 20thC a genuine attempt to escape from the 18thC clichÃˆ was made by the input of designers such as Keith murray, c.f.a.voysey and Eric ravilious.