One of the challenges of being an online vintage seller is finding the right words to describe your items. Some of those words are so cool they make us feel smart just knowing them. Some are the kind of words that are fun to say. We’re not ones to be stingy with information, so here’s a short and entirely random list of words we’ve used recently to describe vintage items.
Arabesque is a design of interlacing foliage, usually designed for a vertical panel, with the sides resembling each other. If you like symmetry in your home decor, an arabesque pattern is definitely for you!
Celluloid was the first synthetic plastic material, patented under that name in 1873 by the Hyatt Mfg. Co. It was billed as a practical and affordable substitute for natural occurring materials like ivory and tortoiseshell and was used for movie film, combs, dolls, piano keys and eyeglass frames. The Victorian era saw celluloid photo albums, vanity boxes and photo buttons become wildly popular. Its flammability and tendency to deteriorate caused the compound to fall from favor in the 1930’s which makes the surviving pieces of celluloid even more collectible.
En Tremblant is from the French to tremble. Jewelry in the 18th and 19th century especially featuring diamonds in this form would tremble in the firelight and sparkle in the eyes and hearts of those who viewed it. Especially popular during the Georgian era. Imagine the slight tremor of a leaf, petals or insect’s wings on a piece of fabulous jewelry.
Hobnail. Go ahead. Say it. Hobnail. See? That was fun, wasn’t it?! Not only is hobnail one of those words that is just plan fun to say, it’s also the term that describes those blunt bumps in glassware and other glass pieces. There are many different styles of hobnail – some hobnail pieces are smooth bumps (sort of like bubblewrap), while others are more sharp and spiky.
A decorative ceramic pot used for plants, sometimes called a cachepot. Highly ornamental, some jardinieres come with pottery stands. Roseville jardinieres are perhaps the most prized among vintage lovers.
If you are fortunate to own a piece of furniture with this type of drawer joint you are in luck. This easily dates your piece to between 1870 – 1900. This method of drawer joint was invented by Mr. Charles Knapp of Wisconsin and he patented the first joint making machine in 1867. The example shown in this photo is a drawer in a Victorian Eastlake dresser – owned by none other than my husband. He forbade me to sell it. 🙂
True mercury glass items will be blown double walled glass with a liquid silvering solution poured between the two walls and sealed. Many items can be found described as being mercury glass but they will not be double walled and will be a simple silvered or mirrored coating.
Pince-Nez are spectacles that literally pinch the nose. They reached their popularity from 1880 to 1900. There were many design improvements to the bridges to add comfort to the men and women wearing these for long periods of time. One would equip these with a chain, ribbon and even a chatelaine pin in order to have them at the ready when not in use.
Pinchbeck is a zinc and copper alloy developed in the early 1700’s as a reasonably priced substitute for gold. Named for it’s inventor Christopher Pinchbeck a clockmaker of the time. With a look and feel of gold as well as the ability to work with it in similar fashion pinchbeck became a popular replacement to high cost gold jewelry. Mr. Pinchbeck’s formula was quickly copied and adopted by many other jewelers of the time causing the word to become a generic term for gold substitutes of the time.
Plinth blocks were common in turn of the century homes and added interest to door and window trim. I especially like the craftsman style homes and would live in one if given the opportunity. All that warm dark wood is just so yummy! There are many styles of plinth blocks and some with carved leaves and flower shapes but these here are called a bullseye block for obvious reasons.
Tramp Art is an art movement found throughout the world where small pieces of wood, typically from cigar boxes and shipping crates, were whittled into chip carved layers using pocket knives. It was most popular from the 1870’s – 1940’s and the most common forms were boxes and frames. There were no rules so phenomenal pieces of furniture and whimsy were produced by the hands of really imaginative artists.