Glossary

abattant

French term for "drop lid" or "fall front" as in an abattant secretary.

acanthus

Stylized carving of the acanthus leaf commonly used to decorate furniture.

Adam Brothers

Robert 1728-1792 and James 1730-1794 were English architects, influenced by the excavations at Pompeii in the 18th century. Characteristics of their style are straight lines,mythological figures, delicate ornaments, classical symmetry, satinwood, marquetry, and inlay.

agate

A form of quartz mineral with a strongly banded composition in which each layer differs in color and translucency. Colors range from reds, browns and yellows to greens, bluish white and white. Used for making jewelry, cameos, and in decorative objets d'art.

alabaster

Generally translucent and white or grey in color, alabaster is a form of the mineral gypsum which can be polished to a smooth and waxy finish. Often used in sculpture, decorative stone panelling, beads, and cabochons.

amboyna

A type of wood native to Southeast Asia typically orange or reddish-brown with a curled and mottled grain. Used for veneers and furniture.

Amphora

A large, two-handled earthenware vessel with a narrow neck and usually an ovoid body, originally used in Greece for the storage of grain. Later adopted as a Neoclassical decorative motif.

Andirons

Functional supports of cast iron or brass used in open fireplaces to hold logs.

anthemion motif

The classically inspired anthemion, or honeysuckle motif, originated with Greek and Roman architecture and was used extensively on furnishings and decorative arts of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It is marked by a stylized flower design of scrolling or radiating form. Famous furniture makers and designers including Gillows of Lancaster, Thomas Sheraton and George Hepplewhite incorporated this motif in their furniture designs.

Antique

A work of art, a piece of furniture or any other decorative object which, according to United States law, must be at least 100 years old. The value of an antique depends upon its authenticity, beauty, age, rarity and condition.

Apothecary jars

Cylindrical or oval shaped covered jars either of glass or china, designed for the storage of medicinal herbs. Some are presently converted to lamp bases or used as ornaments. Also called pharmacy jars.

applied decoration

Relief decoration typically applied to the surface of a ceramic. Often used by Wedgwood to adorn their jasper wares.

Apron

A board placed at right angles to the underside of a shelf, chair seat, or table top.

Arabesque

An ornamentation consisting of an interlacing design of foliage, usually designed for a vertical panel, with the sides resembling each other.

Arcading

Carved architectural ornament suggesting arches. Often used on chair-backs and applied on panels.

Armoire

A movable wardrobe, usually with one or two doors, originating in late 16th century France.

Art Deco

Period from 1925 to about 1935 when designers were influenced by simple geometric patterns.

Art Nouveau

Though relatively short lived, the Art Nouveau style, which appeared in the 1880s and faded out by the First World War, had a dramatic impact, influencing not only the decorative arts, but also painting and sculpture, jewelry design, architecture, fashion and advertising. A response to the changes brought on by the Industrial Revolution, Art Nouveau was characterized by flowing, abstract shapes and sinuous forms. Exotic woods, iridescent glass, silver and gems provided the medium for the period's exquisite creations.

Ash

A highly figured hardwood having a variety of shades from a grayish hue to deep brown. Used chiefly in structural concealed portions of furniture.

assaying

The process in which a piece is examined to determine the amount of precious metal contained. This examination is conducted at a legally appointed assayer's office to insure compliance with legal standards and the piece is officially stamped or hallmarked upon completion.

Aubusson

Flat, tapestry-woven coverings named for the French manufactory in Aubusson, established in 1664. Aubusson fabrics are highly-regarded and of exceptional quality.