GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Biscuit (or Bisque): Clay that has been hardened through a first firing, but remains unglazed.
Blank: A piece of ware that has not decorated.
Body: The composition of a piece of pottery or porcelain. Different ingredients and amounts change the nature of the clay.
Bone China: A form of porcelain to which bone ash is added to increase translucency and whiteness. It was developed by Josiah Spode I and II.
Cartouche: An ornamental “frame” decoration, not normally a part of the original pattern, with a special inscription. Cartouches can appear on the front of pieces in the case of commemorative ware or on the back as part of some fancier marks.
Ceramic: Wares made from clay and baked to a durable state.
China: A general term referring to all ceramics, especially tableware. More specifically, it is a term most often synonymous with porcelain.
China Glaze: A late 18th century English term for the pale blue glazed used to make earthenware look whiter and more like porcelain. We now call this pearlware.
Chinaman: A dealer in china ware.
Chinoiserie: An imitation of an Oriental design by potteries in the Western world.
Clobbered Ware: An underglaze in one color to which different enamel colors have been added. The term is used when the original design is considered complete without the overpainting.
Combing (Combed Back): A technique found usually on the base of larger pieces of flat pottery, such as platters, that involves making parallel lines or grooves on the surface by dragging a tool through the clay. A common feature on some English pottery, c. 1820-40. Debate exists on its purpose.
Crazing: A network of fine, uniformed cracks in the glaze that occur when there is unequal contraction of the body and the glaze after firing. It can happen right after firing or appear months and years after firing.
Creamware: A cream-colored earthenware which had its beginnings around 1740 when a lead glaze was added to an biscuit earthenware body used with color glazes. It was refined and improved by Josiah Wedgwood around 1765. He gave his creamware the name Queen’s Ware.
Decal: A transfer decoration printed on special paper, placed on wares that have already been glazed and fired. A low final firing will cause the decal to “melt” onto the surface. American refer to this as decal, the British use the term lithograph.
Earthenware: Ceramic ware made from clays and silica compounds like flint and stone. When fired it is porous and opaque without vitrification. It must be glazed to be durable.
Embossed: A raised design or decoration produced in the mold.
Engraving: The art of cutting lines and punching dots into a copper plate to form a pattern.
Finial: The knob on top of a lid. The term is used most when the finial is figural or fanciful.
Flow Blue: A blurring of the printed pattern and coloring of the glaze by adding “flow powder” during firing. Flow powder is made of salt, white lead and calcium carbonate.
Gaudy: A term used mostly in America that indicates the pattern design is in more than one color. See Polychrome.
Gilding: The application of gold or platinum to the ware.
Glaze: The mixture of minerals in a liquid state into which the biscuit ware is dipped. When fired it will melt into a glassy surface on the ware. The glaze makes the body nonporous and more permanent.
Greenware: Ware that has been formed but not fired.
Holloware: Serving pieces of dinnerware such as bowls, pitchers, creamers and sugars, as opposed to flat pieces such as plates.
Impressed: Marked or stamped with pressure either by hand or in the mold.
Institutional Ware: Usually more heavy and thicker vitrified ware made for hotels, railroads, restaurants and other public venues.
Ironstone: Patented by C.J. Mason in 1813, this strong durable ware was developed to replace the demand of Chinese export porcelains by the British. The name was beneficial in projecting an image of strength. Stone China and Granite were two other terms used by the British. In many instances, the actual wares were simply ordinary earthenware with a stoneware name.
Kiln: An oven-like structure for firing of greenware, glazes and decorations. Early kilns were known as bottle ovens because of their tall, bottle-like shape. By the 20th century, tunnel kilns were developed where the ware was carried through on slow-moving carts.
Lead Glaze: A shiny glaze containing lead oxide.
Lithograph: See Decal
Luster (Lustre): A metallic glaze that gives ware an iridescent effect.
Matt Glaze: A flat finish that is not reflective.
Overglaze: Colors such as gilding and decorations such as decals that are added after firing.
Pearlware: A lightweight earthenware similar to early creamware but whitened by small amounts of cobalt added to the glaze. It is opaque. It was first called Pearl Glaze and later Pearl White by Josiah Wedgwood in the late 1700s.
Polychrome: A term used to indicate more than one color as opposed to monochrome meaning one color. Polychrome is often used to indicate a decal or lithograph. Other terms used can be multicolor and gaudy, although they are usually used to describe transfer printing underglaze in one color.
Porcelain: Vitrified translucent ceramic ware with descriptions such as hard paste, artificial porcelain (soft paste) or English bone china. In general, porcelain is a term used to include all translucent ware with a non-porous body.
Potbank or Potworks: Early terms used to describe a pottery.
Pottery: Another term for earthenware, referring to opaque, nonvitrified ware. Pottery is also used to describe the manufactory of where ceramics are made.
Registered Designs and Numbers: Thousands of designs and shapes were registered at the British Patent Office to keep others from copying. From 1842 a diamond shaped device was used with codes marking the months and years. In 1884, the system was changed to progressive numbers beginning with the abbreviation Rd. No.
Restaurant Ware: Usually the American term for institutional ware. See Institutional Ware.
Saggar: A container made of high fired clay in which delicate items were put to protect them inside the kiln while firing.
Semi Vitreous: Vitreous means "glass-like." Ware labeled as such is fired at a high temperature, but not as high as vitrified ware (semi). The difference being that semi vitreous will absorb more water. See Vitrified.
Shard: A small piece of broken pottery usually found on sites where potteries existed or where people lived and worked.
Stilt Marks (also called spur marks): Small spot defects in the glaze surface caused by the supports that separated plates and other ware in the kiln.
Stone China: Another term for Ironstone.
Stoneware: Another term for Ironstone. Some printed marks have “Stone Ware” as two separate words.
Suiteware: Additional pieces that could be purchased in the same pattern as dinner, tea and breakfast set. Examples would include fruit and dessert services, cruet sets, covered butter and preserve dishes.
Toilet Set or Toilet Ware: Also referred to as Wash Set, used before indoor plumbing and would have include a wash pitcher and bowl, a smaller pitcher, soap dish, sponge bowl, toothbrush box, chamber pot and slop jar.
Transfer Printing: A design is engraved onto a copper plate. Once heated color ink is added and rubbed into the design leaving a thin film of color. A special piece of tissue paper is placed on the copper plate and the pattern color is transferred to the paper. The transferer would then cut the tissue and apply as desired on the ware, rubbing the paper to make sure the color transfers. The paper is then washed off leaving the colored transfer. The ware is dipped in glaze and fired.
Tyg: An English mug used in taverns and inns with three handles to allows its easy passing from one person to another.
Underglaze: Designs that are put on the biscuit ware before it is glazed are underglaze designs. Transfer-printed patterns are underglaze designs.
Vitrified (Vitreous): Glass-like ware that has been fired at a higher temperature than earthenware. The clay formula includes silica, which makes the body nonporous and nonabsorbent. As clay is fired hotter and hotter, it reaches a point where, if cooled from there, will produce ware of sufficient density and strength as to be useful for the intended purpose.
White Ware: Pottery or porcelain with a white body. The term is used to distinguish it from red ware or yellow are. White ware also refers to the ware that replaced pearlware in the 1820s-30s.