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Learn about and understand the items, manufacturers, designers and periods as well as the specialist terms used in describing antiques and collectables. Either click one of the letters below to list the items beginning with that letter, or click on a category on the left side of the screen to list the items under that category.
Born in 1907, Charles Eames developed an interest in engineering and architecture, which he studied at Washington University.
In 1929, while traveling in Europe, he was influenced by the Modernist Movement through the works of Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Gropius. In 1938 Eames began studying at Cranbrook Academy of Art, sponsored by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen.
There he met his future wife, Ray Kaiser. Ray assisted Eames and Saarinen’s son Eero on projects for ‘The Organic Design in Home Furnishings’ competition at New York Museum of Modern Art, held in 1940, where they won the two first prizes. Their exhibits utilized innovative manufacturing techniques including a method for moulding plywood.
Eames continued working on the plywood moulding technique, and developed the ‘Kazam! Machine’, a press for moulding plywood, which lead to a commission by the US Navy for limb splints.
Now married, the Eames’ continued their work on plywood furniture, including a moulded plywood chair, which won the accolade ‘chair of the century’ from architectural critic, Esther McCoy.
The Herman Miller company took on the production of this chair in the US and still produces Eames’ designs today.
Other key pieces include the ‘Lounge Chair and Ottoman’ from 1956 and ‘Tandem Sling Seating’, which is still used in airports. They continued their design work, and other major projects in architecture and film-making, into the 1970s. Charles Eames died in 1978 and Ray in 1988.
A ceramic material that is fired at a low temperature. Earthenware is the basis of almost all ancient, medieval, Middle Eastern and European painted ceramics. After firing, the colour is the colour of the clay when it is dug from the ground: buff, brown and red. It is too porous for use in domestic situations unless glazed. Creamware is a type of earthenware covered with a transparent lead glaze. Majolica, faience and delft are also earthenware covered in an opaque white tin glaze.
The French equivilent to the English "cabinet maker". Because of their preference for ebony, a new, rare and expensive wood in the 17th century, the French masters of the craft of veneering were known as ébénistes, although they later combined veneering with technical variations such as marquetry. The Paris Guild of Ebenistes was extemely influential, and its members almost as highly regarded as painters and sculptors.
Timber that has been stained or lacquered black in imitation of ebony. The process has been used since the Renaissance, but is most commonly found in late 19th century furniture, sometimes gilded and turned in imitation of bamboo. Furniture with an ebonised finish is not currently in vogue, and this is reflected in the price for such pieces.
Ebony is a close grained timber, black in colour. It has a fine texture which can be polished to a high gloss, making it suitable for venereering, inlay and stringing and its use as solid timber is resticted to small decorative items and ornamental decoration, such as chess pieces and musical instrument parts. The term "ebonised" means "faux ebony", timber that has been darkened during the polishing process to resemble ebony.
Edward Fischer (1828-1911) migrated to Australia from Vienna in the early 1850s, and settled into business as a jeweller in Geelong, which at that time was an important commercial centre particularly for the export of wool. It was a very prosperous centre attracting many watchmakers and jewellers, as no doubt there were many well-to-do clients.
Fischer was an important jeweller in the town, producing outstanding quality silver and gold wares, indeed, he was commissioned to manufacture the first locally produced Melbourne Cup, and became well known for his design and craftsmanship in producing the Geelong Racing Clubs presentation cups from 1873 to 1890. He was also a quality producer of silverware for Kilpatrick & Co. and Walsh Bros. of Melbourne.
In 1891 Fischer sold his business and left Geelong, relocating to Collins Street, Melbourne, where he traded as E. Fischer and Son, Manufacturing Jewellers, Watchmakers and Opticians. Apparently the business was managed by his son Harry. Edward Fischer died in 1911, but the business continued until about 1916.
Jewellery by Fischer is marked FISCHER or E. FISCHER, GEELONG.
Edward VII (1841 – 1910) was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 1901 until his death in 1910. He was the first British monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which was renamed the House of Windsor by his son, George V.
Edward VIII (1894 – 1972) was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, and Emperor of India, from 20 January 1936 until his abdication to marry American socialite Wallis Simpson on 11 December 1936.
Edwards & Roberts was founded in 1845, and by 1854 were trading as ‘Edwards & Roberts, Antique and Modern Cabinet Makers and Importers of Ancient Furniture’. By the late 19th century Edwards & Roberts was one of the leading firms of English cabinetmakers.
They produced furniture designs of the times, as well as reproductions of earlier French and English styles, and their name is associated with high quality workmanship and materials, specialising in marquetry, inlay and ormolu.
They also retailed many items of second-hand furniture, so an Edwards & Roberts stamp does not necessarily mean that the item was made by them.
A decorative element consisting of a row of oval shapes, generally vertical, and spaced with pointed darts or tongues. Originally derives from the architectural decorations of classical antiquity, and the feature can be found on bookcases, mirrors and tables and other furniture imitating the classical style.
Egyptian faience is the oldest known type of glazed ceramic, first developed more than 5,000 years ago in Egypt and elsewhere in the ancient world, using the process of efflorescence. This process involves mixing the glaze materials in with the rest of the ingredients. Metals in the paste colour the glaze, for example copper for a turquoise colour and cobalt for a blue glaze. As the moulded object dries, the glaze materials move to the surface of the object. When the object is fired in a kiln, the glaze materials undergo a chemical change which brings out the colours.
Another name given to a dining chair with arms, more commonly called a carver chair.
Strictly speaking, furniture usually in oak, made in the reign of Elizabetht I, from 1558 to 1603. The style incororates elaborate and ostentatious carving of classicial figures and themes and bulbous baluster legs, with an Italian Renaissance influence. When a piece is described as "Elizabethan style", it mimics the attributes of the Elizabethan period, but was made at a later date.
Elkington & Co. was a Birmingham silverware company producing fine silverware and silver plate. The business was founded in 1815, by the uncle of George Richards Elkington (1801-65). On his uncle's death George Richards Elkington became the sole proprietor and took in his brother Henry Elkington as a partner, changing the name to G. R. Elkington & Co. The business took out patents for the plating of articles in 1836, 1838 and 1840. In 1842 a third partner, Josiah Mason, joined the firm and the name was changed to Elkington, Mason, & Co. until 1861, when the partnership with Mason was terminated.
The greater durability of electroplate together with its affordability meant that it steadily ousted pure silverware, especially for the more functional items such as tea and coffee services. The company licenced the process to a number of manufacturers, including Christofle & Cie of France.
By 1880 the company employed over 1000 workers at premises in Birmingham, and had a further 6 works.
The company received awards at the great international exhibitions from the 1850s onwards for its excellence in artistic quality and fine design and held Royal Warrants from British Royalty including Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra, King George V, Queen Mary and King George VI. Elkington & Co. supplied plated wares to the luxury dining sections on board the Titanic and other ships in the White Star Line fleet.
By 1900 the Elkington monopoly of electroplate diminished as the original patent rights expired, and this period witnessed the enormous increase in output of other Birmingham, London and Sheffield manufacturers.
The firm operated as Elkington & Co. from 1861 until 1963 when it was acquired by British Silverware Ltd. which also had the Mappin & Webb brand. During World War II the company had stopped producing plated wares, and moved into copper refining which continued when it became a subsidiary of Delta Metals Group in 1955.
The original Elkington Silver Electroplating Works, in Newhall Street in Birmingham, became the Birmingham Science Museum in 1951, until its closure in 1997.
Embossing, also known as repousse, is the technique of decorating metal with raised designs, by pressing or beating out the design from the reverse side of the object.It is the opposite of chasing, where the decoration is applied from the front. An embossed or repoussed object may have chasing applied to finish off the design.
The Empire style was a version of neo-classicism popular from 1800 to 1830, coinciding with the rule of Napoleon I from 1840-15. In England the style corrosponds with the Regency style and in the United States to the Federal style.
The style is inspired by classical Rome and Greece, as reflected in the decorative motifs in the the design such as paterae, guilloches, acanthus and swags, and pieces are lavishly decorated with applied gilded decoration.
Enamelling is the art of decorating articles with a layer of glass melted with enamel oxides, and fused onto a host surface such as gold, silver, copper, or ceramics.
In the early nineteenth century the art of enamelling snuff boxes, pill boxes and other small items fell into disuse in England and was not revived until the late 1880s when Alexander Fisher, who was largely self taught, began producing enamelled boxes for Liberty.
The art of enamelling was also revived in France in the late 19th century, while in Switzerland enamelling had never died out and continued to flourish with the production of fine enamelled jewel-boxes in Neoclassical designs, which continued to appear until well into the present century. These included fantasies modelled in the form of butterflies, birds and fishes. Enamelled boxes with geometric patterns in the cloisonne technique were produced in Vienna at the turn of the century.
A technique used to decorate wall and floor tiels, so that the design does not wear off with use. The design is composed of different coloured clays inlaid into the body of the tile. Orignally used in the medieval period, the technique enjoyed a revival in the mid 19th century,
An enfilade buffet or sideboard is a long and low French buffet, usually with four doors or more, but without a back.
A form of decoration of an object by creating a repeating geometric pattern by turning in a special lathe, called a rose engine or decoration lathe. Engine turned decoration can be found decorating clocks and watches, ceramics, silver, jewellery and precious objects. Where an engine turned item has been enamelled, the term used to describe the decoration is usually guilloche.
The method of decorating glass by marking the surface with a sharp intrument such as a diamond, metal needle or rotating cutting wheel. As pressure is applied to the surface, best results for engraving are achieved if the glass is of sufficient thickness. In the 19th century etching was used to decorate some table glassware that was too fine to take an engraving tool.
The method of decorating or creating inscriptions on silver and other metal objects by marking the surface with a sharp instrument such as a diamond point or rotating cutting wheel.
An enhancer is similar to a pendant: a piece of jewellery that is attached to a necklace or chain worn around the neck. A pendant has a small hook allowing it to be hung from the chain, but an enhancer has a hinged clasp that opens and can be snap-shut, allowing it to be used on a wider range of necklaces: chains, beads and pearls.
The name would indicate that entree dishes were designed to serve the course before the main course.
However they are also called "serving dishes" which is probably more indicative of their purpose: to hold and serve the vegetables accompanying the meat, or to hold the hot accompaniments for a breakfast. In order to keep the contents of the dish warm, many entree dishes had an inlet and double skinned base so that hot water could be added to the lower section of the dish. Another feature of theses dishes is the detachable top handle, allowing the dish itself to be heated in the oven or on the stove, with the unheated handle added after the hot dish was removed from the heat.
They became popular in the late 18th century, and were often made in pairs or fours. When owned by an important family, the family's armourials were often engraved on the lid.
The abbreviation for electroplated and electroplated nickel silver, that is, silver plate.
The body of the piece is made of a common metal such as copper, and electroplating involves placing an extremely thin layer of silver on the surface of the piece. The resulting silver content is very small.
Unlike solid silver items, there is minimal underlying scrap value, and the value of such pieces is based on the quality, design and construction of the piece.
Britannia metal is a pewter type alloy, that can be temporarily polished to a silver-like lustre. In the 19th century, Britannia metal, was often electroplated. Plated wares in this metal may be marked EPBM (electro-plated Britannia metal). Where the silver plate wears on an EPBM item, the surface colour is dull grey, similar to pewter. Britannia metal was generally used as a cheaper alternative to electroplated nickel silver (EPNS) which is more durable. The primary component of nickel silver is copper and wear on an EPNS item will be indicated by a copper colored hue in the wear spots. EPBM items are held in low regard by collectors.
A table centrepiece, which may have a large central bowl or dish, and a series of smaller bowls suspended from a central stem or branches, with the smaller bowls used to display sweetmeats. Some of the grander examples were made in silver, but epergnes were also made in ceramic and glass.
Ephemera is written or printed matter not meant to be retained or preserved, such as Christmas cards, cigarette and other trade cards, postcards, posters and Valentines. Ephemera collecting has been gaining popularity in recent years and the range of items collected has grown to include railway, bus, shipping, concert and exhibition tickets, decorative notepaper and envelopes, commercial bills and letter-heads, insurance policies, bank cheques, government bonds, stock and share certificates, and all types of advertising material.
Ephemera is written or printed matter not meant to be retained or preserved, such as Christmas cards, cigarette and other trade cards, postcards, posters and Valentines.
The distinguished Parisian firm Erard’s, makers of harps and pianos, were in business between 1777 and 1960.
The business was founded by Sebastien Erard, who had been apprentice to a Parisian harpsichord maker for two years before establishing his own workshop in the rue de Bourbon. In 1786 the company expanded by opening a branch in London, and in 1789 his brother Jean-Baptiste joined as partner.
Sebastien Erard obtained a number of patent registrations in both England and France, for design innovations to both the harp and piano, the most important being for the double-action harp in 1810, the forerunner to today's concert harp.
Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) was an artist, designer and book illustrator. He studied at Eastbourne and Brighton Schools of Art and the Royal College of Art.
Most of his work was in printmaking and book illustrating, but in 1936 he was commisioned by Wedgwood to make a series of designs for Wedgwood. Most of his work for Wedgwood was in tableware and the designs included the children's "Alphabet" set and "Garden" (both in 1937) and "Garden Implements" and "Persephone" (both in 1938). He desinged the Wedgwood Coronation mugs for Edward VIII (never issued) and George VI (1937) and this latter design was reissued for the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953. His last design for Wedgwood was in 1940.
In 1941 Eric Ravilious was appointed an official war artist, and he died in active service the following year while taking part in an air-sea rescue off the coast of iceland.
The Ericsson Ericofon was designed in the late 1940s and went into production in 1954.
The stylish one-piece design, with the dial in its base, was launched for domestic use in 1956. It came in a multitude of colours. It was discontinued in 1972.
Collectors should be aware that modern copies are now on sale.
A French term for a writing desk, usually with a vertical fall front which opens to the writing surface, and an interior fitted with drawers and pigeon holes. with further drawers below, similar to a bureau.
An escutcheon is a plate, made of brass, wood, ivory or ebony, which fits into or over the h keyhole, to protect the edge of the timber keyhole from damage by continual insertions of the key. As a general rule you would expect these escutcheons to be sympathetic in design to the handles of the piece. From the early 19th century escutcheons were sometimes made from ivory, ebony, bone or contrasting wood, often cut in a diamond or shield shape and inlaid into the front. Ivory, in particular, will tend to discolour with age, and certainly should not show up as brilliantly white.
A French term, denoting a set of either wall-hanging, free-standing or corner shelves, designed for display of treasured objects. The term is also used to describe a small table with several tiers. They were made in many styles and are sometimes miror-backed rather than open. The equivalent English item is the whatnot.
Glass decorated with an etched design, which is achieved through marking out the pattern, protecting the area that is not be etched, and then immersing the object in acid to dissolve the surface of the unprotected area. With some glass objects, such as cameo glass, there may be several layers of different coloured glass, and part of the top layer is dissolved leaving the bottom layer as the background. The longer the time of exposure of the object to acid, the deeper the etching.
The word etching is also sometimes used to describe another method of decoration, where wheel grinders were used decorate the surface, but this technique is usually known as engraving.
Edmond Laurent Etling was a retailer of high quality exclusive decorative items in bronze, ceramics and glass through his Paris shop at 29 Rue de Paradis.
His company, La Societe Anonyme Edmond Etling, founded in 1909 in Paris commissioned famous sculptors and artists such as Chiparus, Godard, Colinet, Sevin and others to design items for the shop, and these were then manufactured for Etling, bearing his name.
The glass objects were made in Paris in glassworks in the Choisy-le-Roi area.
As a result of World War II, the shop closed in 1940 and being of Jewish descent, Edmond Etling was shipped to a concentration camp, and died.
Production for Etling was thus confined to the Art Deco period between the two world wars.
Etling is best known for their pale blue opalescent items, of which plates and bowls are the most common, but they also produced items in grey and frosted glass. Most had a moulded signature "ETLING FRANCE" followed by a model number.
In the 1970's Sevres began reproduction of some Etling designs, especially the female nude figurines.
The Etruscans were pre-Roman people who mainly inhabited central and part of north Italy, in the area corresponding to Tuscany. The civilisation was active from around 700BC until their assimilation into the Roman Empire in around the 4th century BC.
With the increasing importance of Rome they were virtually wiped out, for Rome would not tolerate a competitive civilization. Many Etruscan rituals and aspects of their culture were taken over by Rome: Etruscan funeral games became the Roman gladiatorial combats and the science of divination came from the Etruscans.
They were also incredible craftsmen in precious metals. It was said that the famous Etruscan Sibylline books of received wisdom were burnt by Rome and that the emperor Claudius was the last person who could read Etruscan, a language that is still largely undeciphered.
Black and red figure vases attributed to the Etruscans provided the basis for the Etruscan style of furniture, decorative arts and decoration first seen in Louis XVI furniture in the 1760s, and then adapted by Robert Adam in England.
The style was characterised by the use of the red and black colourways of the vases, together with motifs such as lions, birds, sphinxes and griffins.
Josiah Wedgwood was inspired by the civilisation, and in 1769 he opened his new ceramic factory at Stoke-on-Trent, naming it "Etruria Works". Using the modeller John Flaxman, he produced wares based on what was thought at the time, to be Etruscan themes.
At the end of the 18th and in the early 19th century, Etruscan themes were seen in glass, jewellery and furniture, and in the 1820s Coalport China produced a range of wares based on the Etruscan themes.
Around that time it was discovered that the archaeological treasures attributed to the Etruscans were of Greek origin, but the description of them as "Etruscan" continued.
A type of jug with a narrow neck bulbous body and wide spout, originally used for carrying and storing liquids such as water or wine. In medieval times they were the source of water to wash ones hands during and after a meal. later the shape was used for vessels in silver, gold, glass and ceramics.
In Victorian times they were made in ceramics and occasionally glass with a matching basin, and sometimes other accessories such as a soap holder or toothbrush holder. Their purpose was to provide facilities for personal washing In the early 19th century were often enclosed in purpose built stands, and later resided on a washstand..
Sometimes the words "ewer" and "pitcher" are used interchangably, but a pitcher is generally considered to be a jug, and would have a wide mouth, and a gently tapering body.
Also known as banquet table or sectional table. A dining table made in such a way that it can be extended or increased in size by the insertion of one or more leaves in the centre section of the table. Georgian dining tables were sometimes made in separate sections, with the two ends (known as `D' ends from their shape) able to be used as free-standing side tables.
When in use as a dining table, the individual leaves were held in place with brass clips, sometimes supported from beneath by extra legs. D-end tables were generally supported by four tapered or turned legs. Some versions were extended by the use of a drop-side table between the two end sections. The pedestal dining table of the period usually had four splay feet with brass claw or bucket castors. Three feet were not usual until the Victorian period. The legs themselves were slender and tapering in a 'gun-barrel' shape, although turned legs became heavier and more ponderous as the century progressed.
There were two major innovations to the extension table during the 19th century. In the first version, the rectangular table top rested on a series of compound slides or runners which could be pulled out by hand, allowing the insertion of additional leaves. The leaves were held in place either by small wedge-shaped pieces or, rather later, dowels. Additional legs often supported the weight of the leaves when the table was fully extended. To prevent the table opening while in use, brass clips joined the leaves, or the leaves to the ends.
The second innovation was the introduction of the screw mechanism to extension tables. Rather than being pulled out manually, the slides were wound out by a crank handle. Very occasionally, extension tables were made with rests beneath the table top to store the leaves when not in use. Some tables were made with a separate leaf cabinets. The screw mechanism is common on most late Victorian and Edwardian tables, some of which could accommodate twenty diners or more when fully extended.