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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.
A French word for a low upholstered seat or stool, introduced in France in the second half of the 17th century, and in England in the 18th century
A tabua is a sacred object in Fijian society. For the last 150 years they have been made from a whale’s tooth, but prior to this were made from highly polished timber.
Ceremonial tabua have holes drilled through the tip and the butt of the tooth, through which a braided cord, made from sennit (plaited strands of dry fibre or grass) is attached.
To make tabua, the whale teeth are polished and sometimes rubbed with coconut oil and turmeric to darken them. In some cases the teeth are smoked in a small tent-like structure covered in bark cloth to turn them a rich tobacco colour.
The giving of a tabua is seen as gesture of goodwill, respect or loyalty from the persons presenting it, and a ceremonial ritual is always carried out during the presentation. It is often presented at ceremonies associated with births, deaths, marriages, the naming of a child, and also the condoning of the violation of traditional Fijian law.
When the whalers first visited Fiji, they brought ashore whale’s teeth to use for trading purposes. They were of a similar shape and size to the wooden tabua that were in use at the time, and so the whale's tooth was adopted as the material for tabua.
It is against the laws of Fiji to export a tabua without the written permission of the Ministry of Fijian Affairs.
In Britain and Australia, a tallboy refers to the same item of furniture as a chest-on-chest.
In America, however, it often refers to a chest of drawers, usually with a distinguishing hooded top, placed on top of a stand similar to a lowboy. The American variant is often known as a 'high boy'.
A form of folding shutter formed by narrow widths of wood with the flat side glued to canvas, and used on some writing desks, sideboards and other cabinets.
The tambours may run vertically and enclose some stationery compartments, such as in a lady's writing desk. Or the tambours may run horizontally, such as in a Cutler desk, and form an enclosure for the whole of the writing surface.
A tankard is a drinking vessel used mainly for beer, with a hinged lid and a thumbpiece for raising the lid. Most tankards are silver, silverplate or pewter, but examples are also found in horn, ceramic, glass and hardstone. More decorative examples with elaborate carving are also found in ivory. In the 17th century, tankards usually had a flat lid, were of tapering cylindrical shape and were undecorated. In the 18th century the tankard bodies became bulbous, and the lids domed.
A container for holding two or three glass or crystal bottles of alchoholic drinks. Tantalus take various forms, the most common being made from silver, silver plate or wood with the three bottles in a circle or two bottles in line with a central handle. A larger version has three bottles in a line with two end supports and a horizontal top and handle. To prevent unauthorised access, some tantalus have a locking mecahnism that prevents the bottles and stoppers being removed from the bottles when secured.
A box tantalus, as the name implies is an elaborate wooden box made of a fancy timber such as coramandel, with divisions for the bottles and a lockable lid. Some of these type are designed for liquers and include the liquer glasses set into fitted holders.
found on both cabinet and country-made furniture from the 18th to the later 19th centuries. The leg sometimes terminates in a spade foot, though on most country furniture the taper continues for the whole length of the leg. The important thing to remember is that the taper ought only to be on the inside face of the leg, and the outer face should be straight and square. Some legs were made where both sides tapered, but in such a case the taper ought to be the same on both the inner and outer faces of the leg. Where the inside of a leg is straight, with only the outer face tapering, there is every reason to be suspicious
Taxidermy is the art of mounting or reproducing animals for display or study and in the past the word has been associated with large gloomy Victorian houses filled with stuffed animals.
However in recent years, taxidermy has emerged from the shadows as a collecting area in its own right and in the United Kingdom there are now dealers who deal only in taxidermy. In Victorian times, taxidermists performed a valuable service, bringing wildlife into homes and allowing the inhabitants to see real birds and mammals at close quarters. They could also create trophies to provide mementoes of a good day's fishing or hunting.
The value of taxidermy specimens is enhanced by the presence of an original label detailing when and where the specimen was obtained and by a trade label of the taxidermist, the most sought after being Rowland Ward of London.
In assessing a taxidermied specimen, the potential buyer should carefully study the colours and brightness of the specimen, the eyes, the detail of the groundwork, style and condition of the case and the rarity of the species. Worm or insect eaten specimens, fading, and other damage substantially reduce the value of taxidermied items.
Ray Taylor was born in Melbourne in 1944.
He studied at Phillip Institute of Technology, Chisholm Institute of Technology, Caulfield, and Hawthorn Teachers' College, Victoria.
He has held solo exhibitions at The Craft Centre, South Yarra, Victor Mace Fine Art Gallery, Brisbane, and Elmswood Gallery, Adelaide.
He is represented in National Gallery of Victoria, Queensland Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Western Australia and a number of regional and municipal galleries.
A tazza is a shallow saucer-like dish, either mounted on a stem and foot, or on a foot alone, used for drinking or serving small items of food. The word is derived from the Italian for "cup", plural tazze. Tazza are usually found in silver, ceramics or glass.
In the 17th century, tea was first introduced to Britain from the East Indies by the Dutch East India Company who had a monopoly on this trade, as well as some of the spices now in common use. As a result, the leaf tea from which the drink was made was an extremely expensive commodity, and so had to be appropriately stored and safeguarded. The tea caddy was devised for this purpose.
The first tea caddies, sometimes called tea canisters, as they were only single compartment vessels, were often of silver, and bottle shaped with a removable top that could be used to measure tea into the pot.
In the 18th century, taxes were imposed on tea making it even more expensive, and to safeguard the contents a lockable box was devised. The simple forms of these boxes had a removable receptacle to store the tea. The larger examples housed two receptacles side by side. The tea containers were often lined with a silver paper like substance presumably to protect the tea from moisture. The tea receptacles were often separated by a glass bowl, usually referred to in auction catalogues as the "mixing bowl" or "blending bowl", the idea being that each of the two containers held a different variety of tea, and they were blended in the bowl in proportions suitable to the maker, before being added to the teapot. Others, however, believe the bowl was used for sugar.
The most common material used for tea caddies in the 18th century was silver, and in the 19th century was wood, but tea caddies are also commonly seen finished in pewter, ivory, tortoise-shell, mother-of-pearl, brass, copper, papier mache and silver.
Befitting their status, the finest materials and craftmanship were used in the manufacture of tea caddies, emphasised by the complicated shapes which were variations on a square, rectangle or casket.
In 1784 the tax on tea was reduced from over 100% to 12.5%, and at the same time the monpoly on supply of tea by the Dutch East india Company was beginning to wane. As tea grew cheaper, there was less concern with safeguarding the contents, and as a result the of the tea caddy slowly declined. Most tea caddies avaiolable on the market were made before the mid 19th century.
A variation on the tea caddy is the teapoy, where a larger version of the tea caddy was mounted on a stem and base to form a small table.
Originally a teapoy was a small rectangular table with a single pillar column attached to a tripod or circular base, the name being derived from a Hindu word "tepai" meaning three legged or three footed.
However the word now refers to a tea caddy mounted on a base as described above.
The tea caddy section of a teapoy is much larger than a stand-alone tea caddy, often holding four tea containers and several mixing bowls, (compared with a maximum two and onerespectively for a tea caddy) when the interior of the teapoy is still intact and complete. When the interior fittings have been removed the teapoy is often re-described as a sewing box.
Since the tops of a tea caddies were oftern domed or stepped, the tops of teapoys are often not flat, so negating their use as side tables.
The tester is the flat wooden canopy above a bed. A four poster bed is a full tester bed, as the canopy frame follows the perimeter of the entire bed. In a half tester bed, the frame extends only over the upper (pillow) half of the bed.
Thancoupie, born Gloria Fletcher in Napranam FNQ , is widely credited as the founder of the Indigenous ceramics movement in Australia.
Her early years were spent as a primary school teacher, and it was not until 1971, when in her mid 30's, that she moved from her remote home in the Cape, to the urban environment of East Sydney Technical College.
Here she began her training under the guidance of famed Australian ceramicist, Peter Rushforth and the great Japanese potter Shiga Shigeo.
Through the 1970’s she exhibit with the best artists, sculptors and craft-makers as a contemporary artist, rather than an Aboriginal Australian artist. In 1983 she visited Sao Paulo as Australia’s Cultural Commissioner to the 17th Biennale and her works subsequently toured Brazil and Mexico and later were included in the Portsmouth Festival in the UK.
She produced more than 15 solo exhibitions, in Australia and overseas, and exhibited at many of Australia's finest commercial galleries including The Hogarth Galleries in Sydney, Chapman Gallery in Canberra, and Gabrielle Pizzi and William Mora Galleries in Melbourne.
Important survey shows have been held at Manly Regional Gallery in Sydney, and Tandanya Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Adelaide. In 2001, eighty works spanning her entire career were presented in a survey exhibition at the Brisbane City Gallery. She is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia as well as State art galleries and museums in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Queensland.
Thancoupie spent much of the last 30 years mentoring aspiring artists from communities in Far North Queensland, Arnhem Land, the desert and the Tiwi Islands as well as influencing Indigenous and non-Indigenous students enrolled in art and professional development courses.
She died in 2011 at Weipa Base Hospital FNQ after a long illness.
Thomas Wilson is recorded as a furniture broker and appraiser at 68 Great Queen Street between 1821-29, and is probably the same Thomas Wilson recorded as an auctioneer at 28 Great Queen Street 1799-1825. From 1830-1837 the business was continued by his widow Mary and his Son Matthew using the stamp 'M.Willson' and after 1838 Matthew is listed alone at the Great Queen Street address. It was commonly believed that Thomas Willson was solely a dealer in second-hand furniture who used his stamp as a means of identification. It has, for example, been found on pieces of late 18th century date or stamped by other firm's such as that of Gillows. The rare and seldom seen paper label used by the firm States that he was a cabinet-maker as well as a broker. The label is illustrated in C. Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1730-1840
Tieli wood is the most readily available and least expensive of all the hardwoods used in Chinese furniture manufacture.
Many large pieces of furniture are made from tieli wood in some rural areas. It is often used for back panels of cabinets and bases of drawers
One or more under-shelves of a table or cabinet.
In today's usage, the word "clock" is the name given to any instrument used for measuring time, but the word clock is derived from the Celtic word meaning "bell", and traditionally a clock without a bell or chime was known as a timepiece.
A ceramic glaze associated with lustre ware, maiolica, faience and Delftware. After an initial firing, the pottery was dippeed into the glaze, composed of oxides of lead and tin, which produce a porous white opaque but glossy surface. The pieces were then decorated again and fired which had the effect of fusing the colours into the glaze.
A small, framed mirror on a stand or supporting brackets, usually placed on a chest of drawers or toilet table, as a looking glass. There are many variants the frames may be square, rectangular, half round, oval or shield shaped. The mirror brackets usually stood on a platform base, sometimes with a marble top, and often with small drawers for jewellery beneath. The angle of the mirror could be adjusted either by tightening small wooden knobs on the brackets or else by brass thumbscrews. The supporting brackets during the Georgian and early Victorian periods were often turned posts, but during the mid-19th century Rococo revival they could be elaborately scrolled and carved. Collectors will also come across many small round mirrors, often framed in brass on an adjustable stand, which were generally used as shaving mirrors.
Toleware is painted and varnish-coated tin kitchen ware, made in imitation of the imported Chinese lacquer wares that were popular in the 18th century Britain, but difficult to obtain. The varnishing process was developed in the 18th century by Thomas Allgood, from the coal mining area of Pontypool in South Wales and it prevented the objects from rusting.
The varnish was created with asphalt, a by-product of the coal that was mined locally, mixed with shellac, and the mixture was applied to the thinly-rolled iron plate objects. This varnish was applied in several layers, each being fired at a high temperature, which rendered the finished object extremely durable.
The process was known as Japanning because it resembled the lacquer on Japanese trays.
The Pontypool factory remained in operation until 1820, but a rival factory in nearby Usk owned by two of Allgood’s grandsons, continued until the mid-19th century. Another member of the family founded a japanning factory in Birmingham, which became the main centre of the industry in Britain during the 19th century.
The process spread to Europe and the United States, where objects are still manufactured in the toleware style using modern processes and finishes.
Decoration of a leather surface, usually by stamping the surface with a heated punch or wheel containing foliate or geometric designs. In blind tooling the surface of the punch or wheel is in direct contact with the leather, while in gold tooling, a ribbon of gold leaf is placed between the punch or wheel and the leather, and once they have been applied, the excess gold is brushed off, leaving only the design.
Sometimes also referred to as a 'candlestand'. A tall table with a circular top, standing on a tripod base, used to stand candlesticks or, in the later part of the 19th century, oil lamps. The tops are sometimes fitted with a gallery. Similar to wine tables or tea-kettle stands, they differ in height: tables are rarely more than two-and-a-half feet in height whereas candlestands are usually some 150 cm or more high. Several Australian cedar examples seem to have survived, but they are scarce.
Tortoiseshell is a translucent material that comes from the horny carapace of a certain types of turtles, including the hawksbill turtle. It is often therefore mounted on a colour underground - often red - or inlaid with gold or silver thread, as seen in Boulle furniture.
The texture and colour nuances of the material are extremely important. Heated tortoiseshell can easily be formed into various shapes. Like other natural materials, tortoiseshell becomes more beautiful with use. In a time before plastic, tortoiseshell was widely used for small objects such as combs and powder compacts.
In 1973, the trade of tortoiseshell worldwide was banned under CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). Prior to importing or exporting items containing tortoiseshell a CITES permit must be obtained. Tortoiseshell items cannot be traded on Ebay.
"Faux tortoiseshell", another case of man initiating nature, is made from old-style plastics such as celluloid and cellulos and is coloured with red, yellow and brown spots to imitate the genuine article. It is commonly used in glasses frames, musical instruments and costume jewellery.
As the name implies, a stand for drying towels or hanging clothes, usually found in the bedroom. It consists of a pair of upright supports, separated by maybe five or more rods.
As applied to New Zealand Maori artifacts, the artefact dates from the 1850s to the 1920s
Treen is a word from Old English meaning "wooden". It is now used as a collective term for small carved or turned timber objects, that were made for household use. The term is also applied to wooden articles that do not fit any other classification. The word is not used to describe objects that are mainly ornamental, nor to furniture.
Before the late 17th century when pewter, silver and ceramic tableware began to come into use for the middle and lower classes, wood was the default material for most dining utensils, from plates and bowls to spoons, and the use of wood extended to other kitchen and household equipment.
Almost all treen is anonymously made - there are no makers names or marks. The objects were made by the local cabinetmakers and wood turners.
Over the years many treen objects have acquired a satisfying patina, through their constant handling and use. Earlier kitchen tools were waxed rather than polished, and today will be rough, stained, chipped, and scorched, revealing a lot of use in their previous lives.
The variety of objects made for general household use is enormous and includes pepper-mills, cigarette boxes, flower troughs, napkin rings, punch bowls lined with metal, platters, porringers, ladles, salad servers, bowls, puzzle money boxes, egg cups, spice boxes, lemon squeezers, pails, glove stretchers, potato mashers, spoons, mouse-traps, colanders, back scratchers, and nutcrackers.
Basic utlilitarian items such as such as the above, were usually waxed rather than polished and bear the hallmarks of their use being rough, stained, chipped and scorched.
The more decorative treen articles for the drawing room or bedroom were polished, lacquered, painted, or inlaid with coloured woods, ivory, mother-of-pearl, or coloured glass.
Amongst the more unusual items are miniature letter boxes for country houses, decoy ducks, body massagers and silk winders.
Trench Art is the name given to objects manufactured by both soldiers and civilians from shell casings, bullets, shrapnel and miscellaneous battlefield debris, and is predominantly associated with World War I (1914 – 18).
The most common material used for trench art are brass shell casings, which, once decorated, can be utilised as vases. Other metal items include cigarette cases, lighters, ashtrays, and cast model aeroplanes.
Often the items will bear an inscription such as the name of a French village or theatre of war and engraved decoration or embossing.
Another softer form of trench art is embroidered and painted textiles. Also produced by civilians and soldiers (needlework was considered good therapy for those convalescing in nursing homes), these textiles range from silk postcards to large pictures and wall hangings, often featuring regimental crests.
Originally a trencher was a wooden tray or stale piece of bread used as a plate, on which the food was placed before being eaten. A bowl of salt was placed near the trencher, and this became known as the trencher salt. Nowadays the word "trencher" is used to describe a type of salt bowl of flat open shape, usually without feet..
The medieval table was usually a loose board, placed on removeable folding supports called trestles. In the 16th century, trestles fixed to the top of the table were introduced at each end of the frame, each resting on a broad base or foot, often connected and supported by one or two stretchers.
A type of base used on small tables in the 18th and 19th century, consisting of either a stem to a three legged pillar, or three legs attached to the top. The former was derived from the candle stand, which has a small top and a long stem, terminating in the three legged pillar.
In the 19th century this type of base was popular on wine and occasional tables, and its use extended into larger centre, breakfast and drum tables.
A trumeau mirror is usually rectangular in shape, with a decorative painted panel above the mirror. Most antique trumeau mirrors are highly ornate and often gilded.
They were originally manufactured in France in the 18th century, but became popular agina in the Regency period and in the 1950's.
Trumeau mirrors were originally intended to hang on a wall between windows, providing a decorative element and bringing more light to the room.
Tsavorite is a green coloured garnet, first discovered by a British geologist, Dr Campbell R. Bridges in 1961 in Zimbabwe while working for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority.
Unable to obtain a mining permit, he began prospecting in Tanzania and in 1967 made a second discovery of Tsavorite in northern Tanzania in 1967. Dr Bridges commenced mining the deposit, but the mine was nationalised by the government, so Dr Bridges moved to Kenya, where he made a third discovery of the mineral at the end of 1970.
Tiffany & Co. began promoting the then unnamed mineral in 1973 in association with Dr. Campbell, and it was agreed it should be named Tsavorite, after the Tsavo National Park in Kenya, near to where it was mined.
Dr Bridges died aged 71 in 2009 on his property in Tsavo National Park, Kenya, when he and his son were attacked by a mob in a dispute over mining rights.
A low easy chair, usually with a rounded back, padded on top and supported by spindles, which forms the arm rest. The term is also applied to many small comfortable upholstered lounge chairs.
In tubelined decoration, a thin line of clay is piped on to the surface of the object through a nozzle to define the design outlines, then the glazes are poured into the areas of the object that are created behind the shallow "dams" formed by the tube-lined decoration.
Tubelined decoration was extensively used by Moorcroft Pottery. It was an expensive decorating technique, owing to the many possibilities of error in manufacture.
In 1903 Liberty & Co. released a range of high quality pewter under the name "Tudric". Apart from its interesting Art Nouveau Celtic inspired designs, Tudric pewter differed from other pewter as it had a high silver content. Much of it was designed by Archibald Knox, whose services Liberty & Co. had engaged from 1898 onwards. It was produced for Liberty by William Haseler of Birmingham.
See also: Liberty & Co.
A drinking glass without a stem, foot or handle, usually of cylindrical, tapering-cylindrical or barrel shape, with a flat bottom, that was introduced in the 17th century.
So named, because originally they were made from heavy flint glass and had a rounded bottom, so that if the glass was knocked, it would always "tumble" upright.
This is the name given to an exclusively English form of wood mosaic, which was first made by local craftsmen in and around Tunbridge Wells in Kent.
Tunbridge Wells had become a fashionable place to take the waters early in the seventeenth century, and, as most people indulging in this healthy pastime were in effect on holiday in the town, with money to burn, local craftsmen soon began to take advantage and manufacture items made by this process, which is noted for the great variety of woods and colours used.
The most common items made were boxes in various shapes and for various purposes, but the Tunbridge technique was also used to decorate clocks and furniture.
It was in the early part of the nineteenth century that Tunbridge Ware came into its own with the invention in 1820 of the tessellated mosaic.
Thin strips of wood of different colours and grain were glued together and pressed down tightly in blocks. When the glue was dry, the blocks were cut across the strips (like carving a joint or slicing a loaf) to produce thin sheets of patterned wood, which were then applied as veneer to a great variety of objects, such as workboxes, candlesticks, writing boxes, jewel boxes, barometers, trays, and tea caddies.
Where the surface area permitted, the pieces often depicted popular tourist sites while smaller items could include geometric designs, flowers and animals.
As the decades went by, the craftsmen improved their techniques and used a wider range of woods and colourings, so that by the mid-nineteenth century Tunbridge ware had become one of the best-known forms of wood decoration. The scale on which pieces were made increased, and the result is that, while the skill remained an intricate one, a multitude of articles was turned out.
It is said that the young Princess Victoria purchased Tunbridge ware items for family gifts, and three Tunbridge ware manufacturers exhibited their wares at the Geat Exhibtion held at Crystal Palace in 1851.
One of the last firms making Tunbridge ware was Boyce, Brown and Kemp whose craftsmen were still producing articles after the First World War.
Circular or oval, deep, covered bowl, used from the early 18th century for serving soup, sauce, vegetables or stew. As well as silver, tureens are also made in porcelain, pottery, and silver plate, Sauce tureens are smaller, plainer versions. The name derives from the French "terrine", meaning 'earthen vessel',
are legs which have been turned on a lathe. In use from the 16th century, turned legs on tables, chairs and cabinets became more frequent until, by the 1830s, the Georgian square or tapered leg was rarely found except in country pieces.
Any part of a piece of furniture that has been turned and shaped with chisels on a lathe. Turned sections include legs, columns, feet, finials, pedestals, stretchers, spindles etc. There have been many varieties and fashions over the centuries: baluster, melon, barley-sugar, bobbin, cotton-reel, rope-twist, and so on. Split turning implies a turned section that has been cut in half lengthwise and applied to a cabinet front as a false decorative support.
A rod of glass in which there is one or several threads or tapes of coloured glass, or bubbles of air embedded, which is then twisted to give an attractive appearance. The technique is mostly associated with the stems of Georgian glasses. The technique was in use from about the 1740s to the 1760s.
Collectors have identified over 150 variations of twist decoration. One of the most common is the air twist which as the name implies, has one or more columns of air embedded within the rod. A colour twist has one or more coloured tapes, usually opaque but sometimes translucent. other common types of twist include cable, corkscrew, enamel, gauze, lace, opaque and thread.
Whilst a 1714 patent granted to the Englishman Henry Mill appears to be for a typewriter of sorts, it was not until the 19th century that the modern typewriter began to evolve.
This was arguably Frenchman Xavier Progin's 1833 creation which was originally called 'Machine Kryptographique'.
Several typewriters featured in the 1851 Great Exhibition which was held in London's Hyde Park.
However, real success came later in the 1880's with Remington when they mastered the technical problems of production as well as successfully convincing a previously somewhat indifferent public.
For the next hundred years, the typewriter became an indispensable tool for the office, and occasionally for the home. In first world countries it has been completely superceded by the personal computer, but in less wealthy countries its use continues, although at a declining rate.
The major typewriter manufacturers were Adler, Remington, IBM, Imperial Typewriters, Olivetti, Olympia, Royal Typewriter Company, Smith Corona and Underwood.