By Linda Hamer Kennett
---- — I you think that ‘Provenance” is type of cheesecake, if you are willing to bet that “Gesso” was a famous 17th Century Italian artist, and if you are almost certain that “Patina” is that new rap artist your kids are listening to, then this week’s column is definitely for you.
The world of antiquity has a language all its own and as those of you who travel that world can attest, if you are going to venture into the territory, you’d best know the language. So let’s take a look at a few definitions that will help you be armed and ready the next time you go antiquing.
Two terms that are often confused are original finish and original condition.
Original finish is just that. It is the finish (stain, varnish, paint or polish) the piece had the day it was made. It is very important on primitive and fine antique furniture alike to be able recognize original finish as it is one of the main factors in determining value. When a piece has been stripped of its original finish, it has lost part of its integrity as an antique and therefore part of its value.
Original condition refers to the overall state of a piece. Does it have all of its original drawers and doors? Is all the hardware original? Has the patina been disturbed? It is important to really look at a piece closely to see if old square nails have been replaced by newer nails or screws. Has the piece been stabilized over the years by the addition of inappropriate wood? If anything has been removed or replaced, the piece you are viewing is of lesser value that it’s “original condition” counterpart.
Other common terms you may find helpful include:
Patina- The coloration of a piece that can only be developed with the passage of time. It can be the result of dirt, grease, wear, or temperature and chemical changes. Patina is what gives it character and beauty.
Chasing- This is a method of decorating metal, usually silver, with an embossed or engraved pattern. It is accomplished by using a blunt punch to create a design.
Burr Walnut- A decorative wood veneer made from the malformations that occur when a walnut tree is injured or disrupted from an irritation during it’s growth. This wood is usually found at the base of the tree.
Hallmark-Commonly found on precious metal pieces, this identifies the maker and often the date of production. With older English pieces it also implies an established standard of quality.
Circa-An estimated time frame or era of origin. It is commonly accepted that this allows a ten year grace period wither way. For example a vase circa 1900, would have been manufactured from 1890-1910.
Electroplate- This chemical process, developed in 1840, is when a base metal is covered with a thin layer of another, more desirable metal. You will commonly find this on jewelry, flatware and serving pieces.
Delftware- This is a tin-glazed earthenware, usually blue-and-white, originally made in Delft, Southern Netherlands and England during the 17th and 18th centuries. Beware of reproduction.
Escutcheon-The ornamental shield shaped object around a keyhole.
Gilt and Gesso-Commonly found on frames from the late 1800s and early 1900s, gesso is a type of plaster used as a base for decorative carving. Gilt is the thin layer of gold foil used over gesso for enhancement.
For a crash course in antique and vintage terminology check out the alphabetized dictionary of terms at www.traditionalenterprises.
Until next time,
(Linda Hamer Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in senior down-sizing and the liquidation of estates and may be reached for question or comment at 317-429-7887 or firstname.lastname@example.org)