Glossary

Silver and other decorative arts is a specialized study, with specific reoccurring terminology. Below is a listing of frequently used words. This is a work in progress, and by no means final. If there is a term you feel should be included, contact us. 

Annealing - reheating of metal to keep it malleable while it is being worked.

Assay - test made to verify that metal is of the required standard or formula.

Bleeding - term applied to area of exposed copper on silverplate objects.

Bobeche - a flange insert to a candle cup for the purpose of catching the wax drippings. 

Bright-cut engraving - type of engraving in which metal is removed by bevelling the cuts.

Britannia metal - an alloy comprised of tin, copper and antimony developed in the 1770s as an alternative to pewter. It was used as a base for electroplated in the last half of the nineteenth century.

Candelabrum - a candlestick with multiple branches or arms. The plural is candelabra.

Cartouche - a frame or surround.

Cast - formed in a mold.

Caster - container or condiments, spices and sugar with pierced cover for sprinkling.

Chalice - drinking vessel with shallow bowl on a stem.

Chasing - a technique of decorating by indenting the surface of an article, thus creating a design. Also called embossing. Metal is not removed.

Chinoiserie - decoration in the Chinese style popular in the latter part of the seventeenth century until the early nineteenth century.

Coin silver - silver standard used for making coinage American silver standard prior to 1868 and is usually .900 parts pure silver and .100 parts other metals.

Cut card work - an applied decoration using sheet silver cut into various designs and soldered onto the surface.

Electroforming - a process of manufacturing metallic articles by depositing metal on a non-metallic surfaces using electricity. Electroforming creates a standalone piece, unlike electroplating which is a surface coating.

Electroplate - layer of pure silver deposited on a base metal usually nickel silver copper or brass via an electrical current.

Embossing - a technique of producing relief decoration by raising the surface from the reverse to form the design on the front using mechanical means such as metal or stone dies. Metal is not removed.

Engraving - a technique of cutting lines into a metal surface with a graver or scorper. Metal is removed. 

Firescale - discoloration on the surface of metal formed by cuprous oxide.

Gadroon - a repetitive pattern of slanted lobes.

Judaica - article related to the Hebrew and Jewish faith.

Lap joint - a joint formed by cutting away the two ends to form L-shapes.

Lattice - a criss-cross pattern of diamonds.

Marrow scoop - a utensil with one or two deep grooves, used to extract marrow from bones at the table.

Mask - decorative motif of a lion, ram, bird, or human head.

Mote spoon - a small spoon with pierced bowl and pointed handle used for skimming tea leaves and cleaning perforations at the base of a tea pot when the spout becomes clogged.

Old Sheffield Plate - a plated metal formed by fusing a thin layer of silver onto a base metal usually copper. Invented in 1742 and became obsolete with the invention of electroplating.

Oxidizing - accentuating the ornamentation by applying an oxide which darkens the surface. 

Patina - soft luster caused by tiny scratches and coloration that occurs over prolonged use. 

Repousse - relief ornament hammered from the under or inner side of the metal then often chased from the top side of the metal to achieve greater detail.

Sterling silver - an alloy of .925 parts pure silver and .075 parts other metals usually copper. Legal standard for England since 1238 in the US in 1906. 

Vermeil - a surface of gold applied over solid silver.