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Learn about and understand the items, manufacturers, designers and periods as well as the specialist terms used in describing antiques and collectables. Either click one of the letters below to list the items beginning with that letter, or click on a category on the left side of the screen to list the items under that category.
The letters "A/F" or "as inspected" as part of a description is the cataloguer's shorthand for "all faults" or "as found", meaning the item has some type of damage or deficiency, it is of uncertain date or provenance, and/or that the seller takes no responsibility for the completeness of the item or the accuracy of the description.
Alvar Aalto (1898 – 1976) was a Finish architect and designer.
His designs encompass His work includes architecture, furniture, textiles and glassware.
He developed numerous designs for moulded laminated timber (plywood) during the 1930s, including a revolutionary L-shaped leg that was used in much of his furniture.
The success of these designs enabled him and his wife Aino to found the furniture manufacturing company Artek in Helsinki in 1935.
Aalto glassware is manufactured by Iittala.
Aalto’s work, which was well received in Britain and America during the 1930s and ’40s, was produced by Finmar, a British subsidiary, and later by Artek-Pascoe in New York. Artek also began production in Sweden when exports from Finland to America were prohibited during World War II.
Aboriginal art and artefact collecting goes back to early first contact times. In fact local Aboriginals around Sydney use to trade artefacts with visiting ships from the earliest days.
Curio collecting has always been part of early exploration of the new world. Ceremonial adornment items that were made of perishable material were not preserved for future use and so early examples are very collectable. Early shields, clubs and boomerangs that were cherished as favourites and had developed a deep colour and patina are preferred.
Historical items that were collected by early notable pioneers, explorers or anthropologists are of high interest to collectors. Some areas are collected because the artistic expression makes them more appealing when displayed.
Production of artefacts has never ceased and are still made today for sale. Bark painting production started in mass in the 1950's and were sold via missionary shops.
The earlier barks are more sought after. Now with many of the early artists and their roll in the maintenance of culture recognized, these barks are seen as important expressions of a past lifestyle.
A stylized leaf motif, one of the primary decorative elements of classical Greek and Roman architecture. Used as a decorative element in English, European and Australian furniture, particularly on the curve of a leg, and as decoration for a corbel.
Acid etching is a technique for decorating glass, and is one of the methods used to create cameo glass.. The object usually comprises two layers of glass, the inner layer a light colour to provide the background, and the outer layer a darker colour. The glass is coated in resin, the design applied and then in the background sections the resin is removed. The exposed areas are then exposed to hydrocloric acid, until the inner layer of glass is visible.
Rudolph Ackermann (1764 - 1834) was born in Saxony and is best known as a publisher of decorative coloured prints in London.
His early career demonstrated an entrepreneurial bent that was to lead to his success as a businessman in London.
At the age of 15 he was apprenticed to a saddler, and three years later moved to Dresden to train as a (horse-driven) carriage designer.
He later lived in Switzerland, France and Belgium for short periods, before moving to London in 1787.
He set up a successful business as a coach designer and decorator and in 1795 diversified his interest to include publishing and bookselling. His first decorative hand-coloured prints appeared in 1797. His output included political and social caricatures by leading artists of the day.
From 1809-1829 he published "Ackermann's Repository of Arts", an illustrated annual British periodical which covered arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions, and politics, and had great influence on English taste in fashion, architecture, and literature.
His most ambitious venture was "The Microcosm of London". Which was completed in 1810 in collaboration with leading artists of the day, and contained 104 large folio hand-coloured aquatints.
In the following years he published further volumes, again working with artists such as William Pyne, established branches of his business in several Central and South American cities, and set up a publishing business for his son, also called Rudolph, one of his nine children in Regent Street, London. This business was taken over by Rudolph Junior's son Arthur, and was later renamed Arthur Ackermann Ltd. and was trading as fine art dealers until 2011.
His death in 1834 was preceded by a stroke in 1833 which left him partly paralysed.
Derives its name from the four Adam brothers, but principally Robert Adam, the second oldest of the brothers, who were architects and designers, active in the latter half ot the 18th century (1760s to 1790s). The period or style, known as "neo-classical", was based on Roman designs and motifs.
Born in Scotland in 1728, Robert Adam spent time in Italy studying and his designs are influenced by the finds made during the excavation of Pompei.
When he returned to England he became the Court Architect to George III (1738-1820).
There were three potters with the name William Adams from different branches of the Adams family of potters working during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with some overlapping of production dates. The first was William Adams (1748-1831) of Brick House whose production was not prolific. The second William Adams (1772-1829), was born in Stoke-on-Trent and produced flow-blue ware for the United States market, and the business was continued by his son William (1798-1865). The third, from another branch of the Adams family was William Adams (1746-1805) who was born in Greengates, after reputedly working with Wedgwood. He founded the Greengates Pottery which specialised in the production of creamware and wares that imitated the Wedgwood dark blue jasper ware. On his death the business was taken by his son Benjamin. The pottery was closed in 1820 due to the ill-health of Benjamin. The busines was sold outside the family in 1826 but was repurchased by another branch of the Adams family in 1897. It was taken over by the Wedgwood group in 1966. Production of ceramics under the Adams brand ceased in 1998.
Adderleys Ltd. pottery was opened at Longton, Staffordshire in 1906 producing china and earthenware. From c.1936 to 1988 Adderley operated 'Adderley Floral and Figurine China Co Ltd' , and in 1947 was taken over by Ridgway Potteries but continued production under the Adderley brand. In 1973 Ridgway Potteries and their subsidiary companies including Adderleys was acquired by the Royal Doulton Group.
In the 19th and early 20th century alabaster was used for sculpture and lamps, especially in Italy. Being softer than marble it was easier to work, but also prone to damage. it is often confused with white marble, but can be easily distinguished as alabaster is semi-transluscent, whereas white marble is opaque.
Alabaster is soft natural stone used for statuary, with a similar appearance to marble, but easier to work with. As it is softer than marble, an item made from alabaster can be scratched with a metal object, and an alabaster item does not polish to a high surface gloss like marble.
Alabaster objects can be semi-translucent. Alabaster occurs in a pure white form and also with veining from dirt. Colours vary from white through yellow and pink to brown. The veining is usually green or black but can be multicoloured.
Being semi-translucent, alabaster is often used for the bowls of figural lamps, with the figure itself being either alabaster or marble.
An Albert chain, usually made of silver or gold, is a watch chain that was worn in the 19th century. It has a "T" bar on one end, which is used to attach the chain to a button hole in a waiscoat, while the other end is fitted with a swivel hook to attach the watch. There was usually a small length of chain joined to the end with the "T" bar, to which a fob, seal or a charm was attached. When the watch is placed in the waistcoat pocket, the looped chain and fob-end is visible. The links are often twisted to allow the chain to lie flat on the waist coat.
The "Albert" chain was supposedly named after a style of chain worn by Prince Albert, the prince Consort and husband of Queen Victoria.
The "double" Albert was a chain symetrically draped between both watch pockets on the waistcoat, with the T-bar and pendant chain in the middle. One end of the chain had the watch attached, and the other end of the chain may have had Vesta (match) case, cigar cutter or small pocket knife attached.
The Albert chain continued to be used for its intended purpose until the early 20th century when the pocket watch was superceded by the wristwatch, after which it became fashionable to wear the Albert chain as a necklace.
An Albertina chain is the name given to a watch chain worn by women. The chains were generally finer than the Albert chains, and often were multi-stranded.
Albumen is the material found in egg whites, and used to make meringues. However in 1850 the Frenchman Louis Desire Blanquart-Evrard invented a method creating a photographic image using egg whites as a binder, together with silver nitrate and other chemicals, and the albumen print was born.
The albumen print became the dominant photographic printing process for the next fifty years, until the technique was superceded by the introduction of Kodak's Brownie camera.
Characteristics of albumen prints are the surface gloss, a reddish brown or purple image tonings and sometimes a cracking of the albumen binder.
A type of Georgian glass used for drinking beer. The first versions in use in the early 17th century had a short stem and a small conical bowl, but by the later 17th century the shape had evolved, with the vessel being taller and having a longer stem and a rounded conical bowl. The bowl was sometimes decorated with engravings of barley ears or hops.
Alfredo Barbini (1912 - 2007) was a Italian master glassmaker. Born into a family who had been glassmakers for generations, he began in the trade in his early teens. After completing his apprenticeship and becoming a master glassblower, he worked for a number of the major Venetian glassworks, and in 1946 he became art director of Gino Cenedese & C. In 1950 he opened a glassworks in his own name which continued until his death in 2007.
Amaranth, also called "purpleheart" and palisander is a hardwood obtained flowering plants in tropical regions of Central and South America, where they grow in rainforests. When the trees are cut, the timber turns from a dark brown to a rich purple colour. It is mainly used for veneering and decorative features on furniture, and is extremely dense when dry.
More frequently used to refer to the colour, than the material from which the word is derived, amber is the fossilized resin from ancient forests. It is not produced from tree sap, but rather from plant resin. The resin is aromatic, and can drip from and ooze down trees. In colour, it may be a deep honey colour, (amber), brown, or white. As it oozes out it fills internal fissures in the tree, trapping debris such as seeds, leaves, feathers and insects. The debris trapped within the amber can assist in dating the deposit.
In its natural state it is found in rocks, on the sea floor (from where it may be washed up to the shore) and mined, using both open cut and underground techniques. About 90% of the world's amber comes from Russia. Amber has recently been discovered at Cape York in Northern Australia
Amber is often incorporated in jewellery, and used in pipe stems. The shine on the surface of amber becomes even more intense when it is worn and used regularly. Genuine amber, when rubbed, will release a slightly musky scent.
Amboyna is a tree native to Indonesia (named after the Indonesian island of Ambon) and South East Asia, and when harvested the timber has a fragrant rose-like scent, and is of a rich brown colour, usually harvested from the burl of the tree with "birds-eye" markings . In furniture is is usually veneered and used for decorative effects on top quality pieces.
An ancient form of storage jar and one of the principal vessel shapes in Greek pottery, an amphora is a two-handled pot with a neck narrower than the body. In ancient times they were used as storage and transport vessels for olives, cereal, oil, and wine. The shape has continued to be used in ceramics to the present time.
Often inscribed with a magic incantation or symbol, an amulet is an object worn as a charm to protect the wearer from an evil, such as disease or witchcraft.
There were a number of members of the Angell family who were silversmiths, commencing with Joseph Angell I (also expressed as Joseph Angell, Senior), and his brothers John Angell and Abraham Angell.
On the retirement of Joseph Angell I in 1948, from what had become the leading London silverware workshop, the business was taken over by his son, Joseph Angell II (also expressed as Joseph Angell, Junior), (1815 - 1891).
Joseph Angell II exhibited at the at the 1851 Great Exhibition, the 1853 New York Exhibition, and the 1862 International Exhibition winning medals at each event.
His career is marked by the rich silver items crafted and decorated with chiseling, reliefs and enamels, including trays, tea and coffee sets, jugs, centrepieces and vases
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London holds a number of silver objects by Jospeh Angell II.
Used to describe furniture and furnishings made in India from the 18th century onwards by Indian cabinetmakers using local timbers and accessories, for the colonial British market and wealthy locals, that was a fusion of the styles and techniques of the two cultures.
Teak, camphor wood, padouk, coromandel and ebony were common timbers, and the furniture was sometimes inlaid with ivory or bone, and usually extensively carved with Indian themes including elephants and intricate foliate designs.
Similar furniture was made in other colonies such as Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Kashmir.
A sculptor, usually from the 19th century who specialises in the realistic potrayal of animals. The best known of these is the French sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye, 1796-1875.
Animalier bronzes is also a general term used to describe small sculptures of animals, which were produced in large numbers, especially in France in the mid and later 19th century.
A calissical decorative motif used in the decoration of ceramics, silver, textiles and furniture, based loosely on the acanthus leaf and sometimes used with the palmette, from which it is often difficult to distinguish. The form of the palmette varies from ornate to simplistic.
In Greek mythology, Aphrodite is the goddess of love, desire and beauty, whilst in Roman mythology she is called Venus.
Apollo is the Greek and Roman god of the sun, and patron of music and poetry. He is often depicted with a lyre.
Spoons, originally made both in sets of 13 and singly, that have as the finial a cast figure in-the-round, depicting one of the twelve apostles or Christ in Majesty, with his emblem. Apostle spoons were popular in England and Germany in pre-Reformation times.
Complete sets of thirteen different silver apostle spoons having the same maker and date, and dating from the 16th century are extremely rare, and even single apostle spoons of this period fetch a high price.
Apostle spoons have been reproduced in great numbers and those from the 19th century onwards often show the figure without an emblem, and are comparitively cheap to purchase.
Small-scale versions of cabinet furniture, sometimes made by apprentice craftsmen to demonstrate their technical skills. More commonly, such pieces were made by skilled tradesmen and taken around country districts by journeymen or commercial travellers, so customers could order household furniture from these samples. Miniature furniture pieces, often made for children, are frequently described as apprentice pieces. They are now highly sought after, but, buyer beware, the market abounds with many imported and locally produced 'apprentice pieces' of more recent manufacture.
A decorative wooden panel that sits underneath the top surface of a table or chair, and unites the top of the piece with the legs, running at right angles to the underside. On carcase furniture such as a chest or wardrobe, the apron sits below the drawers or doors and attaches to the legs.
On carcase furniture without legs the panel under the drawers or doors sits on the floor and is termed a plinth.
An apron can provide a decorative touch to an otherwise unadorned piece of furniture and at the same time provide structural support and strength. They can be carved or pierced and quite elaborate.
An Arabesque is an intricate decoration of branches, leaves, geometrical patterns and scroll work making up a flowing frieze.
The technique in various forms is used to decorate metalwork, pottery, furniture, jewellery and lace.
Arabia, the Finnish ceramics manufacturer was established in 1873, by the Swedish company Rorstrand, itself a ceramics manufacturer since 1726. The name Arabia was derived from the Helsinki district in which the first factory was located, Arabianranta.
Manufacturing commenced in 1874 with assistance from skilled Rorstrand staff, with the primary market being Russia. Production facilities expanded in the late 1880s and 1890s with about one third of output destined for the Russian market.
In the 1900s export sales began to fall due to higher production costs and import duties in the destination countries and Arabia concentrated on domestic sales.
The company was sold in 1916 to Finnish investors and a program of modernisation and additions to the plant was undertaken. There were a number of ownership changes in the 1920s with the end result that Arabia, Rorstrand and another Swedish porcelain manufacturer, Lidkoping becoming part of the one group.
By the 1930s Arabia was the largest porcelain manufacturer in Europe.
In 1990 Arabia was acquired by the Finnish company Hackman, manufacturers of stainless steel kitchen ware, who also owned the Iittala and Rorstrand brands. Further ownership changes saw the Hackman brands acquired by leading Finish consumer goods company Fiskars, who as well as the Hackman brands also own the Gerber, Royal Copenhagen Wedgwood and Waterford brands.
Archizoom Associati was an avant-garde group of "anti-design" minded young architects and designers, established in Florence in 1966. Their designs were a form of revolt against what they considered the pretensions of Modernist designers from earlier in the 20th century. Initial products included Pop Art-inspired furnishings, such as the Safari Chair, upholstered with exotic animal skins, and the Dream Bed, which because of its kitschy color and shape, sought to dispel any attempt at good taste in middle class homes.
The group disbanded in 1974.
The Argand lamp was a lamp that burned whale oil, colza, olive oil or other vegetable oil lamp and produced a brighter light than candles. It was invented and patented in 1780 by Frenchman Aimé Argand (1750 – 1803. Aside from the improvement in brightness, the more complete combustion of the wick and oil required much less frequent trimming of the wick.
Because of the weight of the oil, the reservoir was mounted above the burner, and the wick was supplied with fuel by a gravity feed.
The wick also differed from what had been previously used. It was sleeve-shaped, and set-up so that air could pass both through the centre of the wick and also around the outside of the wick before being drawn into chimney. The cylindrical chimney steadied the flame and improved the flow of air.
The Argand lamp, together with the Carcel lamp was in general use until about 1850 when kerosene lamps were introduced.
The Carcel lamp was invented by the French watchmaker Bernard Guillaume Carcel (1750–1818) to overcome the disadvantages of the Argand lamp. He invented a clockwork mechanism that that drove a small pump in the tank that fed the Colza oil from a reservoir below the burner.
Kerosene had been invented in 1846 by Canadian Abraham Pineo Gesner (1797 –1864). His research into minerals resulted the development of a process to refine a liquid fuel from coal, bitumen and oil shale. His new discovery, which he named kerosene, burned more cleanly and was less expensive than competing products such as whale oil, colza and olive oil.
Kerosene also produced a whiter flame, and as it had a lower viscosity than the oils previously used, it could easily travel up a wick, eliminating the need for complicated mechanisms to feed the fuel to the burner.
The argyle, also spelt argyll, is late 18th century gravy container with a spout, used to keep gravy warm. It has an outer container usually with its own outlet into which hot water is poured, whilst the inner container holds the gravy. Usually of silver or Sheffield plate and said to have been designed by the Duke of Argyll.
They were popular between 1760 and 1820.
A French cupboard, usually in walnut, very similar to a wardrobe, with either mirrored or panelled doors, containing shelves and hanging space.
Unlike the English and Australian equivalent, the armoire is demountable, in that the sides, canopy, doors, and base are all held together with a few metal bolts. In an unassembled state an armoire can be 'flat packed', so it can be easily carried in pieces up the stairs of an apartment block.
Art Unions were organisations that functioned to promote and fund works of art. The members would pay an annual subscription, which would be used to purchase works of art, and these would then be distributed among its members by means of a ballot.
The Art Union of London was established in 1837 and by the 1840s was distributing art to the value of £9,000 each year.
The works purchased ranged from paintings which had been exhibited at the Royal Academy and in galleries to prints and smaller pieces including commissioned Parian wares, medals and bronze statuettes.
The membership numbers of the Art Union of London remained strong until the 1890s when they began to decline, and the Union was wound up in 1912.
Ashby Potters' Guild was an English studio pottery that opened at Woodville, Derbyshire in 1909, established by Pascoe Tunnicliffe. It closed in 1922 when it merged with the Ault Faience Pottery to form Ault and Tunnicliffe. Ashby Potters' Guild was active in the production of high end decorative wares.
As the name indicates, these were tongs designed for serving asparagus. They were in use from around 1780 to 1830. and over that time the design evolved. The earliest form had a sppring jaw with a number of small concave ridges along the inner face, for holding the asparagus spears. Later examples had a tong action with pireced decoration, or a pair of rounded holders for gripping the circular stems of the asparagus.
The London firm of luxury goods manufacturers and retailers was founded by William Asprey in 1781.
The range of goods handled includes jewellery, silverware, home goods, leather goods, timepieces, accessories and polo equipment and a retailer of books.
The company has held Royal Warrants for the supply of goods to the British Royalty since the 1830s.
As well as the flagship store in New Bond Street, where the company has been located since the 1830s, Asprey also has stores in the United States, Switzerland and Japan.
Anything with an Asprey mark is highly regarded by collectors.
An astragal or bead is most commonly used in Australia, to describe the wooden glazing bars that divide the glass in a cabinet into sections. However it can also refer to the narrow beading on a multi-door cabinet or bookcase that covers the gap between the doors, when they are closed. The astragal is usually attached to the inner stile of the left-hand door (or the right hand as you look at it).
Atelier (French for "workshop"), in English usuage describes the workshop of an artist in the fine or decorative arts, where the artist and a number of assistants, students and apprentices worked together producing pieces that went out in the artists name. This was the standard practice for European artists from the Middle Ages to the 18th or 19th century
The Atmos clock is 'The Clock That Runs on Air'.
For centuries scientists had experimented with the idea of perpetual motion and watchmakers and clockmakers yearned for a timekeeping device that would work without the need of manual winding; in short a timepiece that would continue to run under its own power.
By the 1920's the closest they had come to this was the 400 day clock. In the late 1920s, Jean-Leon Reutter, a young Paris engineer produced a clock with a timekeeping mechanism designed specifically to consume the smallest possible amount of power to keep the clock running satisfactorily.
As well as changes to the mechanism, Reutter's clock included a mercury and gas filled bellows that would react to the most sensitive changes in temperature and atmospheric conditions, and in so doing, created a gentle rocking motion that gave power to the clock when needed.
The result of Reutter's achievement was an ingenious new clock that could run dependently and continuously, and so incredibly sensitive that it could be rewound by the slightest fluctuations in the atmosphere or by the slightest changes in temperature, hence the name 'Atmos Clock'.
In 1930, Jaeger-Le Coultre a world famous Swiss watch-making company, also famous for the 'Reverso Watch' acquired the Atmos Clock Patent from Reutter and has continued to improve the design and manufacture the clocks to the present day.
An Atmos clock takes a month to produce in the factory, then another five weeks of trial and adjustment before it is ready for shipment
A cataloguing term where the item in the opinion of the cataloguers, is a of the period of the artist, craftsman or designer, and which probably in whole or part is the work of that person.
Aubusson tapestries originated between the towns of Clermont-Ferrand and Limoges in a group of French tapestry workshops that developed from the 14th century, created by the arrival of weavers from Flanders. The finest and most famous tapestries were decorated with illustrations drawn from the fables of French poet Jean de La Fontaine, from historical etchings and of seascapes from the school of painter Claude Joseph Vernet.
In the 19th century production of tapestries in the 17th and 18th century style restarted. In 1939 a new production unit opened, with the patterns based on designs provided by contemporary artists such as Salvadore Dali, Jean Lurcat, Lucien Coutaud, Raoul Dufy, Pablo Picasso, and Marc Saint Saens. The British artist, Graham Sutherland, designed an Aubusson tapestry for Coventry Cathedral, which at the time was the world's largest vertical tapestry.
The Aubusson tapestry workshops continue operating to the present time, and in 2009 were placed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Aurene glass is an iridescent coloured glass developed by Frederick Carder (1863-1963), while working at the Steuben Glassworks in the United States. Frederick Carder was an English glassmaker who emigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. He managed the Steuben Glass Works from 1903 to 1932, including the period after it was taken over by Corning Glass in 1918. Aurene is very similar to Tiffany's favrile glass, the colour obtained by combining metal and non metal glasses, onto which a solution of stannous chloride is sprayed, giving a velvety sheen to the brown, red, gold, blue and green colours.
Aventurine glass is a type of glass where small flakes of gold, copper, or silver color form in the glass and provide a glitter or sparkle to the glass when seen in the light. The small flakes are created by adding copper, gold or silver to the molten glass during the glassmaking process.
Averys are pressed brass needle cases made to hold different sized needles.
The first, the ‘Quadruple Golden Casket’, was produced by William Avery of Redditch, Worcestershire, in 1868, whose father was a needle manufacturer, but competitors soon followed and now the term has been extended to all brass needlecases.
Most Averys date from the 1870s when there was a huge explosion in production. The needles are held in rows that move, or in slots that hold packets.
There are three types of Averys – flats, quadruples and figurals. Figurals are the most desirable and valuable, with many shapes inspired by nature.
Aynsley China Ltd. is a British manufacturer of bone china tableware, giftware, handpainted figurines and animals and commemorative items. The company was founded in 1775 by John Aynsley in Lane End, Longton, Staffordshire. In 1861 his grandson John Aynsley built the historic Portland Works on Sutherland Road, Longton, Staffordshire.
Commemorative wares to mark Royal occasions were popular line of the company, reaching their peak with the Aynsley designed dinner service being selected from 15 entries by Princess Elizabeth for her wedding. The design was then marketed commercially as the 'Windsor" pattern.
The company's profitability from sales of its tableware, giftware and commemorative items made it a desirable acquisition and in 1970 John Aynsley and Sons was taken over by Waterford and renamed Aynsley China Ltd.
In 1987 there was a management buyout of Aynsley China Ltd. and then in May 1997, Aynsley China was acquired by The Belleek Pottery Group of Ireland.
Due to rising costs at its Sutherland Road factory, and falling sales, the company closed its Stoke-on-Trent factory in December 2014 ending 239 years of manufacture in Staffordshire.
Production of Aynsley China was outsourced to China.