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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.
Faceting is a technique of removing material from a curved surface, to give a series of flat surfaces but retaining the profile of the original surface.
The technique is most commonly associated with diamond cutting where the various cuts used such as rose cut and brilliant cut, add life and sparkle to the stone, whilst at the same time removing as little of the stone as possible.
Faceting by grinding is also used to decorate glass. The stems of many drinking glasses are decorated by cutting a series of flat surfaces on a circular stem, and hollow vessels such as vases may have faceted surfaces.
In furniture faceting is often applied to legs of tables and chairs, where a circular baluster shaped section is flattened so as to form an octagonal section.
In the nineteenth century a lady possessed her own scent bottle which was refilled by the pharmacist or perfumier as required.
With the advent of perfume being sold in bottles produced by the manufacturers, there arose the need to market the product, and thus a marketing version of each scent bottle was required. These bottles are known as factices, and they are generally loaned to the store by the manufacturer for display, and then returned.
They are usually replicas of the product they represent, but in many cases are 10 or 20 times larger so they catch the eye of the customer.
A factice is not usually filled with perfume but with a substitute such as coloured water.
Originating in ancient Egypt, faience is the name given to tin-enamelled porcelain or earthenware, deriving its name from Faenza in Northern Italy. In England, faience underwent a revival in the late 19th century by the art potteries set up about that time. The bright colours of the Majolica wares of Minton and Wedgwood were painted onto the unfired glaze and melted into the glaze on firing.
Furniture with a hinged flap, usually associated with desks and secretaires, that opens or 'falls' to provide a flat writing surface. The flap may be supported by chains or brass quadrants and rest on wooden supports or runners, known as lopers, that pull out from a recess in either side of the piece. The interior of a fall-front desk is usually fitted with small drawers and pigeonholes.
Fans were first used in Western Europe in the Middle Ages. Many of the more intricate ones carried concealed knives or stilettos, as it was often dangerous to walk alone after nightfall or in a dark alley, especially in Renaissance Italy. Fans were of course functional, serving to keep off flies, shield one from the heat of a fire, or create a current of fresh air. Gradually, fans became an almost essential accessory for the fashionable, and no skill or expense was spared in their design and manufacture.
At the beginning of the 19th century, fans were considered an indispensable dress accessory for ladies attending balls and other functions. Three major types of fan were in use at that time.
Folding fans, the most common, consisted of leaves mounted on sticks which were joined at the foot. Paper was used in the cheaper fans, but parchment, made from the skin of young turkeys or silk were preferred in the more expensive varieties. The leaves were richly gilded and painted, often with Neo-classical motifs and scenery spreading across the leaves, so that they presented a panoramic effect when the fan was fully-extended. Some were made of lace, allowing the lacemakers of France, Brussels and Nottingham to display their skills, The ribs and guards were made of exotic woods or ivory, embellished with tortoiseshell, silver or gold mountings. Mother-of-pearl and boulle inlays were fashionable, and semi-precious stones and pearls were also favoured, especially in fans decorated in the Art Nouveau style.
The brise fan, in which the leaves were replaced by broad-bladed sticks held in place by a ribbon threaded through slots at the broad end, was also popular at this time, and the broader surface of the sticks afforded greater scope for Art Nouveau decoration.
The fashion for all things oriental included Japonaiserie open fans with broad leaves of parchment painted in oriental styles.
Because of their fragile nature, fans are often damaged: the fabric or other material has started to rot, the tassels are missing, or the ivory or shell is cracked.
A general term used to describe a substantial, solid and practical kitchen table, often with one or more drawers. There are many variants in oak, elm, pine and fruitwoods. Rarely if ever polished or varnished, the top was kept scrubbed spotlessly clean. Generally rectangular in shape, the farmhouse table may have X-shaped, turned, square or tapering legs, sometimes in a different timber to the top gum, cedar and blackwood were used in Australia. The more desirable and early examples have a stretcher base. Together with the kitchen dresser, and matching chairs they will contribute to a most useful and comforting country kitchen.
A wide and deep easy chair, with upholstered back and seat, but with open arms, sometimes padded on top. The ends of the arms were frequently carved with scrolls, lions' heads and so on. The style was developed in France in the late 17th or early 18th centuries, but was taken up by the English cabinetmakers, such as Chippendale, who described them as 'French chairs'.
A French word meaing "false", but when used in decorative arts, the intention is not to deceive, but to simulate the decorative effects of the more expensive material it is imitating.
Faux in French means "artificial" or "imitation", so faux bamboo is imitation bamboo. The wood was turned, notched and painted to look like bamboo. It was a popular design feature in the Regency period and can be seen on many "Chinese Chippendale" pieces.
Influenced by the growing trade with China, the style reached its peak with the Prince Regent's Royal Pavilion at Brighton, designed by John Nash, and built between 1817 and 1822.
Favrile glass is a type of iridescent art glass, similar to some of the Roman glass that has been excavated after being buried for centuries. It was developed by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1892, patented in 1894 and the first itmes were produced in 1896. It differs from most iridescent glasses because the colour is ingrained in the glass itself, instead of being sprayed onto the surface while the glass was molten, as with Carnival glass.
The most common items manufactured by Tiffany in favrile glass were vases.
The glass was imitated by Loetz and other Bohemian manufacturers.
Inlaid banding found on the edges of tables, drawers and other items, where two strips of veneer are llaid at right angles to each other, but at 45 degrees to the perimeter of the edge, to give a herringbone effect.
Wooden cottage chairs, with spindle backs, featuring Australian motifs pressed into the top rail. The three most common designs were: the kangaroo back with banksia flowers (registered number 252), the emu back with ferns and gum flowers (registered number 253), the lyrebird back with ferns and the Sturt desert pea (registered number 254). There is a fourth design featuring the Australian coat of arms, but this is very scarce.
The Melbourne Chair Company, which manufactured many types of kitchen and office chairs, is still in business under the trade name Melchair Pty Ltd. The so-called Federation chairs were made from about 1906 until the 1930s, although reproductions are now on the market, including carver and high chairs. Some of the original machines in fact are still in use, but the dies used to press the famous backs have been replaced.
Tasmanian blackwood was used for the turned legs and spindles, the seats were usually of kauri pine, sometimes saddled, sometimes caned, and the backs were pressed from hoop pine. When finished, the chairs were dipped in varnish. Essentially based on the American mass production techniques, Federation chairs have become sought after by most collectors of Australiana.
Ferdinand Barbedienne, (1810-92) is mostly known for his bronze foundry, which he owned with Achille Collas in 1839 who had invented a method for mechanical size reduction of larger sculptures.
His first castings were reduced versions of antique statues from European museums, and in the mid 1840s began reproducing the work of living sculptors including the animalier sculptor, Antoine Louis Barye and later in the 19th century Auguste Rodin.
On the death of Achille Collas in 1859, Ferdinand Barbedienne became the sole proprietor of the business which at that time employed 300 workers. His work was held in high regard, and he was elected President of the Reunion of Bronze Makers in 1865, a position he held for the next 20 years.
Ferdinand Barbedienne died in 1891 and the business taken over by his nephew Gustave Leblanc who continued the foundry with the high standards set by Barbedienne.
The business closed in 1954.
Works from the foundry are most commonly marked 'Fondeur F. Barbedienne' or similar.
A design of cutlery, the "fiddle" pattern, is named because the resulting shape is said to to be similar to a violin with the top of the stem as the peg box, the parallel-sided stem as the neck and the dished section (of a spoon) the body. The pattern was popular in Britain from the 1800s to around 1920.
There are several variants to the fiddle pattern: fiddle and thread, fiddle and shell and fiddle, thread and shell.
A name given to the pattern of the grain in some timbers, where the lines of the grain are compressed and at the same time wavy. Fiddleback grain is prized as a timber for furniture and musical instruments, and is expensive becasue of its scarcity.
In Australia fiddleback graining is found in blackwood. Other non-native timbers that are sometimes found with a fiddleback grain are mahogany and maple.
A recessed panel, where the outer edges have been bevelled or chamfered. The central section of the panel is thus raised or 'fielded'. The field may follow a variety of shapes square, rectangular, rounded or shield shaped. Fielded panels are found on many cabinet doors made over the past several centuries. On some chests, the drawer fronts may also be fielded
A descriptive term to describe the patterns in the grain of timber. An object may be described as "well figured" or "highly figured" if the grain on a section of the object is highly patterned, as with flame mahogany or burr walnut.
Filigree is delicate and intricate ornamental metal-work made from thin threads of gold or silver, soldered and twisted together to give the effect of lace. The filigree work may be freestanding, or attached to the surface of an object.
An architectural decoration, found on the upper parts of of an object. On furniture they are usually found on pediments, canopies and shelf supports. On smaller ceramic or silver items, such as spoons, they may decorate the top of the item itself, or the lid or cover where they provide a useful handle for removal.
Finials have a variety of shapes and forms. They may be urn-shaped, baluster shaped round or spiral, but usually taper into an upper point. Many real life shapes may also be used as finials, such as pineapples, berries, pinecones, buds, lotus and acorns. Sometimes animals such as a lion are depicted, or fish and dolphins.
Fire dogs, the popular name for andirons and chenets, are metal supports for logs in the fireplace, usually with two feet at the front and one at the back. They hold the wood above the hearth level allowing the air to pass around it to facilitate burning. Until the beginning of the 15th century they were made of wrought iron, and after this date were made in cast iron or steel, often with decorative brass embellishments.
A fire fender is a low metal guard, standing on and usually following the perimeter of the hearth, its purpose being to prevent firewood and other fuel from rolling out of the fireplace into the room.
A set of tools, usually of steel or brass, for maintaining a fire and cleaning a fireplace. The set will usuallly consist of 3 or 4 items, sometimes on a matching vertical stand, comprising a shovel, tongs, poker and sometimes a brush.
Firesceeens take various forms, with their purpose being to shield occupants of a room from the heat of the flames of a fire. For protective purposes the most effective type of firescreen is made from metal such as brass with decorative grille, which follows the outline of the hearth. However these are a 20th century inventions, and prior to this firescreen were largely made from wood.
Another type of firescreen is the polescreen, which consists of a frame on a pole, with a tripod base. The frames were usually heavily carved and often enclosed a tapestry or beaded panel. The height of the screen could be adjusted to suit the user by sliding the screen up or down the pole to protect the face.
A framed screen on legs that approximated the site of the fireplace is another type of firescreen. This type of screen was usually placed in front of the fireplace when it was not in use, to hide the untidyness of the hearth. The frames of these screens were often gilded or heavily carved and polished and the frame may contain a painted panel or tapestry. A variant of this type of screen had sliding panels to each side that extended the width of the screen.
The flat brass firescreens, pressed with embossed pictures of ships, dogs and Queen Elizabeth I, are a 20th century innovation, dating from the 1920s and 1930s.
A fire surround, made of timber, marble or cast iron. Often architectural in concept and execution, they may feature pilasters, volutes, shaped cornices and so on, usually surmounted by a large mirror or over mantel. Cast iron fire grates were introduced from the mid-18th century. Early versions were usually free standing, but late Victorian and Edwardian fireplaces were often equipped with cast-iron and tiled grates intended to fit exactly the fire surround opening. The cast-iron backplates reflected heat back into the room.
A firing crack is a crack in a porcelain or stoneware item that occurs whilst the item is in the kiln.They are usually caused by faulty design, where one part is thicker than the surrounding area, and being thicker it cools more slowly, setting up a stress with the surrounding area. Firing cracks are not often seen on modern mass produced porcelain, as the damaged items are discarded during prooduction. However they are seen in earlier items and artisan-produced objects.
The fish slice dates from about the 1750s, and was popular until the late Victorian period. made of silver or silver plate, they were designed for serving fish at the table, and usually had a wide scimitar shaped blade, often pierced and engraved with a flat or decorative cast handle.
Some fish slices had a marine decoration to the blade or handle representing fish, eels or shrimps.
During the Victorian period, they were popular as a gift presented in a boxed set with the addition of a wide bladed matching fork, and were then called fish servers.
On a doll, fixed eyes are eyes made from glass or similar material (but not painted) that do not move.
A flagon is a tall narrow cylindrical vessel, often with a handle, in metal, glass or ceramics for storage and carriage of liquids. It is also used to describe an elongated metal tankard with either a flat or domed lid and a thumbpiece for raising it, used for drinking beer.
Flambe glazes, termed "sang-de-boeuf" (ox blood) were in use by the Chinese from the 11th century, and the effect was achieved by using copper oxide as a colouring agent and firing the object in a reducing atmosphere.
The Chinese continued using these glazes; in the 18th century the red glaze was often slightly streaked, or included blue bleeds and these wares were prized by collectors in the 19th century.
European potters were not able to master the technique until the early 20th century. The Royal Doulton company employed the potter Bernard Moore, who had been experimenting with flambe glazes for many years, as a consultant.
In 1904 the company was able to produce its first flambe wares, and they were exhibited at the St. Louis World's Fair in that year. As well as vases and bowls, around 1908 Doulton commenced producing animal figures with a flambe glaze and production of flambe wares continued during the 20th century. Over 2,000 different animal figures were produced over the years.
In 1920 Doulton under designer and artist Charles Noke, introduced "Sung" wares, which used a flambe glaze together with painted and gilt decoration. Various sized vases and bowls were painted with fish, birds or pixies over a background streaked with blue , yellow and green. Most of these pieces are signed by the artists of the time such as Harry Nixon and Arthur Eaton.
Flambeau translates from the French as "torch", being a flame torch, and is usually applied to a flame shaped finial or a light shade in the form of a flame. Sometimes a candelabra will have a detachable flambeau shaped finial that fits into the central candle nozzle.
Flashed glass is the application of a thin layer of glass onto a glass object, by dipping it into molten glass.
The flashing, if it is of a contrasting colour, can then be ground away to produce a pattern, similar to the technique for cameo glass.
Most 19th century flashed glass was produced in Bohemia and England.
An alternative name for items of cutlery, principally knives, forks and spoons, now generally used to describe sets of these implements.
It is less frequently used to describe all "flat' items of tableware, so that as well as cutlery the definition includes plates.
Florenz pottery is interesting because, despite its recent history (it is mostly post Second World War), it has a complex past and is intertwined with another well-known art ware company, Casey.
There were actually three Florenz periods, with the name and flowing trademark being passed from one owner to the next. The founder and first owner was Florence Williams. Between 1934 and 1948 she made the highly collectable gumnut pieces, frequently of intricate design, highly glazed and fairly brittle. These are now highly collectable
In 1954 Florence Williams sold the company to HAP Insulators, whose owners were Harves, Archer and Pitcher. The factory produced a wide range of domestic pots, both slipware and wheel-thrown. The factory was located in Brookvale, New South Wales, and stayed there for the rest of its life. Pots decorated with Aboriginal designs are starting to be collectable. During this period the company was bought by Electrical Control and Engineering (ECE), then by Federated Engineering which went into liquidation. Florenz was then bought (again) by Joe Harves.
Now we must turn to another New South Wales company: Casey. This was founded by two partners whose surnames were Kirkwood and Cooper. Their initials 'KC' were first used, but then they were spelled out to form 'Casey'. Casey Ware was made by KC Industries of Croydon, whose associated business is Standard Resistor Company, Pty. limited.
Ronald Cooper bought out his partner and proceeded to make a very large range of slipware, the most common glaze being a distinctive purple with yellow and green streaks. Some wheel-thrown pots were also produced, but these are extremely rare.
After Ronald Cooper's death in 1969, his son John took over the factory which, by then, had stopped producing domestic pottery. Joe Harves offered to help him and this friendship eventually led to KC Industries taking over Florenz, with Joe Harves working for KC Industries.
Florenz produced household stoneware (see Figure 3.491. Twenty people were employed but, unfortunately, a profit was not made and so Florenz ceased production. KC Industries continued to make specialist industrial ceramics and Florenz became a 'shelf' company.
From: Carter's "Collecting Australiana", William & Dorothy Hall, published by John Furphy Pty. Ltd. 2005
A form of decoration found on many pieces of furniture, as well as ceramics, silver and clocks, in which round-bottomed grooves, of varying width and depth, are let into columns, pilasters, legs. As a general rule, flutes are cut in the vertical, though they may follow a turned leg in a spiral pattern. In cross-section, they may be described as a series of 'U' shapes, rising and narrowing at each end of the groove. Fluting is the opposite of reeding, with which fluting is often associated.
A drinking glass with a rounded edge to the foot, where the foot is effectively double-layered by turning it, usually under but sometimes over and then flattened , against the disk of the foot, to provide extra stability and reduce the risk of chipping or breakage.
The technique originated in Venice during the Renaissance and was adopted by English glassmakers who continued to fold the feet of drinking glasses and bowls until c1750.
A term used when describing card, tea or games tables, where the top folds over onto itself when not in use. The interior surfaces that are exposed when the top is open may be polished (in the case of tea tables) or baized (for card or games tables).
A wooden stand with open slatted adjustable leaf supports that form a "V" when open, designed for storing unmounted prints, drawings, watercolours maps etc. They were usually made in mahogany and in use in England from the Georgian to the Victorian periods.
Foo Dogs, also known as "Fo Dogs", "Fu Dogs", and " Buddhist lions" are the Chinese guardian lions that have traditionally stood in front of Chinese Imperial palaces and tombs, government offices, and the homes of the influential are believed to have powerful mythic protective benefits.
They are a popular motif in decorative arts, especially ceramics and garden statuary, where they are depicted in pairs, comprising of a male resting his paw upon an embroidered ball, representing supremacy over the world, and a female restraining a playful cub, representing the nurturing properties of the female.
Also known as a meat or food safe, and regarded as a uniquely Australian contribution to the world's heritage of furniture design. The cabinet, usually with panelled doors and , and zinc or tin sides, pierced or punched into decorative designs and patterns, is raised on legs, generally turned but sometimes square. One style, usually of cedar, is about the proportions of chiffonier, and has a shaped chiffonier back, usually decorated with applied machine-made carving, with the cupboards below. The other type is in the form of a narrow two door cabinet, made from cedar or kauri pine.
A small, low stool, usually upholstered, either for resting one's feet when sitting or sometimes used as individual seats. Legs on footstools followed the general stylistic changes, although some early 19th century stools were made with X-shaped legs. Many Victorian footstools are circular, covered with Berlin woolwork and other forms of embroidery. Some footstools were made en-suite, replicating the design to the matching chair.
Piero Fornasetti (1913-88) was a Milanese designer, painter, sculptor and interior decorator.
The range of products incorporating his whimsical and often black and white designs include scarves, drink coasters, lamps, umbrella stands, trays, cabinets, chairs, tables, desks, screens and plates and vases.
It has been estimated that by the 1960's there were over 11,000 different items incorporating his designs.
He showed artistic ability as a child, and studied at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, and later at the Castello Sforzesco school, both in Milan.
After a period of travel to Africa he returned to Milan in 1933, and his designs on silk scarves were seen by noted Italian architect Gio Ponti, who later became his collaborator on various projects including the interior decoration of the Casa Lucano in Milan in 1951, and the ocean liner, Andrea Doria in 1952.
Since his death in 1988, the business in Milan has been continued by his son Barnaba who has revived production of the most popular designs, and produced new designs under the Fornasetti name.
Until late Victorian times, the four-poster or canopy bed was regarded as an essential possession for any family of substance and was frequently the most expensive piece of household furniture. Elizabethan and Jacobean beds have heavily carved and turned foot posts, often with melon or cup-and-cover turnings, with the canopy or tester constructed of wood. During the Georgian and Regency periods, the timber posts became much more slender and finely turned, although the draperies were often quite lavish and fantastic. Turnings on Victorian beds, in line with overall trends, were much heavier and more baluster shaped. In general, the foot posts were more ornate than the head posts, and the curtain rails may be square, arched or sometimes domed.The heads of many of the beds were of unpolished timber, intended to be covered by curtaining. Therefore any four poster beds with a polished headboard should be carefully examined.
Many Australian four-poster beds of the period survive, both in cedar and rosewood, often featuring rope twist turnings on the foot posts. The headboards were often serpentine shaped or scalloped, and the typical colonial bed features a 'rolling pin' turning on the raised central section of the headboard.
Unlike the 'standard', 'queen' and 'king' sizes of modern beds, there was no standard width for antique beds, as mattresses were individually made. The length and/or width of many antique beds has been changed to accommodate modern mattress sizes.
During the second half of the 19th century, the timber four-poster beds tended to be displaced by the brass and iron beds which were very much cheaper and rather more of a novelty. In the present century, however, fears that the bed curtains harboured disease, as well no doubt the change in fashion, led to many people cutting down the high posts of the traditional bedsteads.
Fowler's Pottery was established in 1837 and is the oldest pottery in Australia still in operation.
The founder, Enoch Fowler arrived in Sydney from Ireland in 1837 and used local raw materials in the business he established in Glebe to manufacture domestic pottery and later building materials such as pipes, tiles and chimney pots.
Expansion saw the business move to Parramatta in the 1850s. During the 19th and early 20th century the business flourished and the company opened a second factory at Thomastown, a suburb of Melbourne, in 1927.
The company is still in operation, now owned by Caroma Industries Ltd., and manufacture is limited to sanitary fixtures.
Frank Hyams purchased a jewellery business in Princess Street Dunedin in 1885. As well as a manufacturing jeweller, he was a silversmith and goldsmith and specialised in jewellery incorporating New Zealand greenstone. At the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition in 1890 he secured "first order of merit" for the manufacture of gold, gem and greenstone jewellery.
Concurrent with his Dunedin store, in 1902 Frank Hyams registered a limited company, Frank Hyams Ltd., and established a business in London, at 167 New Bond Street, and later at 128 New Bond Street, London, trading as 'artistic jewellers, gold and silversmiths, and dealers in gems of rarity'.
Frank Hyams established a reputation within the English aristocratic and upper class social circles for his unique one-off curiosity pieces incorporating materials and design influences from his New Zealand homeland.
The British Museum has a collection of 36 badges manufactured by Frank Hyams Ltd., circa 1906.
According to the London Gazette, in 1913 at an Extraordinary General Meeting it was voted that the company be voluntarily wound up and Frank Hyams was appointed liquidator.
Pierced intricate decorative patterns, cut with a fine saw and generally found around the galleries of desk tops, open-hanging shelves and small tables.
In open fret, the timber is completely pierced, giving an appearance of great lightness and delicacy.
With blind fret, as seen in Chinoiserie styles of Chippendale, the fretwork is applied like a moulding to a solid panel.
An architectural term denoting the flat, shaped or convex horizontal surface of furniture, between the architrave and the cornice, usually found on a cabinet or bookcase, or on desks and tables where it may include drawers, the area between the top and the legs. In ceramics, the term refers to the banding, of usually a repeating pattern, on the rims of plates and vases.
Frozen Charlotte and Frozen Charlie are 19th century china or bisque dolls, popular in the United States, made in the form of a naked standing figure moulded in one piece, and thus the arms and legs are not movable.
The name is derived from a poem published in 1840 in new York about a young girl who was going to a ball in a sleigh and out of vanity and against her mother's advice refused to wear a coat and scarf over her ball gown, with the result that by the time she arrived at the ball, she had frozen to death.
The poem was later made into a popular American folk ballad.
These are folding knives first made about 1780 used for peeling and cutting fruit, especially on picnics. Most have a sterling silver blade, but sometimes the blades are gold or silver plate. Handles are most commonly mother of pearl, although fruit knives are also available with ivory, horn and tortoiseshell handles.
They also come boxed so they can be given as a gift, either singly, or in a set with a fork, when they are often called "paring sets".
A catch-all term used to describe the wood of any of several fruit-bearing trees, such as the apple, cherry, or pear, used especially in cabinetmaking.
With a blond colour when finished, fruitwood was used in Europe, especially France, in the 18th and 19th centuries for larger items of furniture such as tables, chairs, cabinets and bookcases but in England its use was generally restricted to decorative elements such as inlays.
The fusee movement was used in clocks and pocket watches from the mid 17th century. The fusee is a cone shaped drum within the works that is linked to the barrel of the spring, usually by a length of chain.
As the mainspring loses its tension over time, the cone shaped barrel compensates for this by increasing the tension, by pulling the mainspring tighter, thus ensuring the time remains constant.
Use of the fusee in clocks was superseded by the "going barrel" in the mid 19th century and for pocket watches at the beginning of the 19th century.
The fusee continued to be used in marine chronometers until the 1970s.