a glossary of antiques terms

Here we have a list of terms that you may come across when discussing antiques.

Please choose a letter


A small marine snail whose shell is used for ornament or decoration.


Tone differences within the colour of a rug, normally due to variations in the dyes.


A classical fleshy leaf decoration used on a wide variety of objects, especially on furniture - particularly brackets and legs. It is mostly a stylised version of the thistle-like leaf of the acanthus mollis plant.

Acid Engraving

The technique of decorating glass by coating it in wax or resin, incising a design and exposing the revealed areas to hydrochloric acid fumes.

Acid Gilding

A 19th century technique for decorating pottery in which the surface is etched with hydroflouric (HFl) acid and the low-relief pattern gilded.

Acorn Knop

A term that is used to describe a decoration in the shape of an acorn with the cup uppermost.

Adam Style

A refined, graceful style established by British architect Robert Adam and his brother James from 1765-1790. The Adam brothers introduced the neoclassical style in furniture and architecture to England, adding neo-Gothic, Egyptian, and Etruscan motifs.

Agate Ware

18th century pottery that is veined or marbled to look like agate.


A long plume from an egret, used as a woman's head-dress.

Air Twist Stem

A stem decorated with spiral filaments of hollow glass, used for drinking glasses and other glassware.

Air Beading

Glass containing bubbles of air that resembles a string of beads

Air Twist

A helical decoration in the stem of wine glasses developed in the mid-1700's, in which an air bubble in the glass is drawn out and twisted to form spirals.


A pottery vessel, sometimes in the shape of an hourglass, used for storing pharmaceutical ingredients.

Ale Glass

A drinking glass from the 18th century with a tall stem and a tall, narrow bowl, with a capacity of 3-4 ounces, used for strong beer. An ale glass is often decorated with images of barley and hops.

All Bisque Doll

A doll with body, limbs and head made of biscuit-fired ceramic.


Yellowish-brown burred wood imported from the West Indies and often used as a veneer.


A photograph made by exposing a glass plate treated with light-sensitive wet collodion. The negative was made positive by backing with black paper or paint.

American Victorian

The period in the US between 1830-1900 that incorporates several styles of furniture:


Antiques and collectibles that reflect the growth and character of American culture.


Followers of Jacob Amman who formed a religious sect that settled in Pennsylvania during the 1700's. They produce highly prized quilts and other simply designed handicrafts.

Anchor Escapement

A type of escapement used in pendulum clocks, said to have been invented about 1670 by William Clement or Robert Hook. This escape mechanism is shaped like an anchor, which engages at precise intervals with the toothed escape wheel. The anchor permits the use of a pendulum (either long or short) and gives greater accuracy than was possible with the verge escapement.


A stylised honeysuckle ornament, in the Classical style, with inwards curving petals.

Apostle Spoon

A spoon with a plain stem and a cast figure of an apostle as its finial. Usually made of silver from c 1490-1650.


In textiles, applying small patches of fabric to a base fabric to make a design.


A length of wood found beneath the bottom framing of a drawer, table top or chair seat, usually shaped and often decorated.


An elaborate, scrolling decoration of repeating geometric forms that often echo those of plants and animals.


A series of arches, usually supported on columns.

Architect's Table

A table or desk, often on castors, with an adjustable tilting top to provide an angled work area. Mahogany architect's tables became very popular in the late 18th century.


In Classical architecture, the horizontal moulding above a series of capitals, which is the lowest part of an entablature. It can also be the lowest part of a frieze.


A district in Hizen province on the island of Kyushu located in South-west Japan, famous for its porcelain manufacture. In the early 1600s, white porcelain clay was first discovered in Arita and produced outside of China and Korea.

Arm Chair

A dining chair with arms (properly called an open armchair).


Historically, the name for a weapons and armour storage cupboard.


An engraved design showing a crest or coat of arms.

Art Deco

An architectural and decorative movement of the period 1925-1940, characterised by geometric forms, intense colours and modern materials. The movement was named from the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925.

Art Nouveau

A reaction to the classic lines of Regency style, this decorative art movement first appeared in England and was popular across Europe from the late 18th century until the 1st World War.

Arts & Crafts Movement

A style movement popular particularly in England in the late 19th century and embedded within the Art Nouveau tradition.


A term used in antiques to describe where one part of an item is of the same design, but not originally made for it.


A narrow moulding, semi-circular in profile, sometimes carved. Astragal is used particularly for glazing bars and the closing edges of doors.


An ancient instrument used to calculate the position of the stars and other measurements.


Sometimes referred to as an Atlanta.


A French town in the Limousin region in central France. Aubusson has been the centre of production of tapestries and tapestry-weave carpets since the 17th century, although formal workshops were not established until circa 1743.


A small recess or cupboard in the wall of a church, especially as a repository for books.


A term covering a wide variety of mechanical toys or decorative objects with moving parts, popular during the 18th and 19th centuries. Automata are usually powered by a clockwork mechanism.

Bachelor Chest

A small, low chest-of-drawers for any purpose with three drawers and (usually) a hinged top.


The wooden panel which seals the back of furniture made to stand against a wall. It is not usually varnished or decorated to the same degree as the more visible parts of the furniture.


Literally, a joint stool with a back, the earliest form of side chair.

Bail Handle

The name given to a brass or iron loop handle which is suspended from a pommel at either end. Bail handles are usually found on drawers, and together with the pommel forms what most people would call the handle.


A tough, thermosetting plastic invented by Belgian scientist LH Baekeland in 1909 and used to make a variety of domestic objects.


A term that is used to describe a decorative window box holder.

Ball & Claw Foot

A carved foot, shaped like a ball held in a talon or claw. This carved decoration was commonly found on cabriole legs from the early 18th century, but used thereafter.

Ball Foot

A ball-shaped foot, mainly late 17th century.

Ball Jointed Doll

A doll with ball-jointed limbs, able to swivel in all directions, as opposed to stiff-jointed.


A double-curved column form, with a narrow waist and flared ends and commonly found in architecture, ceramics, metalwork, tables and the stems of drinking glasses. The column is more prominently flared at the base; when the swelling is in the upper half, it's known as an inverted baluster.

Baluster Stem

Glass with a swelling stem, like an architectural baluster. It is considered a true baluster stem if the thicker swelling is beneath, inverted if above. From the late 17th century.


A row of repeating and often ornamental balusters (the small posts which support the upper rail of a railing) as may be seen on a staircase, or which forms the parapet to a balcony, bridge or terrace.


An ornamental inlay, which is generally in contrasting wood, and laid either cross-grain or diagonally. Banding can often be found in other materials such as ivory, silver, pewter and brass. It can also be found in a herringbone pattern, which was popular on walnut furniture, from the early 18th century.


The French word for majolica.

Barley Twist

Also known as a Spiral Twist.


Originating in Italy, this architectural and decorative style spread through Europe in the 17th century. It is typified by its exuberant ornamentation and bold curvaceous forms, and sometimes tends towards heaviness and pomposity.


A musical instrument with 6-7 bowed strings of gut and 9-24 (most often 12) sympathetic wire strings, used mainly in 18th century Germany and Austria.

Basaltes Ware

Unglazed black stoneware with a smooth, stone-like finish, developed by Josiah Wedgewood.

Basting Spoon

A long-handled spoon (12 inches or more).


An influential art school established in Germany in 1919 that combined crafts and the fine arts. The name is now almost synonymous with design style.


Another name for Astragal.


Used in the construction of furniture, this horizontal member is used to support another part, for instance the leaves of a dining table.


A type of French doll made by Bru and others in the latter half of the 19th century, modelled on idealized children between 8-12 years old.

Bed Bench

Also known as Bed Settle.

Bed Hangings

Curtains surrounding a four-poster bed that not only ensured warmth and privacy but also displayed the family's wealth and good taste.

Bed Pole

The poles running between the tops of the bed posts to support the hangings.

Bed Steps

A set of two or three steps, sometimes with a compartment for a chamber pot, to help the delicate, the elderly, and the short-legged get in and out of high beds.

Bedding Down Candle

A short candle that burned for only 15 or 20 minutes and extinguished itself after one had gone to bed. The stub ends of regular candles were often used in this way.


A fibrous growth on trees, sometimes called Spanish moss, used for bed stuffing.

Bedstead Washstand

A piece of furniture resembling a secretaire, in which the desk opened to a washstand, and the bookcase opened to a bed.

Berlin Woolwork

Amateur embroidery using coloured wools on a canvas grid.

Berry Spoon

A dessert-sized spoon with fruit embossed on the bowl, used for eating fruit.


A surface or edge cut at an angle; this term particularly applies to a panel, and is commonly seen on glass and mirrors. When at 45 degrees, this is known as a chamfer.


The ring, usually brass, surrounding the dial of a clock and securing the glass cover.

Bianco Sopra Bianco

Literally white on white.


The name given to simple veneered wooden furniture from early 19th century Germany and Eastern Europe, often constructed in cherry wood, assorted blond woods or mahogany.


A wooden hinged device used under a table top to mount it on the pedestal. The birdcage enables the table surface to rotate, fold and tip up.


Unglazed porcelain, fired only once, producing a crisp, dry appearance.


A French term for biscuit ware, or unglazed porcelain, and often used for doll's heads from the mid-19th century to the 1930s.

Bladed Knop

A decorative ornament with a concave outward curve, ending in a sharp edge.

Blanket Chest

An American term for a lift-top chest with drawers underneath.

Block Foot

A cube-shaped foot, made from a solid block of wood, and generally used with a square untapered leg.

Blue Dash Charger

A 17-18th century delftware dish decorated with a border of blue brush strokes.

Blue John

A blue or purple variety of fluorspar mined in Derbyshire, used for vases, tazza, small ornaments, and so on.

Blue Willow

The most common of all transfer patterns, blue willow was derived by Thomas Turner and was first produced at the Caughley Pottery in 1780.


A decorative heat treatment applied to metal weapons which also protect from rust.

Bobbin Turning

Repeated bell-turning, in the form of bobbins, one on top of the other, looking somewhat like a stick made of balls. Bobbin-turning was much used on 17th century furniture, on legs and stretchers.

Bolection Moulding

A raised and rebated moulding, projecting beyond the face of the frame into which it is inserted, and which was often used to cover a joint between two surfaces.


Literally translated form the French as 'bulging'.

Bone China

Porcelain made by the addition of large quantities of bone ash. Bone china is cheaper to make and tougher than soft-paste porcelain, and slightly softer (but again cheaper to mass-produce) than hard-paste porcelain.

Bonheur du Jour

From the French meaning 'pleasant hours of the day'.


A French sofa, either round or oval, with a pillar in the centre, and seating all the way around.


An ornament, generally carved and most often circular, which applied over joints or used decoratively at the top of legs.


A stylised floral bush found on rugs similar to a paisley design.


Andre-Charles Boulle was a 17th century French cabinet-maker who perfected and made fashionable the Italian art of brass and tortoiseshell marquetry, which is sometimes now known by his name.

Bow Front

Also known as Sweep Front.

Bracket Clock

Originally a 17th century clock which had to be set high up on a bracket because of the length of the weights.

Bracket Foot

A flat two-piece (usually symmetrical) foot, used on cabinet furniture, set at a corner (usually the front) and shaped like a right-angled bracket.

Breakfast Table

A small movable table with drop leaves or rectangular tilting top on a tripod base.


A term usually applied to cabinets, chests and bookcases, where the ends are recessed in relation to the middle, therefore making the middle section protrude.

Britannia Metal

An alloy of tin antimony and copper, used during the 19th century as a substitute for pewter.

British Plate

A nickel alloy which was used in the mid 19th century as a substitute for silver, until it was superseded by the much cheaper electro-plating process.

Brushing Slide

A wooden shelf found in some chests of drawers, which pulls forward/slides out of a slot in the top, to provide extra working surface. It is so-named because one of its primary purposes was to provide a surface for brushing down clothes.


A piece of furniture comprising a number of drawers or shelves - typically open.

Bun Foot

A 17th century foot, similar to the ball foot also in use at the time, but where the ball appears to be slightly squashed. The bun foot is quite often found on Victorian pine furniture.


A piece of furniture, with drawers, performing the function of a desk. It has either a fall-front, which slopes at 45 degrees, a cylinder front, or a tambour front.

Bureau Bookcase

A bureau with a glazed fronted bookcase fitted above it.

Bureau Cabinet

A bureau with a solid doored or mirrored cabinet fitted above it, often containing further fitted cupboards or drawers.

Bureau de Dame

A writing desk of delicate appearance and designed for use by ladies. Usually raised above slender cabriole legs and with one or two external drawers

Bureau Plat

A French writing table with a flat top and drawers in the frieze.


Also known as Burl in the US.


A military fur hat with a bag hanging from one side, often with a plume. They were worn originally by 18th century Hungarian hussars.

Butt Joint

A simple glue joint between two surfaces, joined with no overlap, tenons or shoulders.

Cabaret Set

An 18th century tea-service set on a tray, usually for three or more people.

Cabinet Organ

An organ small enough to be contained in a cabinet, popular for homes and small chapels.


A gemstone that has been rounded and smoothed rather than faceted (especially popular in the 19th century).

Cabriole Leg

An elegant, tall, curving leg, subject to many designs and variations, and found on many pieces of furniture, from the height of its popularity in the first half of the 18th century, right through to the late 19th century.


A container for tea, used first for porcelain jars of Chinese tea imported to Britain, then more usually silver but also ceramic, wood or enamel.

Caddy Spoon

A short spoon (usually about 3 long) with a large bowl, used for spooning tea leaves from a tea caddy. Made of sterling silver in many fanciful and decorative shapes.


A speciality, collectable peach-shaped teapot, which has no lid and which must be held upside down to be filled at the base. A tube leading up from the base ensures the contents do not spill when it is upright.

Cake Server

A symmetrical utensil shaped like a large, flat triangle, used for serving cakes and pies.


A hardwood, imported from Sri Lanka (of the same family as ebony), used in the Regency period for making small articles of furniture, as a veneer and for crossbanding.


The style and technique, particularly on porcelain, whereby an image is painted solely in different tones of a single colour- or in several tints unnatural to the subject of the painting.

Cameo Glass

Two or more layers of coloured glass in which the top layer or layers are then cut or etched away to create a multi-coloured design in relief. This ancient technique was popular with Art Nouveau glassmakers in the early 20th century.

Campaign Bed

A four poster bed, easily demountable, for use by military officers in the field.

Candle Slide

A small wooden support for a candlestick, occasionally found on 18th century tables, desks and bureau cabinets, which slides into a built-in recess when not in use.

Card Table

A table with a fold-over top, usually supported by a gateleg, and which is lined with green baize for playing cards. These tables often also have dishes for the money or tokens.

Carlton House Desk

A distinct type of writing desk which has a raised back at with drawers extending forward at the sides to create an enclosed writing area. It was named after the Prince Regent's London home.

Carousel Figures

Horses and other animals from fairground carousels or roundabouts, usually classified as either jumpers or standers depending on their pose.

Carriage Clock

A small portable clock with a carrying handle. First introduced at the end of the 18th century, heights range from 3 in (76 mm) to 8.5 in (21 cm).

Carte de Visite

A portrait photograph, usually full length, but occasionally head and shoulders, mounted on a small card. The photographs were mass-produced during the mid-19th century.

Carton Pierre

Paper mâché decorated to resemble stone, wood, or metal, and used as ornamentation.


An ornate shield or tablet, properly in the form of an unrolled scroll, and often surrounded by scrollwork or foliate decoration. They often bear a heraldic coat of arms, maker's name, or some other inscription.


A Classical upright female figure used as supporting decoration in place of a column. The term is often incorrectly applied to the male equivalent, which is correctly called an Atlantis.

Case Furniture

Furniture intended as a receptacle, such as a chest of drawers.

Cased Glass

One layer of glass, often coloured, sandwiched between two plain glass layers or vice versa, the outer layer engraved to create a decorative effect. Cased glass is an ancient technique revived in the 19th century.


Maiolica from the Abruzzi region of Italy, noted for the delicate landscapes painted by members of the Grue family.

Caster Spoon

A sauce ladle with a pierced bowl, used for sprinkling sugar over fruit.

Caudle Cup

A two-handled drinking mug of the 17th and 18th centuries, often with a lid.

Cavetto Moulding

A quarter-round concave moulding, often used on cornices.


Chinese stonewares with an opaque grey-green glaze, first made in the Sung dynasty and still made today, principally in Korea.


An 18th century lidded case for wine bottles, with the interior often divided into sections for individual bottles.


A Classical decorative pendant of flowers and fruit suspended vertically from one end, often found at each end of a festoon or garland.

Chaise Longue

An elongated chair, the seat long enough to support the sitter's legs.


A bevelled edge, usually at 45 degrees, usually applied to stone and woodwork.


Enamelling on copper or bronze (similar to cloisonné), in which a glass paste is applied to the hollowed out design, fired and ground smooth.

Chapter Ring

The circular ring on a clock dial on which the hours and minutes are engraved, attached or painted.

Character Doll

A doll with a naturalistic face, especially laughing, crying, pouting, etc.

Character Jug

20th century earthenware jugs and sometimes mugs, depicting a popular character, such as a general, politician, jockey, or actor.

Charles II

The style period after the Cromwellian Protectorate (1660-1680).


A method of decorating silver and other metals by creating a linear pattern using a hammer or punch.

Chequered Inlay

Alternating light and dark inlaid wooden squares (as would be found on a chess board) forming a single line or strip of inlay.


A large storage box with lid, designed to stand on the floor. The chest is the earliest form of storage, common from the 17th century onwards.

Chest of Drawers

A chest fitted with drawers.

Chest on Chest

A two-part case piece with both parts containing three or four layers of drawers and standing on low feet or base.

Chest on Stand

A two-part case piece consisting of a chest of drawers on a separate stand that may have one drawer in it, or raised on short legs.


A type of large, overstuffed, button-backed sofa introduced in the late 19th century.


Generally a twin door cupboard with one or two drawers above and surmounted by shelves.


A decorative motif that originated in classical mythology; it combines the features of a winged goat or lion with a serpent's tail.

Chinese Export Porcelain

A term that is used to describe 16th - 18th century wares made in China (often in European designs) specifically for export.

Chinese Imari

Chinese imitations of the Japanese blue, red and gold painted Imari wares, made from the early 18th century.


The term applied to furniture and other items following the fashion for Chinese style decoration and ornamentation, prevalent in the late 18th century. This manifested itself on fabrics, wallpapers, porcelain, furniture, garden architecture, and decoration in general.


A style of furniture produced by or after the style of Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779), an English cabinet-maker who greatly influenced British and American tastes, combining neoclassical elegance with rococo ornamentation.


A term for modern postcards published from about 1940 on; photos with a shiny finish.


Originally a combination of gold and ivory, but now a term used for Art Deco statues made of ivory and a metal - usually bronze.


A scene painted entirely in varying hues of yellow.

Cistern Tube

A mercury tube fitted into stick barometers, the lower end of which is sealed into a boxwood cistern.


A strip of wood applied at the edge of a boarded flat surface, such as a table-top, to secure and stabilise the boards and for neatness.

Clock Garniture

A highly ornate matching group of clock and vases or candelabra made for the mantel shelf.

Clock Jack

A wind-up instrument with springs for turning a spit over an open fire.


The art of decorating metal, in which metal filaments are fused to the surface of an object to outline a design which is then filled with enamel paste.

Club Foot

Found mostly on a cabriole or turned tapered leg, this type of rounded foot swells to a depressed circular pad.


A small protruding half-round moulding found on the edges of drawer fronts and doors.


Wood from a very dense tropical hardwood tree from the West Indies, used for inlay, turning, musical instruments, and so on.


A travelling trunk which is banded by metalwork and covered with leather or other material.


A French term for a dressing table.


A thin banding or moulding applied around legs, stems etc, often used to disguise a join


An American object made in the style of the period when the country consisted of 13 colonies; usually of the 17th century or early 18th century.

Commedia Dell'arte

Figures (e.g. Harlequin, Columbine, Scaramouche or Pantaloon) from traditional Italian theatre, often depicted in 18th century porcelain groups.


A dish on a supporting stem or a stand usually used to hold fruit, sweets or sometimes relishes, in which case the dish or bowl may be divided or segmented.


In medieval architecture, a stone bracket jutting from a wall or corner of a building to support a beam or an arch.

Cordial Glass

A smaller version of a wine glass, with a thick stem, heavy foot and small bowl. It evolved in the 17th century for strong drink.


The most common Roman order, especially for temples, the Corinthian capital has two rows of acanthus leaves, with stalks sprouting to form spirals (volutes) at the angles. Surmounting the capital is a flat slab (abacus) with an acanthus flower in the centre of each side.

Corner Chair

A chair with a semi-circular back around two sides.

Corner Washstand

A washstand designed to stand in the corner of a bedroom.


A moulded projection or ledge finishing off or crowning the top of a piece of case furniture, a wall, door-surround or window, sometimes embellished with dentils etc.


Imported wood from the Coromandel coast of India, of similar blackish appearance to calamander and used from circa 1780 for banding, and for small pieces of furniture.

Counter Fluting

Fluting in which part of each channel is filled with a reed of wood or brass.

Country Furniture

A general term for furniture made by provincial craftsmen, and especially that made of pine, oak, elm and the fruitwoods.


A wheel with segments cut out of the edge or with pins fitted to one face, which controls the striking of a clock.

Court Cupboard

A cupboard dating from the 16th century, composed of two or three open shelves, the primary function of which was to show off or display plate and other such finery. It may also contain a small central cupboard in the upper tier.

Coved Top

A flat top, with a cavetto moulded edge, often found on a lid.

Credence Table

A 17th century side table with folding top, often semi-circular or hexagonal in form.


A long sideboard with glazed or solid doors.


A repeated geometric decoration based on the battlements of a castle or similarly fortified building. The term is also used to describe the tops of pottery vessels which have a wavy or even pie-crust rim. It can also be applied to a cornice.

Crested China

Porcelain decorated with colourful heraldic crests, first made by Goss but produced in quantity by manufacturers throughout the UK and Germany by 1900.


A shaped ornamental decoration usually set in the centre of the top of a chair-back, but which can also be found on a mirror, cabinet etc.

Crinoline Stretcher

An arched stretcher found on some Windsor chairs.


The style period of Puritan rule from 1640-1660, characterised by a simple functionality and severity, along with an absence of unnecessary decoration.

Cross Banding

A veneered edge at right-angles to the main veneer.


A frame for holding casters and bottles containing condiments.

Cup & Cover

Carved decoration found on the bulbous turned legs of some Elizabethan furniture.

Cut Glass

Glass carved with revolving wheels and abrasive to create sharp-edged facets that reflect and refract light so as to sparkle and achieve a prismatic effect.

Cylinder Top

A rounded or cylindrical shutter-front found on a desk or bureau, enclosing the working area inside.


The trade name used by Liberty & Co. for a mass produced range of silverware, inspired by Celtic art, introduced in 1899 and often incorporating enamelled pictorial plaques.


A matching pair of samurai swords or a sword and dagger set, from the 15th century.


A small, often decorative, writing desk with real drawers down one side, false drawers down the other and a sloping top. It was named after Captain Davenport who is thought to have first ordered one in the late 18th century.

Deadbeat Escapement

Also known as Graham Escapement.


A vessel for liquid, either a stoppered bottle used to store liquor in a sideboard, or (originally) a bottle with a neck more slender than the belly to permit serving wine whilst leaving the sediment in the vessel.

Deckle Edge

The uneven, untrimmed edge of a handmade paper, often sliced off for packing, but left as created to demonstrate authenticity.


Dutch tin-glazed earthenwares named after the town of Delft, the main production area, from the 16th century onwards.

Della Robbia

A Florentine Renaissance sculptor who invented techniques of applying vitreous glaze to terracotta. The term is now used to describe English art pottery made at Birkenhead in the late 19th century in imitation of his work.


A frieze moulding of small rectangular blocks in an equidistant series resembling teeth. Taken from the Ionic and Corinthian orders, such moulding is often used to ornament a cornice.

Desert Spoon

A mid-sized shallow spoon made from about 1750 onwards, usually in sets.

Deutsche Blumen

Realistically painted single stems or small bunches of flowers, which became popular in the mid-18th century when they replaced indianische-blumen as the characteristic porcelain decoration at Meissen.


The face of a clock, which shows the time.


Surface decoration composed of repeated diamonds or squares, often carved in low relief.

Die Stamping

A method of mass producing a design on metal by machine which passes sheet metal between a steel die and a drop hammer. Die-stamping is used for forming toys as well as cutlery, etc.

Dining Chairs

A set of chairs comprising sides and two arms designed to go around a dining table.

Dining Table

A table designed exclusively for eating, usually large, often made in sections or to fold so that it could be made smaller when not in use.

Directoire Style

Named after the then rulers of France following the execution of the last King, Louis XVI, in 1793, Directoire represented a move from the ornate regal style of the kings to a neoclassical French Empire style, with more angular furniture decorated now by paint rather than marquetry, and considerably less organic decoration.


A turned shallow depression found on the seat of chairs (for comfort) and on other pieces (such as tables) to prevent objects from falling off. When found on card tables (for storing the money or chips), they are often known as Guinea Pockets.


A term used to describe an object that has been artificially aged.

Dog Nose Spoon

Also known as a Wavy End Spoon.

Domed Top

A term properly applied to a three-dimensional vault, but it also refers to the arched top of a late 17th century/early 18th century cabinet, and the tops of similar items such as or boxes etc.


A coarse blend of linen and wool used particularly in the Middle Ages in England for curtains, bedding and clothing.


A cabinet-maker's joint, fitting two pieces of wood together at right angles, in which a series of wedge-shaped projections (the 'dove's tail', hence the name) in one piece, fit into corresponding slots in the other.


A small headless peg or pin of wood used in cabinet-making for securing a joint, or to mount finials and suchlike.


A long table, sometimes in the style of a sideboard with cupboard, drawers or open storage space below (low dresser), and/or open shelves tiered or stepped above (high dresser). The name derives from the original use of these, which was a piece of furniture on which food was dressed.

Drop Leaf

A hinged extension flap to a table, dropping vertically when not in use, which can be supported horizontally by a swing leg, a fly bracket or a loper. It is often made using a rule joint, but may be a butt.

Drop Leaf Table

A table incorporating a drop leaf or leaves, and includes such tables as Pembrokes, Sutherlands, sofas and gatelegs.

Drop Finial

A general term used to describe any form of suspended (hanging down) decoration. On furniture, repeated pendants beneath a rail may form an apron.

Drop In Seat

An upholstered chair seat that is supported on seat rails but which can be lifted out independently.

Drum Table

A circular-topped table with a frieze containing drawers and supported by a central pedestal.


A thin panel, generally of softwood, fixed to the rails between the drawers of a chest to keep dust off the contents of the drawers.

Early Georgian

The style period from 1715-1760 (George I and II), characterised by the increasing use of mahogany and the introduction of Chippendale style.


A term that is used to describe crockery, ornaments or other objects made from clay which has been fired to a maximum of 1, 200°C or 2,200°F, and is therefore slightly permeable until glazed or coated with slip.


A piece that has been stained black in imitation of ebony.


A term used to describe the mid-19th century style that combined Gothic, Renaissance, Queen Anne and Arts and Crafts elements.


A depiction of a human figure without skin so that the muscles are clearly shown; this can refer to a drawing, painting or sculpture.


A 17th and 18th century vessel, usually of silver, but also of ceramic, for serving soup. An ecuelle has a shallow circular bowl with two handles and a domed cover. It also comes complete with a stand.


A likeness of a person, most specifically the carving of someone deceased which rest upon their tomb, but also the carved image of a face on a coin.

Eggshell Porcelain

A Chinese porcelain of the Ming dynasty remarkable for its incredible delicacy and thinness; the glaze is pure white and translucent, often with 'anhua' decorations (literally, 'secret language') which can only be seen when held to the light.

Elbow Bead

A long glass bead with a smooth bend in middle; particularly the Venetian millefiori bead produced pre-1700 and now rather rare.


The process of using electrical current to coat a base metal or alloy with silver or gold, invented in the 1830's and gradually superseding Sheffield plate.

Electroplated Nickel Silver (EPNS)

Nickel alloy covered with a layer of silver using the electroplate process.

Elizabethan Style

Queen Elizabeth I reigned from 1558-1603; however, the 'Elizabethan style' usually refers to the time between the Gothic and Renaissance periods, towards the end of Elizabeth's reign, and as the final part of the Tudor period.


To decorate or improve by adding detail or ornamentation.


A (usually) brilliant green variety of beryl that occurs in hexagonal prisms and is prized as a gemstone.

Empire Style

The style that prevailed in France during the early 19th century under the rule of Napoleon, which reflected his military glories with a formal, classical style of clean symmetrical lines and triumphant motifs like the imperial eagle, laurelled 'N' and trophies alongside the classical and Egyptian lions, palms, hieroglyphics, winged griffins, sphinxes and cobras.


Coloured glass applied to metal, ceramic or glass in paste form and then fired for decorative effect.

End Grain

The view of the grain at the end of a piece of timber, such as is seen when timber is cut across the grain direction (traverse).


In Classical architecture, the part of a structure that surmounts a column and rests on the capital, composed of the architrave, frieze and the cornice.


The part of a clock mechanism that regulates the release of power to the balance or pendulum.


The pivoting metal guard or plate found over a keyhole, and, properly, to the keyhole surround itself.


A small case for scissors and other small implements.

Facon de Venise

Glassware imitating Venetian styles.


An earthenware product covered with a tin-enamelled (stanniferous) glaze.


Mass-produced porcelain figure ornaments, popular in the 19th and 20th centuries and sold or given away as prizes at fairs. They often depicted sentimental or humorous images of household scenes or children, often with a caption.

Fall Front

The front or flap of a cabinet, secretaire or bureau, hinged at the bottom edge so it forms a horizontal surface when lowered, almost always as a writing surface. It can be either vertical or sloped, and will almost always be supported by a loper or a quadrant stay.

Famille Jaune

French for: Yellow Family.

Famille Noir

French for: Black Family.

Famille Rose

French for: Pink Family.

Famille Verte

French for: Green Family.

Farm Table

A country table with a solid top and no drop leaves, usually rectangular in shape.

Fausse Montre

An imitation watch worn on the right wrist by men and women in the 18th century.


A French open-armed drawing room chair.


The American version of the European neo-classical style, which was carried across the Atlantic in the late 18th century by English emigrants inspired by the current style of Adam, Hepplewhite and Sheraton.


A motif found mainly in Baroque art and furniture, which consists of a swag of flowers, ribbons and foliage, or any of these, suspended in a curve between two points.


Descriptive of a particular grain of mahogany veneer that resembles the back of a violin.

Fielded Panel

A wooden panel used in a framework or door. It consists of a panel with a raised central area made with a wide chamfered or bevelled rebate worked around the edges. Often a small moulding is worked at the inner side of the rebate.


A delicate, decorative openwork in silver or gold thread, produced in large quantities since the end of the 19th century.


A thin strip of wood.

Finger Joint

Also known as a Knuckle Joint.


A sculptured ornament, often in the shape of a orb, spire, leaf or flower, at the top of a gable, pinnacle, or any vertical projection.


Also known as Andiron.

Fish Slice

An assymetrical serving utensil with a wide, flat blade, usually pierced and decorated, using for serving fish at the table.

Flag Bottom Chair

A chair made with a rush seat.


The outward, concave curve of a leg or column.


Ceramic portrait figures with flat, undecorated backs, designed to stand against a wall or on a mantelpiece.


The collective name for flat pottery such as plates, dishes and saucers (as opposed to cups, vases and bowls).

Flow Blue

A process used principally after 1840, in which flowing powder is added to the dye used in blue and white transferware so that the cobalt blue ink flows beyond the edges of the transfer, rendering the pattern less sharply defined.


A border that resembles a scalloped edge, used as a decoration on furniture, glass, silver and porcelain items.

Fly Bracket

A small, shaped and hinged bracket, usually incorporating a finger joint and always mounted vertically, used to support a flap of a table etc.

Four Poster

A bed with four tall corner posts, that may, or may not, support a tester.


Pierced (Open) or applied (Blind) fretwork is an intricate form of decoration, usually done in plywood for strength. It is often done in intricate patterns, which are often based on Chinoiserie and Gothic designs.


A horizontal flat band, often carved or sculpted, or decorated by painting. When convex, it is known as a pulvinated frieze.


A decorative, but impractical object created from the end of day leftover glass to show off the skill of the glass blower. Typical items include ships, pipes, hats, musical instruments, etc.

Frosted Glass

Glass with a surface pattern made to resemble frost patterns or snow crystals; common on pressed glass vessels for serving cold confections.

Frozen Charlotte

A one-piece china doll with no moveable parts.

Fuddling Cup

A novelty vessel from the 17th and 18th centuries, often with three or more small cups that had interlinked handles. The idea was to drink from one cup without spilling the contents of the others.


An 18th century clockwork invention, in which a cone shaped drum was linked to the spring barrel by a length of chain or gut. The shape compensates for the declining strength of the mainspring thus ensuring constant timekeeping.


Derived from the French word 'godron', which means 'ruffle'.

Gateleg Table

A type of drop leaf table that gets its name from the 'gates' (a frame of legs and stretchers) which support the leaves when open.

George III

The style period from 1760-1820, when the rise of the wealthy middle class resulted in a huge increase the furniture industry. Thus, more examples of late Georgian furniture survive than from any prior period. Styles from this period include Sheraton, Hepplewhite, Regency, and Adam.


The British design style of the 18th century, which developed from the Palladian period to the Regency period during the reigns of Georges I-IV.


A mixture made of Plaster of Paris (whiting) and glue size applied to wood so as to provide a decorative surface that can be painted, gilded or lacquered. The surface can either be smooth or carved/moulded in low-relief. Gesso is often used on picture frames.


The process of applying thin gold foil to a surface.


A wall feature comprising an ornately carved candelabra and a mirror, often of asymetrical design.

Glasgow School

A term used to describe the style developed in the late 19th century by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his followers, a simplified linear form of Art Nouveau highly influential in the Continental work of the period.


A style of furniture design that shows a lot of curved and pointed arches, resplendent with embellishments.


A term applied to both the technique, and the decoration of a surface with repeated small carved-out semi-circular depressions. This decoration is often found on oak furniture.

Greek Key

A carved Classical geometric decoration resembling a maze, and repeated in bands. It is composed of interlocking straight and right-angled lines.


From the French for shades of grey, this can refer to a painting, relief sculpture, stained glass or interior d�cor executed in varying shades of grey and neutral colours only. This look was particularly popular on ceramics and walls during the 18th and 19th centuries.


A small circular table designed to carry some form of lighting.


From the Persian word for flower.

Half Tester

A wooden canopy supported above a bed by two posts at the head end.

Half Dovetail

A carpentry joint where the rear of the mortise is longer than the opening.


A symbol struck on a gold or silver article to guarantee the purity of the metal and indicate that it has been passed at assay (the test for quality). The name is taken from Goldsmith's Hall in London, where gold and silver were appraised in the 15th century.

Handkerchief Table

A triangular table with a triangular drop leaf that becomes square when the leaf is raised.

Hand Pressed

Any glass object made in a hand operated press rather than a machine press.

Hard Paste Porcelain

Porcelain made using the ancient Chinese combination of kaolin and petuntse (china stone), recognised by its hard, glossy feel.


One of two basic categories of timber (the other being softwood), made from trees (such as oak) that replace their leaves every year.


Also known as Silverwood in the 18th century.


A piece of furniture that has a rising part composed of a box-like structure, fitted with drawers or small receptacles concealed in the body of the furniture and made to rise by means of weights. This is most commonly found in tables, but can also be found in some desks, particularly Davenports.

Harlequin Table

Also known as a Triple-Top Table.

Harvest Table

A long narrow table with two narrow drop leaves supported on pull-out lopers.


The German term for an independent painter or workshop specialising in the decoration of faience, porcelain or glass blanks.


George Hepplewhite was a Georgian furniture maker and designer in England who has been credited with popularising the winged easy-chair. His furniture is dainty and delicate though sound, and often inlaid with festoons, feathers, and other motifs.


An overall repeating design of a flowerhead within a lozenge issuing small leaves, used in descriptions of rugs.


An extension at the top of a cabriole leg that continues into, and joins, the rail above, usually a seat rail. It is a feature usually only found on better quality pieces.


Japanese porcelain with figure and landscape painting in blue on a white body, often depicting boys at play, made exclusively for the Lords of Hirado, near Arita, in the mid 18th to mid 19th centuries.


A watch designed for hunting or outdoor use, where the crystal and dial are protected by a hinged metal cover.


Export Japanese porcelain of predominately red, blue and gold decoration which although made in Arita, is called Imari after the port from which it was shipped.


A decorative motif carved to resemble overlapping fish scales.


A painting technique whereby paint is applied to the canvas thickly enough for it stand out from the surface. It was used to mimic highlighting and to create effect in the 17th century Baroque paintings.


Natural flaws in a gemstone, usually caused by particles of other minerals or bubbles of gas becoming trapped inside the gem as it formed.

Indianische Blumen

German for: Indian Flowers.


In furniture, decorative patterns or figural designs created with pieces of different coloured woods, or ivory, bone, shell or brass that have been set into cut-out sections of the base, solid wood.

Inscrolled Foot

Also known as Braganza Foot, Spanish Foot or Knurled Foot.


Any design incised into an object rather than carved in relief.


Stoneware, patented 1813 by Charles James Mason, containing ground glassy slag (a by-product of iron smelting) for extra strength.


Narrative scenes painted on Italian maiolica.


A term that is used to specifically describe the period during which King James was on the throne (1603-25), and also used loosely for the 17th century in general.

Jacobite Glass

Wine glasses engraved with symbols of the Jacobites (supporters of Prince Charles Edward Stuart's claim to the throne).


The term used to describe either jadeite or nephrite, strong hard gemstones that have been used in China for functional and decorative items since the Neolithic period. The gemstones occur in green, red, grey and white.


A hard type of jade, normally the best and most desirable for carving and jewellery, famed for its brilliant green colour.


The Western imitation of Oriental lacquering, made by using spirit and oil varnishes, in use from the late 17th century.


A hard fine-grained stoneware decorated with high relief medallions, developed by Wedgwood.


A term used to describe furniture made by a joiner.

Joint Stool

A stool made with mortise-and-tenon joints (as opposed to a boarded-and-nailed stool). It was the most common piece of furniture in 16th and 17th century houses.


German for 'youth style'.


Sparsely-decorated Japanese porcelain made by the Kakiemon family in the 17th century. The style, decorated with flowers and figures on a white ground in distinctive colours (azure, yellow, turquoise and soft red), was much imitated by later potters in Europe.


The mark of Japanese artist, used to identify metalwork, netsuke, ceramics and lacquer.


Also known as China Clay.


A rug-making centre in Southern Iran, noted for high quality products.


Rugs from central Caucasus, usually decorated with distinctive geometric designs.


The sharp edge frequently found on the corner of cabriole legs, which resembles the keel of a boat.


Also spelled Kilim.


A term used when a piece of wood is cut on one side of with a number of deep, close-set parallel slits, in order to bend it. Kerfing is used in the construction of rounded drawer-fronts, and so on.


A strip or block of wood fixed on the carcase either side and just above a (usually top) drawer to prevent it from tipping downwards when open.

Kiku Mon

A Japanese stylized chrysanthemum.

Kneehole Desk

A writing desk with drawers on either side and a central recess for the user's legs.


A small decorative knob or boss, found as an ornamental object on pieces such as spoons and pot lids.


A Russian vessel used for measuring drink, often highly decorated for ornamental purposes. Found from the late 18th century.

Kraak Porselin

A Dutch term for porcelain raided from Portuguese ships, used to describe the earliest Chinese porcelain.


An ancient Greek vessel for mixing water and wine in which the mouth is always the widest part.


Angular Arabic script, used in rugs to refer to a stylized geometric calligraphy.


A resin made from the sap of the lac tree, which turns hard and black on exposure to air and sunlight. Applied in successive layers, lacquer is used as a ground for Chinese or Japanese decoration, usually of figures in landscapes etc. More rarely, dyes were mixed with the sap to produce various colours.

Ladder Back

A country chair with a back made from a series of horizontal bars between the two vertical uprights.


A Turkish prayer rug, usually decorated with a niche and stylized tulip flowers.

Lambing Chair

A sturdy chair with a low seat over a drawer, traditionally used by shepherds at lambing time. It has tall enclosed sides for protection against drafts.

Lap Joint

In silverware, the technique used to join a spoon finial to the stem by cutting each piece in opposing L-shapes.

Laub und Bandwerk

German for: leaf and strapwork.

Lead Crystal

Glass containing lead oxide, which gives extra weight and brilliance.


The flap of a table, as in drop leaf table, or a piece of wood inserted into an extending table.

Library Table

A rectangular table with frieze drawers, end supports and a central stretcher.


A hand- drawn illustration of the outlines of forms or objects.

Linen Chest

A hybrid coffer/chest of drawers, which may have both drawers and a lift-up top.

Linen Press

A cupboard composed of sliding drawers housed behind doors above a series of drawers. As the name implies, its function was to store linen and clothes.


Popular on panelling from the 16th century, this relief carved motif resembles vertical folds of cloth.


Postcards published from approx. 1930-45, which have a fabric-like finish.


A strip of superior timber added to the most visible part of a board, such as a dustboard made from some inferior timber.

Livery Cupboard

Similar to a court cupboard (i.e. composed of three tiers), but where the centre tier is an enclosed compartment, typically with canted sides.


In silverware, a hollow object (often a candlestick) that has been filled with pitch to give weight.


The firing mechanism of a gun.

Long Arm

A firearm with a long barrel.

Longcase Clock

A tall clock with a case containing weights and pendulum and hood housing dial and movement.


A wooden bar or slide pulled out from a slot which is used to support a table leaf or an open bureau fall-front.


A pair of opera glasses, or spectacles, mounted on a handle.

Louis XV

The reign of Louis XV of France (1723-1774) was known for voluptuous styles and excess of pleasure. Its decorative style, often called Rococo, was similarly indulgent, as exemplified by Sevres porcelain and Boucher paintings.

Louis XVI

The styles produced under the reign of Louis XVI (1643-1715) were as sumptuous as those under Louis XV, but were generally constructed with straight lines and more purity of form. The legs of furniture no longer curved but tapered, and heavy woods such as mahogany began to be used.

Low Dresser

A dresser made without a plate rack.


A small dressing table, often with a single frieze drawer flanked by a deeper drawer.


A carved decoration in the form of a semicircle resembling a half-moon (hence its name), especially found on early oak furniture. It can appear in repeated bands or can be intersected, and can be embellished with foliate or other decoration.

Made Up

A term used to describe a piece of furniture that has been put together from parts of other pieces of furniture.


Tin glazed earthenware produced in Italy from the 15th century through to the present day.


A heavily potted, moulded earthenware covered in transparent glazes in distinctive, often sombre colours, developed by the Minton factory in the mid 19th century.

Maniere Criblee

An early form of metal engraving common in the 15th century and revived in the 18th century, in which dots were punched in the plate to show white and textured against the printed background.


A small preliminary model, often in clay or wax, for a sculpture or piece of architecture.

Marlborough Leg

A straight and square furniture leg ending in a square block foot, to be found mainly on 18th century chairs, tables and bedposts. The design was modified and made more elegant by Hepplewhite.


Pieces of veneers of different coloured woods, natural, stained, and burned (to give shading), laid into a wooden ground (solid or veneer).


The joining together of two unrelated parts to form one piece of furniture.

Marrow Scoop

A utensil with a long narrow scoop at both ends, used for extracting marrow.


An ancient technique where hot threads of softened glass are rolled over a flat surface to smooth and fuse the glass and to fix trailed decoration.


A thick, round plate on an astrolabe with a shaped projection to take the suspension ring and which houses discs of brass engraved with scales.


Chinese for cherry blossom.


A prayer niche with a pointed arch; this motif distinguishes a prayer rug from other types.


Multi-coloured, or mosaic glass, made since antiquity by fusing a number of coloured glass rods into a cane and cutting thin sections, used often to decorate paperweights.


A term used both generally for any small variant of art, and specifically to describe the tiny portraits on vellum or ivory that were a dominant style in Elizabethan England.


The oblique bisecting line at the joint of two pieces of wood, typically seen at the corners of a picture frame. The mitre is generally (but not always) a right angle.


The wavy pattern effect produced by superimposing one repetitive design on another, or by embossing. The effect resembles watered silk, and has been popular for book cloths, to line prayer books and Bibles, the textured calico used for publishers' bindings, and upholstery seats.


A large silver bowl, with a detachable scalloped edge to allow drinking glasses to be hung from the rim to be chilled, popular on fashionable dining tables from the late 17th Century.

Morris Chair

A comfortable easy-chair with an adjustable back, deep seat and arm rests, named for its supposed creator, William Morris.


Also spelled Mortice.

Mortise & Tenon

A cabinet-maker's joint where a square or rectangular projection cut on the end of one piece of wood (tenon) fits into a hole or slot of identical size, shape (and depth) that's been cut into the other piece (mortice). This is a very common joint in cabinet making.

Mote Spoon

A spoon whose bowl is decoratively pierced, and used to skim off tea leaves. The handle is thin and tapers to a point, which was used to unclog the spout of a teapot.

Mother of Pearl

Slices of shell often used for decorative inlay.


A decorative detail, often repeated to form a pattern.

Moulded Glass

Glasswares manufactured in large quantities by forcing glass into a mould.


In pottery, a term once applied to any item that had been cast in a mould, but now applies to any carved projection, in wood or stone, or even one cast in plaster.

Mule Chest

A chest with lifting top and drawers below. A hybrid between a chest and chest of drawers, hence the name mule.


A main vertical framing member of a stile, specifically the central upright connecting the top and bottom rails of a frame.

Mystery Clock

A clock of novel form in which the movement is ingeniously disguised.

Neo Classicism

A decorative style used in architecture, furniture and decoration/ornamentation derived from the interest in the Classical world which spread through Europe in the second half of the 18th century, spurred on by the Grand Tours popular at the time. Neo-Classicism was made popular in Britain by Robert Adam (1728-1792) and others, who used the classical motifs in completely new ways.


Japanese carved toggles made to secure sagemono (Hanging things) to the obi (waist belt) from a cord; usually of ivory, lacquer, silver or wood from the 16th century.


A black metal alloy or enamel used for filling in engraved designs on silverware.


Decorative carving in the form of irregular fluting which is usually found on early oak furniture.


A naturally occurring volcanic glass formed by rapidly cooling lava. Obsidian is harder than window glass and has been used by ancient civilisations variously as a knife, spearhead and mirror as well as a decorative mineral.

Oeil de Perdrix

French for: Partridge-Eye.


A double-curved Gothic moulding of architectural origins, often found on the (bracket) feet of Georgian furniture. It consists of a convex arc above a concave arc, creating a wave-like profile.


In ancient times, a small jug with handles.


A small finely carved Japanese ornament.

One Drawer Stand

A small four-legged table with a drawer, found in the late 18th and 19th century.


Strictly speaking, ornaments cast in brass or bronze, with fire (mercury) gilt surfaces.


A thick, upholstered cushion used as a seat, or as a footstool for a larger chair.

Outscrolled Foot

Also known as French Foot.

Outset Corner

A circular or square projection beyond the line of the sides of a table top.


In cased glass, the top layer, usually engraved to reveal a different coloured layer beneath.


The area above the shelf on a mantelpiece, often consisting of a mirror in an ornate frame, or some architectural feature in wood or stone.


Upholstered furniture where the covering extends over the frame of the seat.


Moulding of convex quarter circle section, sometimes found around the edges of drawers to form a small overlap onto the carcase.


Veneers cut across the grain of small branches of trees such as walnut, sycamore, olive and laburnum, and laid decoratively. Oyster was popular circa 1700.

Pad Foot

A rounded foot resting on a wooden disc, rather like the padded foot of an animal. A pad foot is very similar to a club foot, but is usually larger and less elegant.


A school of architecture inspired by the 16th century Italian architect Andreas Palladio, whose vision was a return to the graceful style and harmonious proportions of ancient Rome.


A metal that is similar to, but cheaper, harder, and lighter than platinum. Palladium was discovered in 1804 and used first for technical instruments, and later as a platinum substitute during World War 2.


In rugs, a cross section through a stylised flowerhead or fruit.

Papier Mache

A durable and malleable material made from paper or cardboard and glue-size, popular in the 18th century and 19th century for architectural mouldings, boxes and smaller items of furniture.

Parcel Gilt

A term that is used to describe when a surface has been partially gilded to highlight features.


An ancient writing surface used for the pages of books, made from fine sheep (or goat) skins that have been soaked in lime, stretched and treated.

Parisienne Doll

A French bisque-head fashion doll with a stuffed kid leather body, made by various manufacturers between 1860 and 1890.


Geometric veneered surface decoration of various coloured woods (compare this to marquetry, which uses flowing, organic shapes).


A matching set of jewellery, usually consisting of a necklace, earrings, brooch and at least one bracelet.


The crown of a doll's head to which was attached the wig or hair. It was usually made of cork in higher quality dolls.


A small, shallow plate (typically made of gold or silver) used during the Eucharist to hold the bread at the Offertory of the Mass, and upon which the consecrated Host is again placed after the Fraction.

Pate sur Pate

A much-copied 19th century Sevres porcelain technique of applying coloured clay to the body before firing.


The quality of agedness of a surface. On bronze or similar items, this patina is a green or brown film produced by oxidation over a long period; on wooden furniture, it is a gloss or sheen produced by age and polishing.

Paw Foot

A type of furniture foot carved in the shape of an animal's paw (often that of a lion). In many cases, carved foliage is found above the paw foot.


A supporting base or block for a statue, vase or table.


A table with a wide rectangular top, with narrow, hinged leaves, and typically four delicate legs. It is seldom more than 3 feet in width when extended.

Percussion Lock

An early 19th century firearm, one of the first to fire by the impact of a sharp-nosed hammer on the cartridge cap.


Refers to a piece made at the time when its style first originated.


An alloy of tin and lead; the higher the tin content the higher the quality. Sometimes with small quantities of antimony were added to make it harder with a highly polished surface.


The shaped carved/moulded edge of a circular table top (usually a tripod) or of a tray, which resembles a pie-crust. It was popular from the mid 18th century, and copies the shape of earlier silver salvers.

Pier Glass

A mirror designed to be fixed to the pier (the wall between two high window openings), often partnered with a matching pier table.


A flat-faced column, usually of a Classical order, and usually projecting from a wall. It was often used decoratively in low relief, and almost never as a means of support.


A copper/zinc alloy designed by watchmaker Christopher Pinchbeck in the early eighteenth century to resemble gold and much used in jewellery of the period.

Pitched Top

A term generally applied to a lid, in which four sloping or hipped sides rise to a ridge or flat centre. It is known as a Pyramidal Top if the slopes meet at a point.


A large and often ornamented container in which plants or small trees are grown for decoration.


A term that was once used to describe gold and silver vessels. It should not be confused with Sheffield Plate, or electroplated items.


The solid board on which some furniture rests instead of feet. Strictly-speaking the term is applied to the square, flat block at the bottom of a pillar or column.


First developed by the Ancient Egyptians some 3, 500 years ago, plywood is composed of layers, or plys of wood laid at 90 degrees to each other. It has two inherent properties important in furniture making; it is extremely strong, and it does not (usually) warp or crack.

Pole Screen

Small adjustable screen mounted on a pole and designed to stand in front of an open fire and shield a lady's face from the heat.


In furniture, the bolt with a rounded or sometimes decorative head which is passed through a drawer front or similar, and which secures a bail handle, thus forming what most people call the handle.


A ceramic material made by heating raw materials, generally including clay in the form of kaolin, in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200°C (2,192°F) and 1,400°C (2,552°F).

Portrait Doll

A term that is used to describe a doll modelled after a well-known figure.

Pot Board

The name given to the low shelf (or tier) under a dresser or buffet on which flagons and pots were kept.


A term that is used to describe a doll without legs, often mounted on a stick. Popular in 19th century.

Poured Wax Doll

A doll made by pouring melted wax into a mould.

Powder Flask

A device for measuring out a precise quantity of priming powder and made to be suspended from a musketeer's belt or bandolier and often ornately decorated.

Powder Horn

A hollowed out cow's horn, plugged at the wide end with a wooden piece and fitted with a measuring device at the narrow end, used by musketeers for dispensing a precise quantity of gunpowder.

Press Cupboard

A wholly enclosed cupboard, composed of two parts, the lower of which is entirely enclosed, with doors, and the upper of which is recessed, with either a flat or canted front.

Pressed Glass

An early 19th century invention, exploited rapidly in America, whereby mechanical pressure was used to form glassware in a mould.


Applied blobs of glass stamped with fireproof clay or metal to form a pattern; for example around the stem of a glass.

Pung Seat

A removable wagon seat.


Plural: Putti.

Puzzle Jug

A type of jug made from the 17th century, especially in delft ware, with a siphon system and several spouts, none of which will pour unless the others are blocked.


A small box used in ancient times to hold medicines.

Quadrant Drawer

A quarter-round drawer, usually found in the frieze of a desk or table, pivoted such that it swings out to open.

Quadrant Hinge

A hinge, often used at the top and bottom of a cabinet door, with two long arms rotating on a short pintle. It appears in a similar form on (for example) a card table flap or on a fall-front.

Quadrant Stay

A sliding piece of metal of quarter circle circumference, used to support a fall-front or secretaire drawer, where it would be impossible or inappropriate to use a loper. It is also used to support adjustable chair-backs.

Quarter Clock

A clock that strikes the quarter and half hours as well as the full hours.

Quarter Sawn

The method by which a log is cut to achieve maximum grain figuring and stability. This is done by cutting it radially, or across the grain.


Also known as Quarter Veneered.

Queen Anne

The style from the reign of Queen Anne during the early 18th century, which was curved and graceful in appearance. Queen Anne furniture, made almost entirely of walnut and often decorated with marquetry and veneering, is characterised by the cabriole leg, fiddle-back chair backs, geometric faceting and curved motifs, specifically the scallop shell.


A tall superstructure above a dresser.


A horizontal framing member in joinery, such as a seat-rail, table carcase, chair frame or back-rail, or as found in a door.


The angle, inclination or slope backwards at which, for example a chair back deviates from the vertical.

Rat Tail

A tapering ridge found on a spoon, running from the base of the handle to the midpoint on the back of the bowl. This serves as reinforcement and decoration. Spoons featured rat tails from c 1670-1720 and were made in silver and pewter.


Also known as Rabbet.


A long, thin piece or sliver of something (such as brass) inserted into a slot cut into the background, solely for decorative effect.


Repeated, decorative half-round convex mouldings in parallel lines used especially round pillars or legs. Reeding can sometimes be found in flutes.

Refectory Table

A long narrow table used originally for dining in monasteries in Medieval times. Typically the table legs are supported by circumferential stretchers positioned very low to the floor.

Regence Style

The French style of the early 18th century during the regency of Philippe d'Orléans, which developed into Rococo and was most notable for durable yet beautiful furniture carved into swelling shapes and curves, then veneered and adorned with gilt or bronze. Typical motifs included foliated scroll, dragons and female busts.


The style period from 1810-1825, towards the end of the Georgian period, specifically when George IV was Prince Regent.

Register Plate

The scale of a barometer against which the mercury level is read.


A clock of great accuracy, thus sometimes used for controlling or checking other timepieces.


Principally a rejection of the Gothic, this revival of Classical ideas, styles, architecture and decoration began in 15th century Italy (principally Florence), and spread to Northern Europe during the 16th century, eventually reaching England.


A term that is used to describe the time period when the French monarchs returned to the throne after the Empire years in the early 19th century, when Charles X and Louis XVIII reigned.


A term that is used to describe the time period when British monarchy was re-established in 1660 under Charles II following 12 years of the Puritan protectorate.


A skeletal brass disc that is placed over the plates of an astrolabe and which can be rotated to indicate the position of the stars.


A repeated decoration of small-scale reeds, which is often used in flat panels.


French for: Rockwork.


A term derived from the French 'rocaille' meaning Rockwork.


Originally a 16th/17th century German wide-bowled wine glass on a thick stem, decorated with prunts on a base of concentric glass coils, often in green glass (Waldglas). The design was widely copied throughout Europe in many forms.


A circular-shaped, floral ornament often used at the corner joints of fireplaces and in cabinet making.


A circular ornament, which may or may not incorporate some applied or inlaid decorative moulding or carving.

Rule Joint

A stopped hinged joint used on table leaves or press doors, comprising a long ovolo moulding which leaves no gap at any stage of the opening or closing. This involves routing an ovolo mould on a table with a radius profile on the leaf to match.


The strips of wood fixed to the carcase of a piece of cabinet furniture, on either side and on which a drawer runs.


Derived from the French word for hoof.

Sabre Leg

Also known as Trafalgar Leg.

Salt Spoon

A small (2-3) spoon, usually with a round, ladle-shaped bowl, used with a salt cellar.


A fine silk cloth, possibly originally made by the Saracens, and used for linings.


A moderately hard, yellow or light brown wood, with a very close grain, found in central and southern India, Coromandel, Sri Lanka and the West Indies.

Sauce Ladle

A small version of a soup ladle (about 7 long), used for serving sauce at the table.


A term used to describe decoration composed of a series of concave depressions, resembling a scallop shell, with a lobed or foiled edge.


A decorative bracket for holding a candle or light, to be fixed to a wall.


The collecting of antique stocks, bonds and other securities certificates.

Scroll Foot

A furniture foot that scrolls outwards, and then back onto itself.

Seal Bottle

Wine bottles with an applied glass medallion or seal personalised with the owner's name, initials, coat of arms or a date.


Also known as a Secretary (US).


The name given to a bulbous double-curved outline, composed of a convex curve flanked by two concave curves, derived form the shape associated with snakes. The term is applied, for instance, to the sinuous shape used in a horizontal plane on better furniture of the Rococo Period.

Serving Spoon

A long spoon (approx. 9 long) used for serving food at the table.

Serving Table

A narrow table used in the dining room for the service of food.


A seat for two or more people with upholstered back and seat.


A bench seat with a tall, solid back used from the 17th to the 19th centuries to ward off drafts. Often used by a hearth.

Sewing Table

A small table, usually of high quality, fitted with drawers and/or a sliding bag to hold material and needlework tools.


The Austrian interpretation of the Art Nouveau movement, produced in Vienna at the end of the 19th century largely by the Wiener Werkst�tte, Josef Hoffman's crafts cooperative who were greatly inspired by the angular and geometric lines of Charlies Rennie Mackintosh.


The skin of shark or ray fish, often used on sword grips and scabbards.

Sheffield Plate

Rolled sheet silver that sandwiches an internal layer or sheet of copper, to which it is fused. Sheffield Plate is very strong, and surviving pieces are generally in good condition.


A thin, golden resinous varnish obtained from the lac insect (found in Asia) and used in japanning.


Thomas Sheraton was an English designer in the late 18th century who produced delicate furniture of the neo-classical style, simple in style but decorated by contrasting veneers and classical motifs. His name is now used to describe this style.

Sheraton Revival

Descriptive of furniture produced in the style of Sheraton when his designs gained revived interest during the late Victorian and Edwardian period.

Shoe Piece

A shaped horizontal bar fitted at the bottom of the chair back, on the rail, and into which the splat is fitted. Used on many 18th century chairs, it was often fitted over the upholstery and tacked through into the back rail.

Side Chair

A dining chair without arms.


A dining room piece designed to store linens and equipment and for the service of food. Originated in the late 18th century.

Siphon Tube

A U-shaped tube fitted into wheel barometers where the level of mercury in the short arm is used to measure air pressure.

Six Hour Dial

The face of clock or timepiece with only six divisions instead of twelve, often with the hours 1-6 in Roman numerals and 7-12 superimposed in Arabic numerals.

Sleigh Bed

A bed with curved head- and foot-boards resembling a sleigh.

Snuff Spoon

A smallest spoon (2 long), with a narrow bowl, used for extracting snuff from bottles.


A long seat, which was developed from the French day-bed. Sofas are almost always fully upholstered, and of a rounded appearance. Sprung upholstery didn't appear until about 1830.

Sofa Table

First made in about 1790, and developed from the Pembroke table, this long, thin drop leaf table was designed to sit behind a sofa. It has two short drop-leaves at each end, and usually two drawers in the frieze. The best ones have two end-supports connected by a stretcher; the single pedestal type is much less desirable.

Soft Paste Porcelain

A type of porcelain made with the addition of ground glass, bone ash or soapstone and fired at a lower temperature than hard paste porcelain. It is recognised by its soft, soapy feel.


One of two basic categories of timber. The softwoods are conifers which generally have leaves in the form of needles, usually evergreen.

Soup Ladle

A long-handled, large-bowled utensil with an arched handle, used to serve soup at the table. Soup ladles are about 12 long.

Spade Foot

A square tapered foot, generally used in the late 18th century on a tapered leg, usually found on chairs, tables and sideboards.


A decoration found in each of the four corners of a clock dial.


An alloy composed chiefly of zinc treated to look like bronze and used as an inexpensive substitute in Art Nouveau applique ornament and Art Deco figures.


A slender turned baluster, often decoratively used in rows, such as can be seen in the back of (for example) a Windsor chair.

Spirit Label

A small shield-shaped label hung on a fine silver chain around the neck of a decanter to identify its contents. Common from about 1775 until the end of the Victorian period and still reproduced today.


A broad flat piece of wood forming the centre upright on a chair back.


The angled taper of the sides of, for instance, a splay foot. When curved, this is termed flared.


A vertical board, usually flat, and often with shaped sides and frequently carved or pierced, which is the central upright of a chair back, between the top and seat rails. Such a chair is known as a splat-back.


A term that is used to describe a pre-18th century silver inkstand.


A subsidiary vertical framing member of a muntin, or the outermost vertical section of a panelled construction.

Stile Liberty

The Italian interpretation of the Art Nouveau movement in the late 19th century, it was so named after the London shop Liberty.

Stirrup Cup

A silver cup without handles, so-called because it was served, containing a suitable beverage, to huntsmen in the saddle prior to their moving off. Often made in the shape of an animal's head.


Clay that has been strengthened with naturally occurring or added ceramic materials and fired at a higher temperature than earthenware to ensure impermeability.


A piece of furniture to be sat upon, with legs and a seat but no back or arm supports.

Stop Fluting

Fluting where part of each channel is filled with a reed of wood or brass.

Straight Front

The front of a cabinet or chest that is flat and not recessed.

Strainer Spoon

A large spoon with a vertical strainer in the middle of the bowl, used for serving soups or stews.


A symmetrical and repeated carved ornament of flat, interlaced bands or ribbons, resembling plaited strips. Strapwork was originally used in the mid 16th century to mid 17th century, and then revived in the late 18th century.


A horizontal strut connecting and bracing chair or table legs, sometimes used decoratively, such as a cross-stretcher or arched (Crinoline) stretcher.


A thin decorative inlaid line of brass or contrasting wood, generally in veneer.

Stub Tenon

A small tenon that does not go completely through the timber.


A piece made in the manner of a previous period (e,g. in the Regency Style).

Style Period

The forms fashionable in a particular period, usually identified by the monarch (e.g. Georgian) or designer (e.g. Chippendale).

Sutherland Table

A form of dropleaf table that has a top which is so shallow as to be almost useless as a functional table, at least until the flaps are extended, and which typically sits atop end columns joined by a central stretcher.

Swing Leg

A leg such as is used on a gateleg table, in which one side is hinged or more usually pivoted, and the other swings out to support the table leaf.


An instrument that uses a gas and coloured oil to record air pressure.


In church, the box on the altar containing the consecrated bread and wine for the Eucharist.

Table Ambulante

A small table that can be easily moved.

Table Clip

A two-pronged, generally brass, clip that slides into sockets to link two table leaves.

Table Clock

An early type of domestic clock (some say the predecessor of the watch) in which the dial is set horizontally.

Tall Chest

A one-part case piece with five, six or seven layers of drawers.


Also known as Highboy.


A flexible, sliding shutter, which is made of strips of wood laid lengthways, side-by-side, and stuck to a canvas backing. Frequently found on bureaux and roll-top desks.


A lockable liquor rack, usually holding three cut-glass decanters, which allowed the liquor to be seen but not drunk. A Victorian invention designed to ensure that the master of the house controlled its alcohol.


Also known as Blue Zoisite.


A heavy patterned cloth woven on a loom, the designs and the material being created by woof and warp threads being knotted together. The finished tapestry would be used as a wall-hanging or furniture-covering.


A small bowl, with one or two handles, made of silver or pewter, and used for tasting wine, beer, or other whiskey. Tasters were sometimes hung on a cord round the neck of the cellar master as he moved round the cellar sampling his maturing stock.

Tavern Table

A small general purpose country table often found in a tavern.


A wide, shallow bowl on a stem with a foot. Ceramic and metal tazzas were made in antiquity and the form was revived by Venetian glassmakers in the 15th century. They were also made of silver from the 16th century.

Tea Kettle

A silver or other metal vessel intended for boiling water at the table. Designed to sit over a spirit lamp, it sometimes had a rounded base instead of flat.

Tea Table

A small table from which to serve tea. Often circular with a tilting top on tripod base; however, earlier ones were rectangular with four legs.


A piece of furniture in the form of a tea caddy on legs, with a hinged lid opening to reveal caddies, mixing bowl and other tea drinking accessories.


A tear-drop shaped air bubble in the stem of an early 18th century wine glass, from which the air-twist evolved.


A small spoon used for stirring tea, usually made in sets of six or more. The earliest teaspoons were made c 1700 and are rare; Georgian and Victorian ones are readily available.


A square or rectangular projection cut on the end of one piece of wood (tenon) and which fits into a hole or slot of identical size, shape (and depth) that's been cut into the other piece (mortise).


A pillar or pedestal terminating in a human head or armless torso.


A flat wooden canopy, especially over a bed, supported by two or four wooden posts or suspended from the ceiling. If it extends over the whole bed, it is known as a full tester, if it extends over only half of it (always the bedhead), it is known as a half tester.

Tete a Tete

A tea set for two people.

Through Tenon

A tenon where the mortise is cut right through a piece of wood.


A reddish brown wood with distinctive small bird's eye markings, imported from Africa and often used as a veneer.

Tin Glaze

A glassy opaque white glaze of tin oxide; re-introduced to Europe in 14th century by Moorish potters. It is the characteristic glaze of delft ware, faience, and maiolica.

Toddy Ladle

A small ladle, sometimes with a long handle, sometimes with a pouring lip, used for serving hot toddy.

Toddy Table

An 18th century name (now fallen into disuse) for a side table for holding drinks.


A maker's mark stamped the majority of early English pewter. Their use was strictly controlled by the Pewterer's Company of London; early examples consist of initials, later ones are more elaborate and pictorial, sometimes including the maker's address.

Town Mark

A stamp added to silver and gold after the hallmark to indicate the town where it was assayed.

Transfer Printed

A ceramic decoration technique perfected in the mid 18th century and used widely thereafter for mass produced wares.

Trefid Spoon

A spoon with a flat stem that widens at the top and has two notches on the finial that make it a three-lobed shape. The bowl is oval with a rattail.


A Gothic motif of three arcs or lobes, which resembles a symmetrical three lobed leaf or flower.

Trifid Foot

A form of furniture foot which is generally found on a cabriole leg; it is formed of three parts, and sometimes has foliate decoration.

Truckle Bed

A low bed on wheels that was kept under a large bed and trundled out at night for use, probably by a child.


A guard for a Japanese sword, usually consisting of an ornamental plate.


The style period from 1485-1600 during the reigns of British monarchs Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I.


A range of Celtic-inspired Art Nouveau pewter of high quality, designed for mass-production by Archibald Knox and others, and retailed through Liberty & Co.


Yellow-brown wood with reddish stripe imported from Central and South America used as veneer and inlay.

Tunbridge Work

Objects decorated with an inlay composed of small-scale mosaic of various coloured woods, which have been bundled together and cut into sections.


A mug with three or more handles.


Any porcelain or china decoration that is applied under, rather than over, the glazed finish.

Undress Sword

A term applied to a sword designed for use in action, a working sword, rather than on which is intended for ceremonial or decorative use.


A term commonly used in the 18th century for an upholsterer.

Urn Stand

A small stand designed to hold a hot water urn for brewing tea, usually with splayed legs for stability.


The Japanese name for the sap of the lac tree, a form of ash, and which forms the basis for lacquer.


A Spanish cabinet with a fall front enclosing drawers.


A medieval writing surface used mainly for the leaves of books, made from calf-skin that had been soaked in lime, stretched and scraped while damp, then treated with pumice and possibly other powders.


A thin layer of decorative wood, or sometimes tortoiseshell or ivory, glued over a wooden body or carcass. Venner was an extremely important development in cabinet-making, as it allowed expensive, exotic woods go much further.

Venetian Glass

Fine soda glass and coloured glass blown and pinched into highly ornamented vessels of intricate form. This type of glass was originally made in Venice, and widely copied from the 15th century.

Verge Escapement

The oldest form of escapement, found on clocks as early as 1300 and still in use at the beginning of the 20th century. It consists of a bar (the verge) with two flag shaped pallets that rock in and out of the teeth of the crown or escape wheel to regulate the movement.

Vernier Scale

A short scale added to the traditional 3 inch (7.5cm) scale on stick barometers to give more precise readings.

Verre Eglomise

From the French for: Glass Gilded.

Vesta Case

An ornate flat case of silver or other metal which is used for carrying vestas, an early form of match. Dates from the mid 19th century.


A French display cabinet, often of bombe or serpentine outline and ornately decorated.

Vitruvian Scroll

A repeated Classical wave-like decoration.


A type of fine straight-grained quarter-cut oak, which was imported from the Baltic in the 16th and 17th century, and was originally used for wagon shafts.

Warming Pan

Also known as a Bed Warmer.


The long threads that form the first layer of a woven carpet, warp threads stretch from one end of the carpet to the other including the fringes, and are crossed and knotted by the weft threads.


A small stand designed to hold a wash basin, a pitcher or bottle of water, and beakers.


A decorative motif, popularly carved on mouldings circa 1810-1840, based on waterlily foliage, and takes the form of a narrow leaf with a central stem, in horizontal undulations.

Wave Moulding

A convex curve between two concave curves.


A stand for holding a coil of sealing wax, first used in the mid 1700's.


The horizontal threads in a woven carpet which run counter to, and intertwine around, the warp threads.

William & Mary

The style period at the end of the seventeenth century (1680-1700) referring to the reign of William of Orange and Queen Mary, who brought Dutch and Continental tastes to England. The style includes heavy, dark furniture with bold carving and Oriental lacquering.

Windsor Chair

A country chair, introduced in the late 18th century. Although they were largely made in Slough near Windsor, (hence the name) they are found in some quite distinct regional variations.

Wine Can

A small handle-less cup of silver or porcelain, usually a straight-sided or slightly flared cylinder, used for drinking wine in the 18th century.

Wine Coaster

Originally, in the 18th century, a small wagon on wheels used for circulating wine around a large dining table. It would often be fitted with decanters for port, claret and madeira.

Wine Cooler

A floor-standing box lined with lead in which to keep white wine in ice water.

Wine Funnel

A small funnel made from silver or plate used for decanting wine. It had a filter at the top to catch any lees, and its spout was angled at the bottom to send the wine down the glass side of the decanter so that its colour could be checked.

Wine Stand

A small, low stand, usually on a tripod base.

Wing Bookcase

A break-front bookcase.

Wing Chair

A chair designed for comfort, with a tall back for a head-rest, 'wings' between the back and arm-rests to prevent drafts, and well-upholstered throughout. The wing chair was popular from the late 17th century in suites or singly.


Spiral or diagonal ridges, fluting or reeding especially fashionable on 17th-19th century glass. It is also found on furniture, pewter and silver.

Wurttemburgische Metalwaren Fabrik (WMF)

One of the principal producers of Art Nouveau silver and silver-plated products in the early 20th century.

X Frame

The X-shaped construction of some chairs and stools. Variations on the X-frame theme were adopted in 15th century Italy for folding wooden chairs.


An early and rare form of plastic dating from 1868, made to simulate wood.


A Japanese brush and ink holder, which resembles in purpose an antique fountain pen.


A unit of measurement used in carpet-making, which is somewhere between one yard and one metre in length.


A term given to a measurement of one and a half Zars(about 5 feet or 53 metres), which is the typical width of many Oriental rugs.


A South American wood used as a veneer, mainly for inlay, marquetry and parquetry. Mainly brown in colour, it takes its name from its distinctive black stripes.


An early effort in the field of animation, this optical toy was composed of a large diameter revolving cylinder, into which a circular strip of card with pictures was placed. When the cylinder was spun, the pictures appeared to move.


Literally, 'gold between glass'.

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