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.

Baby Rattles

As well as the rattle itself which may be in the form of one or more bells, Georgian and Victorian rattles may include a teething ring, made of ivory or coral, and a whistle for blowing. Coral was believed to have medicinal properties, but on many rattles where previously present, it has been broken off and is missing.

Often made of thin silver, Victorian rattles easily sustain damage such as tearing or denting, or have pieces missing.

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Bachelor's Chest

A George IV four drawer bachelor's chest, on rectangular legs.

A small narrow chest of drawers with a folding top. When opened, the top rests on a pair of lopers or slides. Bachelor's chests date from the early 18th century and usually have either three long and two half drawers, or four long drawers. Being narrow they are rarely more than 25cm deep they are popular in today's smaller houses and a great many have been converted from standard chests of drawers. An item of furniture that rarely appears on the Australian market.

Back Boards

As the name implies, the boards that back a piece of cabinet furniture such as a chest of drawers. The backing timber is usually of cheaper material like pine (often called 'deal' by the British trade), though in early Australian colonial days, red cedar was also used to back a piece. As cedar became scarcer during the later 19th century, craftsmen turned to kauri pine.

On early furniture, made before the first half of the 19th century, the backboards were often chamfered at the edges and the wide boards slotted into grooves in a supporting central frame. In later furniture, the backboards were generally nailed or screwed into rebates cut directly into the carcase and the boards became much thinner and narrower.

From about the first world war plywood was frequently used for cheaper pieces.

Backboards are one important way of judging the age of a piece of furniture.

Back Plate

On many types of clocks, the movement operates between two plates, usually made of brass, one at the back, and the other at the front, which forms a mount for the dial.

On English bracket, mantle and table clocks the backplate was often visible through a glass door or panel from the late 17th century, and could be profusely engraved with scrolling decorations, flowers, foliage, birds, and figures. The engraving could also include the maker’s name.

The amount of engraving reduced and became simpler as the 18th century progressed, and by 1800, had been reduced to a border, often with the maker's name in the centre. By the early 1800s all decoration had ceased, and only the maker's name was added, and by the Victorian era, most bracket, mantle and table clocks had no engraving.

Back Splat

The vertical or horizontal piece that joins the back to the seat, or between the two sides of the chair. The back splat stabilises and adds additional strength to the back.

Bailey, Lorna

Lorna Bailey was born on 10th February 1978 and was brought up in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire.

She has lived throughout her life in and around the Newcastle-under-Lyme area, and it is this area from which the majority of the names for her designs are taken.

She attended Stoke-on-Trent College leaving with a Blec National Diploma in Design (Ceramics). Stoke-on-Trent College is the successor to the Burslem School of Art where Clarice Cliff, Susie Cooper, Charlotte Rhead and Fredrick Rhead and Mabel Leigh amongst others, all studied.

Her designs are manufactured by L. J. B. Ceramics, where she worked while still studying at college. Lorna Bailey's bold, striking designs are often compared with those of Clarice Cliff

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Bakelite was the first completely synthetic man-made substance. Bakelite was invented in 1909 by an independent New York chemist Leo H. Baekeland. It was called the "material of a thousand uses" and used to make everything from car parts to jewellery.

Although nearly all plastic from this period is known as ‘Bakelite', it is important to remember that this is an umbrella term that covers many different early plastics such as Lucite and cellulose acetate, and includes Bakelite.

We often think of the colour of Bakelite items as dark brown, but it was manufactured in various colours including yellow, butterscotch, red, green and brown.

Bakelite could also be transparent, or marbleised by mixing two colours. Plastics were cheap to produce and could be moulded or carved in a huge variety of ways.

Bakelite is most commonly associated with radio cases of the 1930s, telephones and kitchen utensils, but it was also used extensively in jewellery manufacture.

Early designs from the 1920s were plainer and simpler than later examples. Geometric and floral patterns typical of Art Deco styling were popular.

During its heyday in the 1930s, Bakelite jewellery was stocked by the most prestigious stores, such as Saks, Harrods and Macy’s, who dedicated a shop window display to it in 1935.

Coco Chanel featured bakelite items in her accessories collection and the material was praised frequently in Vogue magazine.

Manufacture of some consumer Items were suspended in 1942 in order to concentrate manufacturing on the war effort.

Bakelite pieces are now valuable collectables. Andy Warhol was an avid collector, and when he died in 1987, his pieces sold for record prices at Sotheby's.


Baleen is the filter feeder system in a baleen whale, and these whales have several hundred plates of baleen with a hairy fringe on their upper jaw.

Baleen refers to the solid plate, and it is historically important as it was sought by whalers as a by-product of the whaling industry, who called it whalebone, though it is not made of bone at all, and used it for scrimshaw.

The earliest artefacts were made of baleen produced from Arctic whaling in the 17th century.

In the 19th century baleen was an important raw material, comparable to present-day plastics. Its thermoplastic nature and strength meant it could be used to make a wide variety of functional and decorative objects.

Sailors used baleen to make sewing boxes and other small containers and another common use was brush bristles; it was even used as runners on toboggans.

Baleen basketry was developed into a craft, with examples of simple baskets to complex woven ones, which could take months to complete.

Other shore-based uses included in corsets, buggy whips, umbrella ribs, canes, skirt hoops and especially as a cheaper substitute for ivory in carving.

Ball and Claw Feet

Are in the shape of a rounded ball, attached to the underside of the carcase by a wooden shank. Introduced during the late 17th century and found on furniture in the William and Mary and Queen Anne style, are commonly found on cabriole legs in the manner of Thomas Chippendale, and furniture imitating the mid-18th century Rococo style. The leg terminates in a ball held by a carved lion's or bird's claw.

Balloon Back Chairs

A typical Victorian mahogany balloon back chair, although this style of chair was made in innumerable variations.

A Victorian dining or drawing room chair, the quintessential symbol of the Victorian era. The back upright is waisted just above the seat, widening to a rounded curve at the top rail, forming a balloon shape.

The chairs were popular from the 1830s until the end of the 19th century. British balloon back chairs were usually made from mahogany or walnut, while the Australian version was made in cedar or sometimes Huon pine.

They were made in a multitude of variations, as anyone who has tried to find a matching chair to a set, can attest.

Baluster (furniture)

An architectural term for a column in a balustrade or staircase, often defined as a "vase shape". The shape is extensively used in furniture and decorative arts.

In furniture, it is used to describe a chair or table leg turned in that form, or more usually as an inverted baluster, with the bulbous section to the top. Less commonly used to describe a chair back that has the outline of a baluster. A baluster may also be split and applied to the front of a cupboard for ornamentation.

For ceramics and silver items it is often used to describe the shape of the whole item, rather than a part.

In Georgian glassware, the shape is commonly seen in the stem of glasses.

Baluster (glass)

An architectural term for a column in a balustrade or staircase.

When used to describe glass, it can either refer to the shape of the stem of a wine glass, being slender above and pear shaped below, or the shape of the whole vessel, usually a vase. In fact the baluster shape is often described as being vase-like.

The description of a vase as being of baluster shape covers a wide variety of shapes that often bear no resemblance to the original architectural form.

Bamboo Furniture

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, there was a revival of the taste for bamboo furniture featuring pseudo oriental styles. Bamboo furniture had been popular in Regency days, but the difference was that, while in Regency days the 'bamboo' legs and other members were generally simulated, that is, the wood was turned and notched, and then painted to look like bamboo, the later pieces were actually made of bamboo.

Bamboo frames often enclosed wickerwork covered wood panels. Numerous articles were produced, including hatstands, shelves, small tables, chests of drawers, (often surmounted by a mirror and a complex of small drawers), and overmantels liberally supplied with mirrors.

Bamboo furniture was mass-produced by several London firms. In a way, it was symbolic of the British Empire. Middle-class people felt comforted using furniture which they believed came from some oriental outpost coloured pink on the map. Some may even have been smug enough to imagine they were doing the natives a favour by patronizing their craft industries.

In recent years there has been a resurgence in the demand for bamboo furniture. Repairs can present a problem, for there are not many restorers either expert or interested in such work.

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Bar Back Chairs

A late Regency mahogany dining chair with a leaf carved spade back above a horizontal splat and a drop in seat, the typical method of upholstery of that period.

Also known as rail back, Regency, Trafalgar and spade back chairs. A chair in which a straight or slightly curved top rail extends horizontally between or across the rear uprights. The design is attributed to Sheraton. In the early versions the top rail was often supported by vertical splats, sometimes plain or reeded, sometimes carved with various motifs.

The legs were either square or more generally tapered, sometimes reeded. The simple, square form of the late 18th century chairs evolved into the more rounded shape common through much of the 19th century, sometimes known as spade back chairs, many of which were made in Australia from red cedar.

The top rail is curved, extending beyond the uprights, and generally shaped and rounded at the ends. The construction is strengthened by a horizontal curved splat and the legs are almost always turned. The heavier the turning, the later the chair.

Barbie Doll

"Barbie" was introduced at the American Toy Fair in New York City in 1959 by Ruth and Elliot Handler, who were co-founders of Mattel Toys in 1945. She was inspired by a ‘Lilli’ doll bought by Ruth Handler in Switzerland.

The first Barbie sold for $3.00 and received mixed reviews on release, as she was so unlike any other dolls produced before. However, the public grew to love her and, from 1960s, her popularity became assured.

Looking at the features of a doll help to date it. For example, if she has ‘bubble cut’ hair, she dates from 1961 – 1967. Barbies with ‘pony tail’ hairstyles were produced between 1959 and 1964 and are highly sought after with around six different types available.

Barbie is marked on her buttocks, with the marks helping to date and identify her. The date shown is not the date she was made, but the patent date, meaning she was made sometime after the date shown.

As many Barbies were sold, condition and completeness are vitally important aspects. Dolls that have not been played with, complete examples with boxes and accessories will all be worth more. Most collectors look for examples that show very light signs of wear from play, but are complete – if the condition is better, the value usually rises.

Barbies produced after 1972 are considered ‘modern’ and are of limited interest to most collectors. Those produced before 1972 are deemed ‘vintage’ and are more desirable.

Ruth Handler died in 2002 and her husband Elliot Handler died in 2011.

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Barcelona Chair

One of the most enduring forms from the Art Deco period, the Barcelona chair consists essentially of two leather cushions slung on a curving tubular steel frame. Originally designed in 1929 by the architect Mies Van Der Rohe, for the German pavilion for the International Exposition of 1929, which was hosted by the city of Barcelona, Spain. The chairs are still being manufactured by Knoll Inc. but there are numerous unauthorized copies also available.

Barley Twist

The leg, and frequently other uprights such as columns, chair frames, spindles and stretchers, are turned in fairly wide and deep spirals, usually slightly rounded. Also known as the 'Jacobean twist' and common on the dark stained Jacobean Revival furniture of the 1930s and 40s.

As a rule, the twists on opposite uprights should move in a contrary direction. Thus, if the spiral on a right side is clockwise, that on the left side should move in a counter-clockwise direction.

This is also true of rope-twist or cable-twist turning, a nautical term that came into fashion after Nelson's victories over the French fleet. The essential difference is that with rope twists, the spirals are more finely turned on the lathe and placed closer together, than they are with barley-sugar turnings.


The barograph, popular from the late Victorian period to the 1930s, is a variation of the aneroid barometer, and it records a graph of the atmospheric pressure over time using a pen or needle on graph paper, both of which are attached to a drum moved by clockwork. Due to the delicate nature of the mechanism they are usually housed in a five panel glass case, the base often fitted with drawers for storage of of new and used charts.


The barometer is an instrument for measuring atmospheric pressure. The pressure indicated can aid in predicting short term weather.

There are two main types of barometer in use, the mercury barometer, which can either be in the form of a "stick" or a "wheel", and the aneroid barometer, a later invention and most commonly available.

Italian Evangelista Torricelli, an associate of Galileo, is generally credited with inventing the mercury barometer in 1643. Galileo suggested to Evangelista Torricelli that he use mercury in his vacuum experiments.

A mercury barometer has a glass tube with a height of at least 84 cm, closed at one end, with an open mercury-filled reservoir at the base. The weight of the mercury creates a vacuum in the top of the tube. Mercury in the tube adjusts until the weight of the mercury column balances the atmospheric force exerted on the reservoir.

At the time of its invention, Torricelli was not experimenting with air pressure but with the creation of vacuums, and whether or not the air had weight, and it was not until much later that it was realised the changes in air pressure measured by the barometer could be used for short term weather forecasts.

High atmospheric pressure places more force on the reservoir, forcing mercury higher in the column. Low pressure allows the mercury to drop to a lower level in the column by lowering the force placed on the reservoir.

The long tube used by Torricelli meant that the barometer was in the form of a long stick, and gave rise to the expression of atmospheric pressure in inches or millimeters or feet.

In 1665, Englishman Robert Hooke created the wheel barometer which added a circular scale and dial assembly to the mercury barometer.

In 1843, the French scientist Lucien Vidie invented the aneroid barometer, which uses a small, flexible metal box called an aneroid cell to measure changes in atmospheric pressure. Small changes in external air pressure cause the cell to expand or contract. This expansion and contraction drives a mechanism so that the tiny movements of the capsule are amplified and displayed on the face of the aneroid barometer.

The empty box is prevented from collapsing by a strong spring. Aneroid means fluidless, no liquids are used, the metal cell is usually made of phosphor bronze or beryllium copper.

Today's barometers use electronic sensors instead of mercury and metal aneroid cells.

Mercury barometers are no longer manufactured due to the recognition of the harmful effects of mercury, although old mercury barometers an still be refilled. Use of mercury in manufacturing was banned in most western countries in the 1990s or early 2000s. However mercury barometers emit zero or negligible amounts of mercury vapour, and owning one is no threat to your health. In 2006 the European Union excluded barometers from a ban on the use of mercury in manufacture or repair.

The mercury barometer makers were at their peak from about 1830 to 1890. England, due to it's robust economy and lust for science, was the home to most of these makers, though many were also found in France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Scotland, Belgium, Portugal, and here in America.

There were a number of famous makers based in London, such as Negretti & Zambra, Troughton & Simms, Comitti and Son, and Dolland & Co. and some barometers were made and stamped with the name of the upmarket retailer through whose premises they were sold. Nicholas Goodison in his book English Barometers 1680 - 1860 Antique Collectors Club, 1977, lists almost 2000 makers and retailers of barometers during this period.

Mercury barometers were precision scientific instruments and would have only been owned by the very wealthy. This is reflected by the use of exotic timbers such as rosewood, mahogany and walnut, and the craftsmanship entailed in their manufacture.

The Admiral Fitzroy Barometer is a style of mercury barometer based on work by Admiral Fitzroy in the late 1850's.

Admiral Robert Fitzroy achieved lasting fame as the captain of HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin's famous voyage, and in his position as Meteorological Statist to the Board of Trade in 1854, as a pioneering meteorologist who made accurate weather forecasting a reality.

The Admiral Fitzroy Barometer usually consists of a mercurial barometer (open tube type), thermometer, printed instructions and a storm glass or storm bottle, the latter contains a mixture of chemicals which change their appearance depending on the type of approaching weather.

Aneroid barometers measure the air pressure by means of a vacuum chamber with flexible side. Any change in the air pressure alters the thickness of the chamber, and the movement is measured and linked to an indicator needle through levers and pulleys. They were popular in the mid to late Victorian and Edwardian period, and saw the barometer move from an instrument that could only be owned by the very wealthy to become an affordable aspiration by the rising middle classes.

Barovier & Toso

The Barovier family of Venetian glassmakers can trace their history back to the 13th century, and in 1884, Giovanni (1839 - 1908) together with nephews Benedetto (1857-1930), Giuseppe (1863-1942) and Benvenuto (1855-1932), all members of the Barovier family founded the Murano glassworks that became Artisti Barovier in 1890.

In 1919 Benvenuto's sons, Ercole (1889-1974) and Nicolo, and Giuseppe's son, Napoleone, joined the firm, creating the Vetreria Artistica Barovier, that was remarkable for its blown glass animals and murrine vases.

In 1919 Benvenuto's sons, Ercole (1889-1974) and Nicolo, and Giuseppe's son, Napoleone, joined the firm, creating the Vetreria Artistica Barovier, that became known its blown glass animals, murrine vases and, by 1929, the Primavera series of art deco style elegant vases in white glass with black handles.

Ercole Barovier took over as the artistic director of the company after World War I and the company was renamed Vetreria Artistica Barovier & C. he was able to innovate and create new chemical formulae, new colours and improved methods to manufacture glass.

The company merged with Ferro, Seguso and Toso in 1936 and in 1939 was renamed Barovier & Toso, remaining under the control of Ercole Barovier.

He remained the mainstay of firm until his death in 1972 when his son Angelo (1927 - 2008) took over. The company is still in operation under the control of Angelo.

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Barsony Ceramics, synonymous with the production of matt black coloured ceramics from the 1950s and 1960s, was an Australian ceramics manufacturing company operated by George Barsony (1917-2010) and Jean Barsony from the early 1950s to the early 1970s.

George Barsony, a sculptor from Hungary had arrived in Australia as a refugee in 1949 and shortly after, met his future wife Jean who had come to Australia from England and worked in a Sydney pottery.

Together they set up Barsony Ceramics, and the company's operations were conducted from a factory Guernsey Street, Guildford in Western Sydney from the 1950s to 1970s.

As well as manufacturing under the Barsony name, Barsony Ceramics also produced items under the Silver Cloud and Venice labels, but items under these labels very rarely come onto the market.

Decorative items produce by Barsony included candlesticks, figurines, lamp bases, ashtrays, wall hangings, bookends, figure vases, bowls etc.

Most Barsony products were marked, although there are some that have no markings. As well there are copies of Barsony products that are unmarked, and a range of similar items were made by Kalmar.

Genuine Barsony can be identified by the numbering system on the base of the item: 'H' indicated head, 'V' indicated vase', and 'L' indicated 'lamp'. Thus 'FL' indicated a figural lamp and 'HL' indicated a head lamp. These letters are followed by the model or mould number. Many of the lamps and figures are named models, such as 'Drumbeat of Trinidad' (FL-41), 'Beauty of the Beach' (F-19) and 'Sitting Black Lady' (FL39). Kalmar items had a similar marking system and it is often difficult to distinguish between the two manufacturers.

The most recognisable Barsony product are the "black lady" lamps, featuring a scantily dressed figure with red and white highlights, and collectors are able to distinguish between original shades that came with the lamp, and later replacements. The price of a lamp will be boosted if it has the original shade which, often were of plastic ribbon and raffia trimmed with thin velvet ribbon. Some of the lamp bases even had built in ash trays but the inclusion of the ashtray was a monetary not a design consideration. At that time a high sales tax was levied on ornamental items, while utilitarian items such as cups, plates and ashtrays attracted a reduced sales tax.

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Barsony Ceramics, synonymous with the production of matt black coloured ceramics from the 1950s and 1960s, was an Australian ceramics manufacturing company operated by George Barsony (1917-2010) and Jean Barsony from the early 1950s to the early 1970s.

George Barsony, a sculptor from Hungary had arrived in Australia as a refugee in 1949 and shortly after, met his future wife Jean who had come to Australia from England and worked in a Sydney pottery.

Together they set up Barsony Ceramics, and the company's operations were conducted from a factory Guernsey Street, Guildford in Western Sydney from the 1950s to 1970s.

As well as manufacturing under the Barsony name, Barsony Ceramics also produced items under the Silver Cloud and Venice labels, but items under these labels very rarely come onto the market.

Decorative items produce by Barsony included candlesticks, figurines, lamp bases, ashtrays, wall hangings, bookends, figure vases, bowls etc.

Most Barsony products were marked, although there are some that have no markings. As well there are copies of Barsony products that are unmarked, and a range of similar items were made by Kalmar.

Genuine Barsony can be identified by the numbering system on the base of the item: 'H' indicated head, 'V' indicated vase', and 'L' indicated 'lamp'. Thus 'FL' indicated a figural lamp and 'HL' indicated a head lamp. These letters are followed by the model or mould number. Many of the lamps and figures are named models, such as 'Drumbeat of Trinidad' (FL-41), 'Beauty of the Beach' (F-19) and 'Sitting Black Lady' (FL39). Kalmar items had a similar marking system and it is often difficult to distinguish between the two manufacturers.

The most recognisable Barsony product are the "black lady" lamps, featuring a scantily dressed figure with red and white highlights, and collectors are able to distinguish between original shades that came with the lamp, and later replacements. The price of a lamp will be boosted if it has the original shade which, often were of plastic ribbon and raffia trimmed with thin velvet ribbon. Some of the lamp bases even had built in ash trays but the inclusion of the ashtray was a monetary not a design consideration. At that time a high sales tax was levied on ornamental items, while utilitarian items such as cups, plates and ashtrays attracted a reduced sales tax.

View further examples of Barsony

Barye, Antoine Louis and Alfred

Antoine Louis Barye (1796-1875) and his son, Alfred Barye (1839-1882) were French sculptors, most famous for his depiction of animals,

Antoine Louis Barye was born in Paris and took up sculpture in 1817, working in the studios of Bosio & Gros.

In 1819 he took part in the competition of the Ecole des Beaux Arts where he was runner up. Barye exhibited at the Paris Salon from 1827 onwards.

In a career spanning half a century his output was prodigious; his bronzes are imbued with realism and there is meticulous attention to anatomical detail.

Alfred Barye learnt the art of sculpture and casting from his father, but he is always considered subordinate in skills to his father. He is known to have produced numerous casts of famous racehorses of the day, and exhibited a racehorse at the Paris Salon in each of the years from 1864 to 1866.

There is often confusion between the works of the two, as both father and son sometimes used the same signature. A review of the objects on this page will show some signed 'Barye' or 'A. Barye' which could be either the father or son.

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Bas Relief

Bas relief, or low relief, is a carved surface in which the figures project from the background, but only to a limited extent. When a relief is cut in from a flat surface of stone or wood, the background or field is lowered, leaving the unsculpted parts seemingly raised. There are other degrees of relief carving, including high relief and mid relief.


Basalt is a hard, dense volcanic rock formed from the rapid cooling of basaltic lava, and makes up most of the earth's oceanic crust.

However it is also the name given by Josiah Wedgwood in 1768 to a fine black unglazed porcelain which he called Wedgwood Black Basalt.

Using this fine-grained stoneware he was able to produce copies of the newly excavated Etruscan pottery from Italy, with a lustrous and smooth, surface, and this new innovation proved to be a huge commercial success.

Baskets - Silver

Although we have separate categories for various types of silver baskets according to their catalogue description - bon-bon, bread, cake, fruit, sugar and other unspecified - these baskets were variable in their uses.

They were made in a variety of shapes including circular, oval, and rectangular, mostly with a swing handle and sides pierced with geometric or scrolling shapes. Some have four feet while others stand on a rim.

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Basting Spoons

A long handled spoon, usually 30 to 35 cm long, for scooping up the meat juices in the bottom of the roasting vessel, and pouring them over the meat, to ensure the meat browned as it cooked.

Basting spoons date from the 17th century, and the early examples had a tubular tapering handle (to facilitate cooling of the handle) and a spherical end cap. However few early examples survive, as the handles easily dented or fractured and were difficult to repair.

Later examples from about 1770 to 1860 had a conventional flat handle as seen on other types of spoons of this period.

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Baton Hands

A narrow hand on a watch, sometimes also called a stick hand.

Baton Numerals

A watch that instead of displaying numerals on the face, displays a marker in the form of a baton, or lower case letter "L". Since the baton-like marks are not numerals, the feature is also called baton markers, baton indexes and baton indicators.


BCE following a number, is the abbreviation for Before the Common/Current/Christian Era and is the equivilent of "BC", so that 2013 BCE is the same as 2013 BC. The "BCE" designation has been adopted by writers wishing to be sensitive to non-Christians.

Beaconsfield Wardrobe

A type of wardrobe, usually of three sections, in which the two outer sections contain hanging space, while the centre section has a cupboard in the top section for hats, then a mirror, and then drawers below.

Beard Watson & Co.

Beard Watson & Co. were Sydney based furniture manufacturers and retailers in the early 20th century, as part of their general furnishing and homewards business.

The company commenced business in 1889 when an existing retail business was taken over and renamed by William Beard, James Watson and James Kebblewhite, and expanded into furniture manufacture when the company acquired a furniture manufacturing business in 1901.

The company established a reputation for well designed furniture of good quality, as illustrated by the items listed in this price guide.

Furniture manufacturing and retailing continued until the 1960s, and as well as the existing Sydney city store, branch stores were opened in a number of Sydney suburbs in an effort to counter declining sales in its city store.

Beard Watson was taken over Nock & Kirby in 1959 but continued to trade in its own name.

However sales continued to decline and the city store closed for good in 1973

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Bears Signature ....

A cataloguing term where the item has a signature which in the opinion of the cataloguer are not the signature of the artist and have been added by another hand.

Bed Warmers / Warming Pans

In the cold European winters, bed warmers were a welcome comfort. The pan itself was made of brass or copper, and filled with hot coals, had a long wooden handle so it could be pushed under the covers of the bed into the position of the feet. If the bed was dry, the pan had to be constantly moved so it would not scorch the sheets, but this was not always a problem as sometimes the bedding was damp. The pan assisted in drying out the bed clothes.

Some warming pans had patterns marked out in piercing to the lids, which also allowed the heat to escape.

Although metal and ceramic hot bottles haad been in use since the 16th century, it was the invention and subsequent widepread popularity of the rubber hot water bottle in 1903 that led to the demise of the bed warmer.

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Bedside Cabinets

A French decorative kingwood bedside cabinet, with floral marquetry decoration, a gallery edge and a frieze drawer below a pair of doors, on high cabriole supports.
A typical pair of Victorian burr walnut bedside chests each with four drawers supported on a plinth base, possibly sourced from the pedestals of a dressing table.

Small cupboards, usually square or rectangular though sometimes round, designed to stand one on either side of a bed. They have been made since the 18th century, but true pairs are very difficult to find. In a genuine pair, the doors should be hinged on different sides, so that the cupboard opened away from the bedside. Small chests of drawers were also made as bedside pieces. Pairs of French bedside cupboards are much more common than English or Australian pairs, which even when part of a bedroom suite, were only made as singles. Most Victorian or Edwardian pairs of bedside cupboards that come on to the market, have been made up from the pedestals of pedestal dressing tables of the period, but due to demand the fact that they are not original does not diminish their value.


Beech, a pale coloured timber, is native to temperate Europe, Asia and North America and classified as a hardwood, although comparitively "soft" when compared with oak or ash. It has long been popular with with country craftsmen, particulary chair makers, as unlike ash it is suitable for turning.


The Belleek porcelain factory was founded in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland about 1849, after landowner John Caldwell Bloomfield inherited his father's estate, and undertaking a geological survey, discovered the area was rich in minerals.

Bloomfield went into partnership with a London architect and a Dublin merchant and set up a pottery business to provide work for the tenant farmers whose lives had been decimated by the Irish potato famine.

The construction of the pottery commenced in 1858, and it included a railway line to the works, so coal could be delivered for the kilns.

The company commenced producing domestic wares, but it wasn't until 1863 that small quantities of the translucent ivory-looking porcelain for which Belleek is famous, were produced.

Belleek was popular with Queen Victoria and was displayed at the great 19th century exhibitions, and enjoyed a large export market.

Typical Belleek items include figures, vases, dishes, eggshell-thin tea services, and baskets, often with delicate open lattice-work. Marine motifs were commonly used including Neptune, shells, seaweed, mermaids, dolphins and coral and wares.

The history of the factory's output can be identified by the type and colour of the marks. A black mark was in use from 1863 to 1946 and this was superseded by a green mark. The green mark continued in use until 1980, and this was followed by a series of colours used for only short periods: gold from 1980 to 1992; dark blue from 1993 to 1996; light blue from 1997 to 1999; black again in 2000; green from 2001 to 2006; black in 2007 and then brown from 2008 onwards.

The company has changed ownership a number of times since 1884, by which time the three original owners had died, and is currently owned by Irish born American entrepreneur, Dr George G. Moore. Belleek has rebranded from the ornamental porcelain with shamrocks for which it is famous to more commercial everyday pottery through its Belleek Living range.

When buying, condition should always be checked, as Belleek objects are easily damaged due to the delicacy of the designs.

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Bench Seats

A pair of French provincial fruitwood benches, 19th century

A long, narrow wooden form, used for sitting at table or as a verandah seat.

Until the late 17th century, most people sat on benches, chairs being the preserve of the rich or the elderly, and they continued to be used in farmhouses and schoolrooms until comparatively recent times.

Benches may be either simple timber slabs through which holes have been bored for the stick legs or take increasingly elaborate and professionally constructed shapes. The church pew, in fact, is only a highly developed type of bench with the addition of a back.

Bendigo Pottery

George Guthrie, a former Glasgow potter founded the Bendigo Pottery at Epsom near Sandhurst (as Bendigo was then called) in 1858.

It was not surprising that an important pottery was established at the gold?clds, particularly as the Victorian miners had discovered good clay-fields in the course of their search for gold. Guthrie had arrived from Scotland to try his luck on the goldfields, and as a potter by trade recognised the potential of clay discoveries. .

At the 1866 Melbourne Exhibition, Guthrie was a medal winner for his collection of stonewares, particularly brown ginger-beer bottles.

Domestic and table wares were added to the range of pots and bottles. Brown ‘Rockingham' teapots, cups and saucers, decorated cream-ware jugs and basins, white parian ware ornaments, majolica vases and artistic water filters were amongst the products.

In the early 1880s Guthrie sold the pottery and returned to Scotland . He returned after a year or so, later, became managing director and then with a partner re-purchased the pottery.

He remained the driving force behind the pottery until his death in 1910.

Many of the early Bendigo wares are unmarked, one reason for this being that the public preferred to purchase imported goods.

The pottery at Epsom is still in production today, and there is a museum at the pottery that displays a selection of the early wares

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Two chairs from an unusual set of eight Thonet beech bentwood chairs, comprising six upright chairs and two elbow chairs.

The Austrian bentwood furniture designed by Michael Thonet (1796-1871) was among the 19th century's most original contributions to furniture development. Thonet used the techniques of steam-bending and the pliable nature of beech wood to make chairs, tables, hallstands, cots and so on. The furniture was simple in form, light in weight, elegant and capable of being mass produced, so that bentwood furniture was exported to many parts of the world, including Australia, following its success at the 1851 Great Exhibition. Thonet chairs, and those made by his competitor Kohn, often have paper trade labels pasted on the inside seat rail. Thonet was not the first to apply the techniques of steam bending to furniture. It was used, for example, during the 18th century by the Windsor chair makers to construct bow back or hoop back chairs, and the arched crinoline stretchers but he was the first to exploit it on such a vast commercial scale.

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Benwell, Stephen

Stephen Benwell was born in 1953 in Melbourne.

He studied at the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne State College.

in the mid 1970's he travelled and studied in the USA and Mexico and 1984-5 he was resident in Paris at the Cite lnternationale des Arts.

His first solo exhibition was at The Craft Centre, South Yarra in 1975 and since then has participated in many solo and group exhibitions.

He is represented in the Art Gallery of South Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Australian National Gallery, Canberra Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney National Gallery of Victoria, Newcastle City Art Gallery, NSW Queensland Art Gallery, Shepparton Art Gallery, and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart.

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Bergere Chair

A Louis XV style bergere with ornate relief moulded, and cream silk upholstery.

A fairly wide, deep, upholstered armchair used in the drawing room, often accompanying a settee, in the French, a canape. The form was developed in France during the mid-18th century, though it was quickly adopted by English designers such as Chippendale and Sheraton.

The seat frame is over-upholstered, but the rest of the wooden framing is exposed. It is generally carved, and of walnut if the timber is exposed. if made of an inferior timber such as beech or fruitwood, it may have a painted or gilded finish.

Berlin Wool Work

Berlin wool work is a style of needlepoint, using wool yarn on canvas. Coloured patterns on squared paper were copied onto the canvas. By using many colours and hues of wool yarn, made possible by the great progresses made in dyeing in the 1830s, embroiderers were able to produce intricate three-dimensional scenes, through careful use of shading. Popular subjects included floral designs, Victorian paintings, biblical or allegorical motifs

Berlin work was used for covering chair-backs, seats and footstools in the Victorian era.


From the establishment of the Beswick factory in Longton, Stoke on Trent in 1894, animal figures of a very high quality and at an affordable price to the collector with a modest budget. have been represented in Beswick sales catalogues and advertising material. The production of Beswick figures can be divided into two periods.

From the 1890's to the mid 1930's the Beswick factory produced, in the Staffordshire traditional form, a combination of table ware, decorative porcelain, majolica and a range of figures and animals such as generals, milkmaids, mantle dogs, cattle and horses. Critics of the time described their models to be of a higher quality than those of their precursors. Unfortunately for collectors, Beswick followed the early Staffordshire tradition of not marking their figures and as a consequence, it is very difficult to identify the names of the modellers, designers and artists from that period until the 1930's.

In 1934 after the death of his father, John (Ewart) took over as managing director and moved the company away from the production of tableware to placing a greater emphasis on figurines. And most importantly for collectors, introduced a 'shape book' and a systematic numbering catalogue recording the impressed mark and backstamp on the full range of Beswick products.

They also appointed Arthur Gredington as the company's first full time modeller in 1939. The combination of these two events created the golden age of Beswick which continued until the factory closed in 2002.

Beswick was a tight knit family firm which was renowned for its ability to produce high quality traditional Staffordshire figures and table ware from its formation in 1894. By the time John (Ewart) Beswick took over as Managing Director in 1934 the firm had prospered under three generations of Beswick management.

John, along with his Uncle Gilbert who worked alongside with him as Sales Director, worked to change the direction of the company from producing tableware to the production of figurines. This required the recruitment of a modelling team. In 1939 Arthur Gredington was appointed as the company's first full time modeller.

This was an inspired choice as the team of Ewart, Gilbert and Arthur Gredington created the Beswick golden age, which lasted to the 1990's, long after all three had left the Company Arthur Gredington's influence at Beswick was enormous. He had a great talent for modelling with his accurate and realistic creation of animals of all kinds such as horses, dogs, cats, birds, wild animals, farm animals, fish and more all of the highest quality.

He also displayed versatility and humour with his design of the wide range of Beswick story book figurines where he gave human characteristics to the story book animals. Gredington designed and modelled the first Beatrix Potter figurines in 1947 and from this base, Beswick produced a vast array of cartoon figures, character animals, Brambly Hedge and other story book figures.

Arthur Gredington retired in 1968. Ewart and Gilbert Beswick, with no successors to take over the business, sold to Royal Doulton in 1969. However, such was his skill and talent, that many of Gredington's models remained in production to ensure that the Beswick factory continued to produce the highest quality figurines until the factory closed in 2002.

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Beswick Figurines

A Beswick figurine 'Walking Racehorse and Jockey' model 1039.

From the establishment of the Beswick factory in Longton, Stoke on Trent in 1894, animal figures of a very high quality and at an affordable price to the collector with a modest budget have been represented in Beswick sales catalogues and advertising material.

The production of Beswick figures can be divided into two periods.

From the 1890's to the mid 1930's the Beswick factory produced, in the Staffordshire traditional form, a combination of tableware, decorative porcelain, majolica and a range of figures and animals such as generals, milkmaids, mantle dogs, cattle and horses.

Critics of the time described their models to be of a higher quality than those of their precursors.

Unfortunately for collectors, Beswick followed the early Staffordshire tradition of not marking their figures and as a consequence, it is very difficult to identify the names of the modellers, designers and artists from that period until the 1930's.

In 1934 after the death of his father, John Ewart took over as managing director and moved the company away from the production of tableware to placing a greater emphasis on figurines, and most importantly for collectors, introduced a 'shape book' and a systematic numbering catalogue recording the impressed mark and backstamp on the full range of Beswick products.

They also appointed Arthur Gredington as the company's first full time modeller in 1939. The combination of these two events created the golden age of Beswick which continued until the factory closed in 2002.

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Bevel / Chamfer

An edge that is not at right angles to the nearest edge, but slopes at another angle, sometimes 45 degrees, but can be more or less. A bevel or chamfer is used in furniture making to soften the easily damaged sharp surface that would be created by a right angle join. In mirrors and glass, a less-angled bevel is used to accentuate the lines of the surrounding frame.


On a clock or watch, the bezel is the metal frame into which the watch or clock glass is fitted. In clocks, the bezel may include a hinge and a flange, in effect a door to the face of the clock. In jewellery the bezel is a band of metal with a projecting lip that holds the gemstone in its setting.

Bible Box

A lidded box, often made of oak or walnut with incised carving, designed to hold the family bible with its record of births, deaths and marriages. They were sometimes set on a stand and were popular in the 17th and 18th century, although there are also 19th century examples.

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Biedermeier, Empire and Art Deco have shared roots.

Often misunderstood, Biedermeier is a period 1815-1848 , that squarely sits between war and revolutions. It is a period that is not named after a royal personage, nor a fabulously talented designer or a gifted individual furniture maker. The name was coined AFTER that period passed. The name is made up of two words joined together: Bieder- ( meaning simple)and Meier ( a common German name) . It was first coined in a publication of a cartoon like character "Papa Biedermeier" illustrated in "The Flying Pages" a german periodical newspaper. He was a simple character and was quite oblivious to the world around him , a very decent chap with introspective tendencies, who didn't want to trouble anyone else.

Occupation and Empire

Under the French Imperial occupation by Napoleon's troops in Austria and the, as yet to be united, Germanic states in early 1800's , the French Empire style exerted much influence on architecture and design. However the Empire formality did not sit easy amongst the middles classes nor the farmers or workers . It reminded them of the foreign powers controlling their homelands. Various characteristics of the Empire style were however enduring and were adopted by the royalty and the nobility. However it was the growing middle class that really developed and grew the Biedermeier style from its Empire origins. With the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 the liberated germanic peoples sought a simple less grand style on a more human scale. The ancient Roman architectural influences of the Empire style was not lost but flourished in a reinterpretation and triumphed with Berlin's most gifted architect of the time Karl Friedrich Schinkel. His many designs can still be seen today and one of the best examples is the princely conversion of a farm house in Potsdam to an elegant pleasure palace Charlottenhof . The neoclassicism world was definitely still the main source for inspiration.

Biedermeier Begins 1815

With Napoleon no longer in control, the rulers and their minions of the liberated germanic states, such as Metternich in Austria, tightened the reigns of the freedoms that were part of the "Code Napoleon" the legacy of the French Emperor. This suppression led to the growing middle classes wanting more elegant neoclassical interiors in which to entertain family and close friends in private. This growing demand of the more affluent middle classes for Biedermeier furniture also increased the appreciation and use of indigenous materials. Expensive imported mahogany from the Americas was taxed as it passed through each state, so that only the truely wealthy could afford this timber in Holland, port of entry, and Vienna and Berlin. Gilt bronze mounts were also imported but reserved only for the most wealthy houses and palaces. For Biedermeier furniture , local timbers such as elm, walnut , cherrywood, ash and pine were in great demand. The pale colours gave rise to an opportunity to contrast with ebonised inlay and details. Ebonising was a way of staining and polishing black in order to imitate expensive ebony wood. The ebonised contrasting details to carvings was a reinterpretation of Empire style's gilt bronze mounts which were used to great effect. It was also less expensive to produce and gave a beautiful original look to Biedermeier furniture. Regency period publications from England were highly sought after as the neoclassical inspiration for design . It also allowed for a non french style to spread within Europe, something that had not happened for many centuries because Paris led the way in all things style until the 19th century. Design elements such as the usual neoclassical paraphernalia consisting of columns, scrolls, lions heads and lions paw feet, sabre and taper legs swags and garlands, diamond or chevrons and inlaid straight lines were all very popular. Handles were rare as it interfered with the minimalistic simplicity of the architectural form of furniture , however lock smiths and key manufacturers were in their element producing the finest works of the age. This is why many Biedermeier pieces are often mistaken for more modern Art Deco. Drawers would be opened and closed with an elegant key allowing for security of the goods locked within. See image above. Despite the gloom of having little personal liberties or freedom of speech during the Biedermeier period, bourgeoisie interiors were very colourful, a reflection of their new found wealth. The MAK in Vienna houses a fabulous collection of period Biedermeier fabrics that are so colourful it would make a bubble gum manufacturer wince ! The germanic pale timber furniture contrasts nicely with all this colour . Its ebonised details and contrasting inlays even influenced the French under Charles X and Louis Philippe to imitate this sober german style. Biedermeier spread north into Russia and especially Scandinavia where it was much embraced by Swedish cabinetmakers using indigenous birch timbers. It became known as Karl Johan, named after the former French Marshal who changed allegiances from Napoleonic France to Sweden. His family stills reigns in Stockholm to this day.

Biedermeier period ends 1848

Sadly as with most period styles , what appealed to one generation, was soon discarded by the next in favour of the new. In 1845 and again in 1848, liberalistic revolutions swept across Europe and the slow blending of rococo influences became full blood with the revival of historicism in design. Victorian furniture styles became adopted throughout Europe and craftsmanship declined due to mass production and lack of quality materials. In general the second half of the 19th century saw a confusion and revival and blending of previous styles. This era produced most of what the Antiques trade terms "brown shipping furniture". Sadly as often happens with older furniture, the Biedermeier pieces were relegated to the attic or to country house until.........

Biedermeier revival and Art Deco early 1900's

With the approaching new century towards the end of the 1800's there was a desire to embrace a new style. In 1898 the Applied Arts Museum in vienna held the first retrospective exhibition of the Biedermeier period. Examples of quality furniture and interiors including costumes and fabrics were dusted off and proudly displayed. This newly re-discovered design period had a fascinating effect on the European world of interiors. For the first time a new generation learnt that this modern clean and human scale furniture was not only comfortable to live with but with its lightness and colours inspired a new way of living. Original period pieces from the Dannhauser furniture factory were once again looked after and on displayed, thanks to the vast collection at the Hofmöbelsammlung in Vienna. This exhibition created a new interest and hence demand for revival period Biedermeier style furniture. Its popularity was short-lived however from 1900-1915. The Great War interrupted many things and from it was born a new machine age style, the Art Deco period. Although coined after the French exhibition : "International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts" held in Paris in 1925, the Art Deco style owes many influences to Biedermeier designs. The two periods are often confused and that's really nice if you know what to look for ....

Contributed by Oliver von Wilpert, Director The Empire Company Pty Ltd.



Bijouterie Table (table Vitrine, Display Table)

A bijouterie table is designed to store and display a collection of small valuable items. In French usuage, a bijouterie magasin refers to a jewellery shop. Bijouterie tables are also called table vitrines, and display tables.

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Birch is a Northern Hemisphere hardwood, closely related to the beech/oak family, and was a timber popular with 18th centuury craftsmen. Because of the blonde-golden colour of the grain when polished and its close grain, as a veneer it is often used as a substitute for satinwood where cost savings are required. From the late 18th century cabinetmakers in Russia and Eastern Europe used it in the solid for chairs and other furniture.

Karelian birch is birch with a burr grain that resembles marble, from the Karelia region between Finland and Russia. Because only 30% to 40% of seeds result in trees with Karelian birch features, and the fact that it is very slow growing, the timber is very expensive.

Bird Cage Base

In Australia, the term is commonly used to describe the base of a Victorian loo table or games table, where the turned pillars making up the 'birdcage' sometimes extended from the pedestal block at the top, the knees on the legs.

Another more desirable type of birdcage base has four carved supports at the edge of the table, extending to the stem just above the legs.


One of the best known and most widely used Australian timbers, blackwood is a member of the Acacia (wattle) family and grows in eastern Australia from about Adelaide in South Australia, as far north as Cairns in Queensland.

The largest, straightest and tallest trees come from the wet forest and swamps of north-west Tasmania where it is grown commercially.

Blackwood timber colours range across a wide spectrum, from a very pale honey colour through to a dark chocolate with streaks of red tinge. However, the straight grain timber is not the most prized or valuable, that honour falls to blackwood with a wavy, fiddleback pattern, which is used both in the solid and as a veneer. Fiddleback was only used on the finest examples of furniture.

The timber became popular for furniture-making around 1880 and its use has continued in limited quantities to the present time.

Blakebrough, Les

Les Blakebrough was born in 1930 in England.

He studied ceramics at East Sydney Technical College.

From 1960 until 1972 he was manager of Sturt Pottery, Mittagong, NSW, later becoming director of Sturt Craft Centre.

In 1963-4 he studied in Kyoto, Japan with Takeichi Kawai.

He was a foundation member of the Crafts Board of the Australia Council.

In 1973 he joined the staff of the Ceramic Department, School of Art, Hobart, and established a private workshop at Mt Nelson. He has conducted workshops in all Australian states, New Zealand and the USA on a regular basis since 1975.

He is represented in all Australian state galleries, the Australian National GaIIery, Canberra, Ballarat and Shepparton Regional Galleries, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston and Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart.

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Blanc De Chine

‘Blanc de Chine’ literally translates as "white from China". The pieces are made from a pure, white porcelain with a very smooth glaze and have been made since the 16th century to the present day, at the kilns in Dehua in the Chinese province of Fujian.

Large quantities of Blanc de Chine’ were exported to Europe as Chinese export porcelain in the early 18th century and Blanc de Chine was copied by European potteries including Bing & Grondahl, Herend, Meissen, Royal Copenhagen, Royal Worcester and others. It was also exported to Japan in large quantities.

The most common shapes are devotional objects including small figures of Ho-tai (Buddha) and Guanyin, the Chinese goddess of mercy. Early pieces tend to have a warmer, ivory tinge, whilst later pieces are ‘colder’ white or have a blue tinge.

Blanket Chest

A pine blanket chest with iron handles to the sides.

A large wooden trunk, also known as a blanket box, in which clothes and blankets were stored. Examples dating from the 16th and 17th centuries may be elaborately carved, though these decorations are often 19th century 'improvements'.

Blanket chests were an essential household item during Australian pioneering days when sophisticated furniture was relatively scarce. The 19th century chests were much plainer than the earlier panelled versions. Many were brought to Australia by immigrants, although many made from red cedar or kauri pine still survive. The chests usually have flat wooden tops (distinguishing them from sea chests which were frequently domed), and in the better versions the side joints are dovetailed. 'Blanket chest' is a fairly broad term, since the trunks were used for storing all kinds of household effects. Carpenters' tool chests, which resemble blanket chests, often have small divisions and partitions with small drawers let into the base of the chest. The trunks today are very often sought after as convenient coffee tables such things being an entirely 20th century innovation.

Blind Fret

Fretwork that is attached to a solid timber frame or panel, so that the section does not appear to be completely pierced. Often found on 18th century furniture in the Chinese taste and on the canted corners of tallboys or longcase clocks.

Block Feet

Block feet are usually found on square or sometimes tapered legs. Although the basic block foot is square on all sides, there are variations including a tapered block foot, moulded block foot and carved block foot.

Blue & White

Large 19th century unmarked Staffordshire blue and white transfer printed meat dish with a European pattern.

Blue and white patterns became popular in China in the early 14th century during the Ming Dynasty and were hand painted.

The majority of the blue and white ware found and collected today in Australia is of English and European origin and dates from the late 18th century onwards, when the development of transfer-printing led to a huge expansion in production.

Chinese scenes, floral motifs, scenes incorporating classical architecture and pastoral themes are prevalent.

Blue and white ware was not made by a single maker, but was produced by many factories, with Spode and Wedgwood being the most prolific. Much blue and white ware was made by Staffordshire factories and is unmarked.

Plates are probably the most widely collected form as the surface shows the pattern to its best advantage. Platters and dishes are also popular for the same reason, but are larger and take up more display space.

The pattern depicted will affect value and desirability – a plate with the ‘Willow’ pattern will be worth less than one with a rarer design. Size is also important – large pieces are usually more valuable, but certain shapes are rarer and therefore more desirable.

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Bobbin Turning

This turning resembles a series of compressed spheres, not unlike a row of beads or bobbins. Commonly associated with Jacobean-style furniture, bobbin turning is also found on a wide variety of small cedar and pine tables and washstands made in Australia during the late 19th century and up to the first world war.

Bog Oak

A Victorian bog oak locket and chain, the locket of carved scroll and foliate design suspended from a fancy link necklace of oval and rectangular links .

Bog oak and other bog timbers originate in up to 10 metres deep, that were formed from forests where the natural growth had been overtaken by peat-forming plants from which the bogs were created, and which preserved the trunks and main branches of trees.

The woods became very dark, almost like coal, stained by the tannins dissolved in the acidic water.

Bog wood represents the early stages in the fossilisation of the wood, with further stages ultimately forming lignite and coal over a period of many millions of years.

Bog wood is traditionally associated with Ireland but is also found in England and Scotland.

Bog oak was popular in the 19th century for decorative jewellery and other small items, and a souvenir trade based in Dublin using bog wood was active during that time.

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Bohemian Glass

Bohemian glass, famous for its beauty and colour, has been in production since the 13th century, aided by the abundant natural resources found in the countryside, including potash which combined with chalk created a clear glass, wood to fire the kilns, as well as limestone and silica.

Bohemia became part of Czechoslovakia from 1918, and from 1993, part of the Czech Republic, although the word 'Bohemia' and variations on it continued in use in labeling glass.

By the mid 18th century Bohemian glass dominated world production and in the 19th century Bohemia became the centre for production of new types of coloured glass, including hyalith, lithyaylin, annagrun and annagelb.

'Mary Gregory' glass, in popular belief originated from a lady by that name either in America that painted scenes of children on ruby, blue or green glass using a white enamel paint mixed with ground glass, actually originated in Bohemia, and was a major export in the mid and latter quarter of the 19th century.

Mary Gregory glass, like many glass items from Bohemia does not carry a permanent manufacturers mark. If there was a paper label attached when it left the factory, the label has been worn or washed off during its many years of use.

As well as the unmarked items that are grouped under the general name of 'Bohemian glass', branded Bohemian based manufacturers and designers included well known names such Loetz and Moser and lesser known factories such as Kralik, Prachen and Rudolfova.

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Bombe Front

More commonly associated with a dome shaped dessert, "bombe" in furniture parlance means "puffed out". In profile the piece is serpentine shaped, narrow at the top, swelling out towards the middle and continuing to the floor, though sometimes it narrowed again at the foot. Drawer fronts are curved in section. Bombe pieces are often highly decorated with marquetry inlay, or veneered and set with brass or ormolu mounts. The most common use of the word, is in the description of the 'bombe commode'.

The bombe is a style more usually associated with European furniture rather than English, and almost never with Australian furniture. Commonly found on chests, commodes and some secretaires of the late 17th and early 18th century.


A small elaborate lidded container for holding sweets (bon bons) used in the 18th century and 19th century. Most commonly they were circular in shape, about 6 to 9 cm in diameter and 2 or 3 cm high. However other shapes such as egg, rectangular and a circular legged bowl are seen.

Generally expensive materials were used in their manufacture including gold and silver, enamel, tortoiseshell, ceramics and minerals such as nephrite, bowenite, rock crystal.

To illustrate the prices at the top end of the market, Christie's London in 2004 sold a Saxon hardstone and gold bonbonniere inlaid with 57 numbered specimens of hardstones including a variety of dendritic and banded agates, By Johann-Christian Neuber, Circa 1785/1790, for £265,250 (US$424,400 at the time). At the other end of the market, less expensive examples sold in London can fetch only £100 or £200.

A simpler variation in the 19th century were those in glass or ceramics, in the form of a footed bowl with a lid.

Very few bonbonnieres appear on the Australian market.


Bone China

Bone china, Also called 'English china", is one of the three types of porcelain, the other two being soft paste porcelain and hard paste porcelain.

Porcelain is an ancient ceramic material, first made in China, hence the common name "china", and the introduction of bone china was to counter the imports of Chinese porcelain.

The initial development of bone china is credited to Josiah Spode, who introduced it around 1800 and it was soon after copied by other manufacturers including Minton, Coalport, Davenport, Derby, Worcester, Wedgwood and Rockingham and the Herculaneum factory at Liverpool.

The name bone china relates to the inclusion of animal bone into the clay. Bone china is the toughest of porcelains and is hard, resilient and an ivory white in color. It remains the standard for porcelain manufactured in England.

Bonheur, Isidore-Jules

Isidore-Jules Bonheur, mare and foal, bronze, modelled as a standing mare with her foal, on an oval base.

Isidore Jules Bonheur (1827-1901) was born in Bordeaux, the third child of Raymond Bonheur and brother of Rosa Bonheur, also a sculptor. In 1849 he enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, though he had made his debut at the Paris Salon the previous year.

He was both a painter and a sculptor, but is better known for the latter. He produced numerous small bronzes of animals, mainly sheep and cattle, as well as larger studies of groups of horses.

He exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy in London and won a medal in 1889.

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A French 18th century Louis XVI mahogany bonheur du jour.

A lady's small writing table, with an upper, usually glass-fronted cabinet containing drawers, pigeonholes and other storage. Very feminine and elegant, the form was first introduced in France in the mid-18th century, although it was quickly taken up by the English cabinetmakers. The style continued to be made throughout the 19th century, very often ebonised with gilt mounts and porcelain plaque inserts. The term literally means 'happiness of the day', and it was presumably at such a desk that the society matron both read and wrote her morning letters.


A traditonal Victorian burr walnut and marquetry bookcase.
An early 19th century mahogany open bookcase, with three adjustable shelves.
An oak and pollard oak veneered revolving bookcase, English, late 19th century.

The glass-fronted bookcase entered the English cabinetmakers' repertoire about the mid-17th century, and the bookcase in one form or another has been an indispensable part of the civilized person's home ever since.The 17th century bookcase tended to be a glazed cabinet from plinth to pediment, with square glass panes. The later Stuart period saw the introduction of the bureau bookcase or the secretaire bookcase, where the bookshelves were double-heightened above a desk or cupboard base. Early bureau bookcases often had mirror or blind-panelled door fronts, although these have frequently been replaced with clear glass panes. During the Regency period, the fashion arose for small cabinet bookcases, rarely more than three feet in height, which left the walls clear for hanging prints and pictures, known in the trade as a 'dwarf bookcase'. Such bookcases were sometimes open at the front, others had elegant brass-grille doors, backed by pleated silk. A bookcase without doors is known in the trade as an 'open bookcase'. The revolving bookcase was invented during the 18th century. Small enough to stand on the floor beside a chair, it was an ideal companion for the bookworm, and is still being made. A large number of these were made from the 1930s to the 1950s for sale with a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. However in the market place revolving bookcases are scarce.In Australia bookcases tended to follow the fashionable British designs. The finest examples were made in cedar, sometimes veneered with rarer native species. Others, towards the later part of the colonial period, were made of pine, frequently stained or varnished, and featuring the typical Edwardian machine carvings in the pediments and lower door panels.


Boulle work is the name given to tortoiseshell and metal inlay using brass and sometimes silver, found on furniture and smaller wooden objects. It originated in Italy but was developed by Frenchman Andre Charles Boulle (1642 - 1732) under Louis XIV.

Boulle was appointed Royal Cainet Maker to Louis XIV and designed furniture and clockcases for the monarch.

In preparation, the tortoiseshell and metal were cut together following a design, using a fine fret saw.

In the application of the Boulle, the carcase of piece of furniture was covered with the tortoiseshell which in turn was inlaid with the matched designs in metal, which in turn was elaborately engraved.

The use of Boulle work furniture continued mainly in France until the 19th century.

Bow Front

The front is shaped in a gentle curve or bow. Introduced during the 18th century, the bow-front is associated with furniture of the Hepplewhite and Sheraton period, though of course the form continued to be used throughout the 19th century. Bow-fronted pieces are usually veneered, although some were cut from the solid wood. Where veneer is used, the carcase is cut either from pine or deal, or sometimes the front was built up and shaped with small timber 'bricks'. Commonly used on various types of furniture including chairs, settees, chests, side tables, sideboards and display cabinets.


Bowenite is a semi-precious stone, usually light or dark green, but also found in colors ranging from light yellow, canary yellow, brown, blue and gray. One of the largest deposits is in the South Island of New Zealand, where it was used for tools, weapons and jewellery by the Maori, and known as greenstone and tangiwai. Other deposits are in South Africa and China.


With drinking glasses, the bowl is the hollow section of the glass that holds the liquid. Many glasses were mounted on a stem joined to a foot, others were cylindrical, of tumbler shape. The size and shape of the bowl was determined by the type of liquids they were meant to hold. Shapes used included bell shaped, conical (funnel), bucket shaped, trumpet, cup, ogee, funnel, cylindrical and rounded.


Boxwood is a hard, yellow coloured, close grained timber. In the 19th century it was often used for inlays, especially stringing, because of its contrasting colour to the darker timbers of the carcase. Stringing is the inlay of a narrow strip of veneer of a lighter colour, such as boxwood along or close to the edges of an object that has been veneered in a darker timber such as mahogany.

Because of its fine grain and resistnce to splitting or chipping it has also been used for treen, turnings, carvings and other small wooden items, such as chess pieces.

Boyd, Arthur Merric Bloomfield

A member of one of the most distinguished 'art' families of Australia. Born in 1920, he was instructed by his father, William Merric Boyd, in the art of ceramics, and painting in the Heidelberg tradition by his grandfather.

During the 1930's Boyd came into contact with the modern movement and was brought into touch with the Contemporary Art Society by Albert Tucker. One of Australia's most important artists, Boyd died in 1999.

Boyd, David

Born in Victoria in 1924, David Boyd is the son of William Merric Boyd. Following army service, he studied at Melbourne University Conservatorium of Music and at the National Gallery School.

His first distinction was as a potter, briefly with the Martin Boyd pottery, and later with his wife, Hermia. The pair held their first exhibition in Sydney in 1948.

His first serious painting commenced with the Explorer series in 1957. Since then he has held over 40 major exhibitions throughout Australia and in London and France.

David Boyd's paintings are widely represented in public and private collections in Australia, America and England.

David Boyd died in 2011.

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Boyd, Guy

Born in Murrumbeena, Victoria in 1923, Guy Martin A'Becket Boyd was known as a potter and sculptor. After extensive training in the family pottery conducted by his father, William Merric Boyd, he moved to Sydney and founded the Martin Boyd pottery.

In 1965 he left the commercial pottery to become a full-time sculptor, holding his first exhibition in Sydney in 1966. He has since had over 20 exhibitions throughout Australia and London. Guy Boyd died in 1988.

Boyd, Merric

Born in Melbourne in 1888, William Merric Boyd, known as Merric Boyd, a sculptor, first studied drawing at the Melbourne National Gallery School.

After successful experiments in pottery he built a pottery at the family home at Murrumbeena, near Melbourne, and soon became recognised as Australia's first art potter. After a period with the Australian Flying Corps during World War I, he spent some time working in the Staffordshire Potteries in England and on his return to Australia consolidated his reputation as Australia's finest potter. He is still regarded as the 'father of Australian pottery'.

Ill-health forced him to give up pottery in later life and he then concentrated on drawing. A book of his later drawings was published in 1975. William Merric Boyd died in 1959.

Bracket Clock

Bracket clocks were clocks that were supplied with an accompanying bracket matching the style of clock, that was fixed to the wall for the clock to stand on. Sometimes the bracket contained a compartment or drawer for key.

Many of these clock have probably been separated from their brackets, and nowadays it is a more general term applied to a clock designed for sitting on a mantle.

Bracket Feet

On bracket feet the corner edge is square and joined by a mitre to its partner on the opposite angle. The inner edge is usually shaped or scalloped. Bracket feet were first introduced in the early 18th century and used until c. 1830 and are found on carcase furniture such as chests, cabinets, bookcases and bureaux.

Ogee bracket feet, a variation on straight bracket feet, have the outside edge forming an "S" shaped curve with the top bulging outward and the bottom turning inward.

On splayed bracket feet, the exterior edge curves outward.

Bramah Locks

A patented high security high quality lock, invented in 1784 by Joseph Bramah, and designed a lock mechanism operated by a tubular key, of such complexity and security, that he put it in his shop window and offered a reward of 200 guineas to anyone who could open it. In 1787 Joseph Bramah’s lock patent was granted with 479,001,600 keys required to open it under all its variations.

Genuine Bramah locks are stamped with the makers name on the top face of the lock, and are easily recognisable because the circular brass barrel of the lock, also forms the escutcheon, and protrudes front the front to which it is fitted.

Bramah locks were used by the best furniture makers of the period, such as Gillows, most commonly from about 1820 onwards, the use of the lock being restricted presumably due to their cost. If an item of furniture is fitted with a Bramah lock, it is generally an indication it is a quality piece.

Brannam Pottery

An Art Nouveau vase by Brannam Pottery marked C.H. Brannam, Barum and dated 1900, the baluster shape decorated with sgraffito, slipped trailing and pecking of fishes, with two handles.

Brannam Pottery was founded by Thomas Brannam in Barnstaple in Devon in 1847 and made household items such as floor tiles, bricks and sewage pipes.

His artistic son Charles began work at the pottery at the age of 12 in 1867, and in 1879 he began to produce more fashionable art potter, which was often known as ‘Royal Barum Ware’.

Brannam's art pottery was decorated with carved and sgraffito patterns that revealed the red body of the objects.

Blue and green were the favourite glazes, and curving marine forms reflected the influence of Art Nouveau.

Charles Brannam inherited the pottery on his father's death, and in turn passed it to his two sons in 1913, who continued to be involved in the pottery until 1979.

The pottery continued oprating under the name of C. H. Brannam & Sons Ltd. Until it closed in 2005.

Brass and Iron Beds

As early as 1833, J.C. Loudon in his Encyclopedia was singing the praises of the wrought or cast iron bedstead, partly because they were less likely to 'harbour vermin', and partly because of their cheapness. The iron beds were made in a variety of designs stump beds (with short ends not intended to have curtains), tent beds, half tester and four-poster beds.

The early iron beds were usually fairly plain, except perhaps for the brass knobs at the top of each post. With the advances in manufacturing techniques during ,the 19th century, the beds became more elaborate. Some were made of solid brass, others of iron coated with brass. The cast-iron beds were usually painted black or sometimes white, but assumed more and more decorative features. Brass circles, fitted with glass or mirrors, brass sleeves, brass or painted china spindles (known to the trade as 'porcelains'), mother-of-pearl inlay, brass rods and finials were all used to ornament the bed. Some iron beds had decorative wrought, cast or pierced designs in the end panels. Plain, cheap iron beds of course continued to be made either for servants or for children.

The top and foot of each bed were fitted together with bars (known as 'irons'), having shaped ends that slotted into matching female sections in the cast crosspiece. The great advantage of the brass and iron beds, apart from their cheapness, was that they could be easily dismantled and great quantities were exported to the colonial markets. The illustrated catalogues of the period show that the brass and iron bed was virtually a standard household possession until the late 1920s, and the designs show relatively little change over those made half a century before.

The four-poster or tester bed had curtains draped on all sides of the bed. The half tester or Italian bedstead had high posts at the head but only short posts at the foot, where most of the decorative brass work was lavished. The wire mattress bases on most bedsteads were separate and supported on an iron or wooden frame attached to the bed with bolts. Small upright brackets on the side irons prevented the base from slipping. Early bases were mainly flat, crossed pieces of thin metal. The head posts were sometimes further strengthened with serpentine-shaped brackets fitting into the post and side iron, sometimes known as 'pillow brackets'. They certainly prevent the pillow from falling off the bed.

Breakfast Table

From the 16th to the 18th century, breakfast and supper were generally eaten in the bedroom or small parlour, so early examples of breakfast tables are small.

As defined by Chippendale in the 'Director', third edition the breakfast table was a small four legged table with two hinged flaps to extend the top, making it easy to unobtrusivly store when not in use, and sometimes with fretwork decoration to the stretchers.

In the late 18th century and early 19th century, breakfast became a more sociable affair, and the breakfast table morphed into a circular table in mahogany, rosewood or highly figured walnut with a tilt-top, on a single pedestal base. The same table could also be called a supper table, but not a loo table, as they are generally oval in shape.


A design generally found in larger pieces of furniture, such as bookcases, wardrobes and some sideboards. The line of the front is interrupted by the middle section standing out from each end. In a reverse breakfront, the centre section is recessed behind each end. Breakfronted pieces are usually made in three sections the middle and the two wings which are held together by the cornice and pediment, and the plinth on which it stands. The sensible buyer should show caution before buying breakfront pieces, especially bookcases, which are highly desirable and expensive. Always check that the timber, colour, patination, backboards, decoration and thickness of the wood are same in each section.

Bretby Art Pottery / Tooth & Co.

The Bretby Art Pottery, also known as Tooth & Co., was established in 1883 at Woodville in South Derbyshire, England, and the following year that the distinctive 'Sunburst' trade mark was registered

The early Bretby output had a close affinity to the Linthorpe pottery, where the founder of the company, Henry Tooth had previously been employed.

In the late 1880s, Bretby began producing a distinctive pottery known as 'Copperette', because it simulated hammered copper, and around 1900 Bretby commenced producing simulated bronze pottery, with imitation cabochon gems applied to the surface.

In the early 1900s, "Clantha ware" was evolved, with its distinctive black matt glaze, decorated in angular patterns.

Production at the Bretby Pottery declined in the early 1900s, and ceased production in 1920.

Brilliant Cut

In their naturally occuring state diamonds have little life or sparkle and for many centuries were simply cut in half and worn in amulets. Invented at the end of the 17th century by a Venetian diamond cutter, a "brilliant cut" diamond has 58 facets arranged in a regular geometric relationship.

The introduction of the brilliant cut increased the popularity of diamonds in jewellery as it was the first cut to reveal the fire of the diamond, with the light being internally reflected from one facet to another, and was superior to the previously used table cut and rose cut. variants to the brilliant cut have emerged since the end of the 17th century, but the popularity of the original brilliant cut has continued to the present time, where it is still the most commonly found cut..


Brise Fan

A brise fan consists of flat ribs that become wider from the rivet to the top, and are held in place by a ribbon threaded through slots at the broad end. They do not have a folding leaf. The earliest brise fans came from China and Japan, and were exported to Europe in large quantities from the 17th century onwards. European-made brise fans, an imitation of the delicate Chinese wooden and ivory fans, were composed of thinly-sliced sticks of bone, horn, tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl, or ivory that were often elaborately carved, gilded, and painted.


Britains Set 2109 Pipe Band of the Black Watch, circa 1956, plastic drums, including pipe major, drum major, two tenor drummers and bass drummer with tiger skin aprons, four side drummers, twelve ordinary pipers, in red Roan box

Britains was established c1860 by William Britain (1826 – 1906) in northeast London and, in the early 1890s, began to specialize in the manufacture of toy soldiers.

Britain’s son William Britain Junior (1860 – 1933) is credited with having invented the hollow casting process which, and in 1893 applied it to the manufacture of toy soldiers, giving the company a competitive edge.

By 1906 virtually all the toy soldiers in the Christmas catalogue of the London toy store Gamages that supplied toys by mail order all over the world were made by Britains. They were marketed as "English-made", giving them a competitive edge over toys made in Europe.

The hollow cast figures, being of a standard size were ideal for war simulations, and Britains were renowned for the accuracy of uniforms and equipment.

The models were sold in high gloss bright red boxes and having the original packaging adds to the value for a collector.

By the 1960s plastic had become the predominant material of manufacture and in 1966, due to safety regulations and the high manufacturing cost, production of hollow cast figures came to an end.

Throughout the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s Britains continued, producing a range of plastic farm animals and complementary diecast vehicles, and in the ’90s introduced a new range of metal toy soldiers in the old traditional uniforms.

In 1997 Britains was purchased by the Ertl Company, Germany, and after another change of ownership, was purchased in 2005 by First Gear, an American company that makes die-cast collectables. The models are still sold under the W. Britain brand.

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Britannia Standard

A higher grade of silver than sterling silver. Britannia standard silver contains at least 958 parts per thousand of pure silver, while sterling silver contains at least 925 parts per thousand of pure silver.

The Britannia standard was obligatory in Britain between 1697 and 1720 and after that was optional, so there are very few silver items that come onto the market that are Britannia standard.

Not to be confused with silver plated Britannia metal items, often marked as "EPBM", a pewter type alloy, that when unplated can be temporarily polished to a silver-like lustre.

Broken Arch

An arch at the top of the clock, usually of half circle shape where the diameter is less than that of the frame from which it rises. The area in the broken arch may contain one or more subsidiary dials, the makers name, strike / silent mechanism, automata, phases of the moon or a painted scene. This design feature is found mainly on bracket clocks and longcase clocks.


An alloy of copper and tin, traditionally in the proportions of about 9 parts of copper to 1 part of tin.

The discovery of bronze in Western Asia in the 4th century enabled people to create metal objects which were superior to those previoulsy possible because of its strength and hardness, and it has been used throughout the world for weapons, coins, tools, statuary and other decorative items.

It is very fluid in a molten state, and its hardness, strength when set, and non-corrosive properties makes it most suitable for casting sculpture.

Brushing Slide

A slide, situated just below the top of a chest of drawers, above the upper drawer and pulled out by two small brass loop-handles. Found mainly on 18th century chests of drawers, the slide is regarded as a key indication of period. Presumably the flat surface of the slide was used to put brushes on while doing one's hair, though Sheraton also refers to it as a 'writing slide'.


As an English or Australian made item, it is a term applied to 20th century dining room sideboard or side table, usually with shelves for dishes and plates, enclosed by cupboards. It generally has a mirrored back, cutlery drawers, and stands on turned or cabriole legs. See also court cupboard for the 17th century version.

As a French made item, the term is applied to a simply made cupboard, most commonly made in the 19th century, usually without a back, with two drawers to the upper section and two cupboards below.

See also buffet deux corps.

Buffet Deux Corps

A buffet deux corps translates as a "two-section buffet". The most common form is of a two-section two door cupboard, with the lower part being deeper than the top part, and often with a recessed area between the top and bottom sections.

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Bun Feet

Similar to ball feet, though somewhat compressed or flattened in appearance. Introduced during the late 17th century, but they have been used on furniture up to the present day


A desk, with a sloping fall front lid supported, when in use, by lopers or chains. Less commonly. the bureau may have a tambour top or roll top. Bureaux have been made from the late 17th century. The interior of the desk was fitted with small drawers and pigeonholes. The lower part of the cabinet may consist either of drawers or cupboard space.

A bureau is distinguished from a secretaire by the method of concealment of the writing surface. A secretaire, which serves much the same purpose, usually has the writing section disguised as a drawer, that may be pulled out and the writing surface let down on brass quadrant slides

Bureau Plat

A flat-topped writing table originating in France in the late 17th century. The top is usually inset with leather and there are small drawers in the frieze or apron. The form is usually elaborately veneered and inlaid with marquetry and fitted with high quality brass or ormolu mounts. Many versions, often ebonised, were made during the Victorian period in the Rococo style, and continue to be made in the same style, at the present time.

Burleigh Ware

Burleigh Ware golf jug, with the handle in shape of a golfer in full swing.

Burleigh was founded in 1851 as Hulme & Booth in Burslem, Stafordshire, named after the founders, and then renamed ‘Burgess & Leigh’, after names of the new owners when the pottery changed hands in 1862.

Until the 1920s, it primarily produced toiletware, but expanded its tableware ranges in the 1920s and 1930s, and these are regarded as the firm's golden years.

The new brightly decorated, hand-painted and enamelled designs were very popular, with most patterns being designed by art director Harold Bennett. Other designers included Charles Wilkes, Ernest Baily and Charlotte Rhead who was employed from 1926 to 1931.

Their range of jugs with sculptural handles in the form of animals, birds and figures are as popular with collectors today as they were with the 1930s public.

The business was sold in 1999 and then again in 2010 when it was acquired by the company producing Denby Pottery.

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Burmese Glass

Burmese glass is an opaque art glass ranging in colour from pale yellow to a rich pink, due to the addition of gold and uranium oxides. The technique was patented by the Mount Washington Glass Company, USA, in 1885 and rapidly became one of the company's most popular lines.

The company granted a licence to Thomas Webb of Stourbridge, England to produce the glass, and such pieces bear are often have an impressed mark on the base "Thos. Webb & Sons, Queen's Burmese Ware, Patented". The popularity of Burmese glass declined rapidly after 1900, but fine examples are now highly prized by collectors. Apart from table wares, small ornamental vases and dressing table accessories, it was a fashionable medium for lamps.

In 1969 the Fenton Art Glass Company of Williamstown West Virginia was able to replicate the process and has been producing Fenton Burmese glass for collectors, but ceased their production of collectable glass items in 2011.


Burr (or in the USA, burl) is the timber from the knotted roots or deformed branch of the tree, which when cut, displays the small circular knots in various gradations of colour. It is always cut into a decorative veneer, most commonly seen as burr walnut on 19th century furniture.

Butler's Tray

A deep, detachable tray, often with folding sides usually made of wood, with finger slots, that rests on an X-shaped support. Invented during the 18th century, butler's trays continued to be made until comparatively recent times until, that is, people no longer went 'into service'. Now popular, because they take up only minimal storage space when 'put away'. However when looking at a potential purchase check firstly that the folding support is old, and secondly that it belongs to the tray with which it is presented.