An antique Silver Glossary From Silver2treasure.
Antique silver can be variously described and often misleading terms are used. The following glossary I have prepared from trusted sources and it is offered for your information and assistance in your silver collecting.
Antique Silver glossary, terms & definitions
Acanthus and acanthus leaf / leaves : Classical ornamental style in the form of a spiny, broad-leaf plant native to the Mediterranean region.
Adams style : Neo classical style first seen in Britain having been introduced by the Scottish architect / designer Robert Adams. (Classical motifs such as palmettes and festoons)
Alloy : A combination of two or more metals usually formulated to provide or increase desired properties, such as ductility, conductivity, durability, strength etc.
Alpaca or alpaca silver – German silver and nickel silver – both synonymous trade names of an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc.
Annealing: This is a process for restoring the malleability of silver or other metals made brittle by hammering. The metal is heated until red hot and then immersed in cold water.
Anthemion: Stylised ornament derived from classical architecture based on the honeysuckle flower.
Applied Work: Wire, moulding or cast work pieces made separately, then soldered to the body of an object as an ornament or to strengthen.
Argyll: Vessel resembling a small coffee pot an designed for keeping gravy warm.
Armorial. Engraved crest or coat of arms.
Art Nouveau – a style also known as “Victorian” or “Edwardian” consisting of fluid lines, floral and nature themes and natural colors. Also known for its flowing style with sinuous curves and naturalistic motifs that was popular from about 1890 to 1915.
Baluster: Bulbous pillar shape, commonly used for vases, jugs, teapots, finials and stems of drinking vessels and candlesticks.
Base Metal : Pot metal or white metal – any combination of alloys of non-precious metals of comparatively low value to which a coating or plating of silver is usually applied.
Bayonet fitting: This is the method used to connect a cover to the body by means of two locking lugs that are slotted into a flange and rotated to secure.
Beading: Decorative border of tiny compact beads, either cast and applied or embossed.
Bobehe or Bobeche : Flat or saucer-like rings or cups placed around candle bases to stop and collect wax drippings.
Bright Cut: This type of engraving is where the Silver surface is cut by a tool creating facets that reflect the light.
Britannia Metal: Electroplated pewter used as a metal substitute for silver.
Brittania Standard: 95.8% Pure silver which is a higher standard and was first introduced in 1697
Burnishing: Method of polishing metals by rubbing the surface with a hard smooth tool such as agate to create a luster finish.
Butler’s finish – a satin finish produced by a revolving wheel of wire which makes many tiny scratches, giving the article a mellow surface luster, originally the result of years of hand rubbing by English Butlers; patented by James h. Reilly of Brooklyn Silver Co.
Caddy Spoon: A spoon designed for taking a measure of tea from a tea caddy.
Candelabrum: A candlestick with arms and nozzles for two or more candles.
Cartouche: Decorative Shield, normally embossed or cast, and generally containing an inscription such as an owners initials or coat of arms.
Caster: Vessel with a pierced cover for sprinkling salt, sugar or ground pepper.
Cast or casting : the method of duplicating an object by pouring metal into a hollow mold formed by the original object.
Caudle cup: Two handled vessel used for drinking gruel.
Chafing Dish: One dish or vessel within another, the outer vessel being filled with hot water and in direct contact with a heat source, and the inner container to hold the food.
Chalice: A large standing cup for wine used in religious ceremonies and by wiccans.
Chamberstick: A tray candlestick in the form of a circular dish stand with a handle.
Charger: Large circular or oval dish or plate often highly decorated.
Chase work or chasing – decoration created by hammering the surfaces of an object with small punches. This pushes the metal into a relief pattern. Metal is displaced not removed.
Chocolate Pot: Similar to a coffee pot, but with a little lid in the cover through which a swizzle stick can be inserted for stirring the chocolate; also relates to a coffee pot with the spout located and designed lower and thinner than a traditional teapot or coffee pot.
Chinoiserie: European fashion for decorating silver with oriental figures and scenes, including birds, pagodas, and lotus flowers which was in vogue in the late 17th century and again in the mid 18th century.
Coin silver: An alloy of 90% fine silver and 10% copper.
Commercial silver: Silver that is 999/1000 fine or higher.
Condiment – a small pot, often with a glass or ceramic liner. For storage and usage of salt, pepper, mustard, etc.
Crest: Heraldic device surmounting a coat of arms used to denote ownership.
Cruet – originally, the vessels used for wine and water in the Christian ritual; later, the collective term for a set of salt, pepper, oil & vinegar dispensers in a silver or silver plated stand almost always made of crystal or glass.
Cut Card: Flat shapes of applied silver used as decoration and for reinforcement.
Die stamping: This is a method of pressing sheet silver between solid dies with complimentary patterns to create or decorate an item.
Dish ring: Circular ring on which dishes could stand to protect the surface of a table from heat damage
E.p.c. and epc: Electroplated silver on copper.
E.p.b.m and epbm : Electroplated silver on Britannia metal.
E.p.n.s. and epns: Electroplated silver on nickel silver.
E.p.w.m. and epwm: Electroplated silver on white metal.
Electroplate, electroplated & electroplating: In the silver industry, the use of electricity to deposit a thin layer of silver metal on the base metal of a holloware item.
Emboss, embossed and embossing: Making raised designs on the surface of metal from the reverse side, strictly applicable to hammered work
Engrave, engraved or engraving – to decorate metal by gouging a design with tools; embellishing metal or other material with patterns using a stamping tool or drill. This was a popular technique in mid-Victorian times.
Epergne: Centrepiece consisting of a central bowl and several small detachable bowls to display and serve fruit and sweetmeats
Erasure: Removal of an existing coat of arms or engraving on silver
Ewer: A jug or pitcher having a wide spout and a handle.
Faceted: Decorative surface cut into sharp edged planes in a criss cross pattern to reflect light.
Filigree: Ornamental work in which fine wire, usually of gold or silver, is twisted and soldered into intricate patterns.
Finial: decorative turned knob.
Flat chasing: Decoration on the flat surfaces created by small punches and a hammer.
Flatware: Eating utensils, commonly the spoon, fork and knife, together with serving pieces and other items.
Fluted: Pattern of concave grooves repeated in vertical parallel lines.
Foot or feet: The supporting member or base of an object.
Gadroon or gadrooning: Border composed of a succession of alternating lobes and flutes usually curved.
Gauge: Thickness of a metal sheet or the diameter of a wire.
Gild, gilded, gilding and gilt: The coating of a surface with a thin layer of gold.
Gold wash or gold washed: Describes products that have an extremely thin electroplating of gold (less than .175 microns thick). This will wear away more quickly than gold plate, gold-filled, or gold electroplate. The gold is applied by either dipping or burnishing the metal, but it is not plated.
Hallmark – an official mark stamped on gold and silver articles to attest to their purity. Hallmarks were required by law, and indicate the maker, date and place of manufacture.
Hammered finish: A hammered finish is done with small, flat-headed or pointed hammers, giving an uneven surface or a faceted surface to the silver.
Hollowware, hollow ware and hollowware – hollow bodied vessels usually associated with food and drink serving items.
Huguenot: French Protestants who settled in England and the Netherlands following the revocation of the edict of Nantes in 1685. Many were skilled silversmiths who introduced French styles to English silver.
Ingot: Piece of cast metal obtained from a mould in a shape suitable for storing.
Knop: Decorative knob on lids, or the bulbous mouldings, usually placed at the mid part of the stem of a goblet or candlestick.
Limoges: Enamel painted on metal, covering the surface.
Liner: Inner sleeve of a vessel made of silver, plate or glass.
Loading: System for strengthening hollow objects such as candlesticks and vases whereby an iron rod or similar is secured inside the body using pitch or plaster.
Maker’s mark: The distinguishing mark of the individual silversmith.
Matting: A non shiny texture produced by punching small dots or circles closely over the surface.
Monteith: A cooler for wine glasses resembling a punchbowl, but with a notched, often detachable rims to suspend the glasses over iced water.
Mote Spoon: Small spoon with a pierced bowl used to skim tea leave from the surface and a spike at the other end to clear blocked spouts.
Moulding: Silver decorations cast in a mould.
Nickel silver – a composition of 10% nickel, 50% copper and 40% zinc. it contains no silver. also known as German silver.
Niello: A compound of silver, lead, copper and sulphur applied to metal and fired to create a shimmering black surface
Non-tarnish silver – produced by alloying silver with cadmium or by the application of a thin plating of thodium or palladium on the surface.
Nozzle: On a candlestick the detachable top in which the candle is placed.
Old Sheffield plate: Crafted by fusing silver to both sides of a base metal to create a silver ‘sandwich’. A widely used method from 1765 – 1840.
Ogee: A molding with an “s” shaped profile.
Open work: Pierced decoration
Oxidized or oxidizing: Accented beauty of ornamentation by the application of an oxide which darkens metal wherever applied. Shadows and highlights are created which give depth and character.
Paktong : An alloy containing approximately 50% copper, 40% zinc and 10% nickel. Invented in china and brought to Europe during the 18th century.
Parcel Gilt: Silver partially covered with gold.
Patina: As a general term, patina refers to the change in an object’s surface resulting from natural aging. It does not mean tarnish or dirt, it’s a soft luster caused by tiny scratches that come with daily use.
Pedestal : A circular, square or rectangular support between the body of an object and the base. usually flared and molded.
Piercing: Intricate cut decoration, created by using a sharp chisel or fretsaw then punches.
Plate: Originally this term was used to describe gold and silver domestic ware but now tends to refer to articles made of a base metal and covered with silver fusion such as Sheffield Plate or Electroplating.
Planish: Initial stage in finishing the surface of plate before polishing to remove the hammer marks.
Plinth: Square base at the bottom of a candlestick bottom.
Porringer: Two handled dish, sometimes with a lid, originally used to hold porridge or gruel.
Precious metals: Gold, silver and the platinum group metals are known as the precious metals. They are also called the noble metals by some craftsmen.
Quadruple silverplate, quadruple silver plate and quadruple plate: Silverplated items of some of the highest quality made during the later part of the 19th century. Within the silversmith and silver manufacturing industry, items marked “standard” silver plate indicated that 2 troy ounces of pure silver were used to silver electroplate 144 teaspoons, but “quadruple” silverplate used 8 troy ounces of silver to plate the same 144 spoons.
Raising: A process by which hollow ware is hammered into shape using annealed silver.
Rats Tail: A short ridge of silver applied to the back of spoon bowls to reinforce the joint with the handle.
Reeding: Decorative moulding composed of narrow parallel convex threadlike forms usually confined to borders.
Repousse: Ornamentation with decorative elements that have been pushed up above the surface of an object.
Ribbed : An ornamentation with a series of parallel or radiating lines.
Rolled edge: Edges of Sheffield plate were rolled to conceal the copper centre.
Salver: A flat dish, sometimes footed for serving food or drink. Similar to a tray but having no handles but often with a moulded border.
Satin finish: A means of producing a matte or frosted finish on silver and other metals
Sconce: Candle socket of a candlestick.
Scroll: An ornamental line resembling a loosely rolled piece of paper. A curved decoration particularly found on handles.
Sheffield plate: Originally made by bonding sheet silver to copper, rolling and manufacturing the bonded metals into hollowware.
Silver gilt: Made of silver that has been completely covered with a very thin coating of gold.
Silver plated ware or Silverplate – made by electroplating fine silver on a base metal alloy usually nickel silver or britannia metal, sometimes brass or copper.
Snuffer: Scissor like implement for trimming wicks
Solder: Usually of lead applied to repair cracks.
Spur – a short, curved and pointed projection on a handle, used to aid in holding an object or keeping an object (a knob or finial) from damaging the handle.
Sterling silver – must be 925/1000 (92.5%) fine silver and 75/1000 (7.5%) copper. this proportion is fixed by law.
Swag: Suspended festoon of foliage, flowers, fruit or drapery.
Tankard: Mug with hinged cover usually used for beer drinking.
Taperstick: Small candlestick for holding a taper (thin candle) for lighting pipes and melting wax for seals.
Tazza: A wide shallow bowl on a centrally located foot.
Tureen: Large bowl on a foot used for serving soup.
Triple silverplate: Items used three times as much purse silver as “standard” and 1/4 less than “quadruple” silverplate items.
Troy ounce: From the troy system of weight used for measuring precious metals, based on a pound of 12 ounces and an ounce of 20 pennyweights or 480 grains
Vesta case/box: Ornate case for carrying matches.
Victorian plate: Plated silver items made during the period c. 1840-1900 by the process of electroplating silver to objects.
Victorian silver: The designation given to the period from approximately 1837 when Victoria became queen of England until 1901 when she died. This long period is divided into early (approx. 1840-1860), mid (approx. 1860 – 1880) and late (approx. 1880-1900) since it covers a wide span of time, and a number of distinctive design trends. This reign was preceded by the Georgian period, and succeeded by the Edwardian period after Victoria died in 1901, and her son Edward became king.
Vinaigrette: Small silver box with an inner pierced lid to hold a sponge soaked in vinegar.
Waiter: A small salver less than 6 inches in diameter.
white metal and white metal alloy: An alloy, usually containing two or more of the following elements: tin, copper, antimony, lead and bismuth.
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