“What’s that?” A glossary of vintage terms.

When you’re researching vintage or antique items, it can take forever to find examples of a particular piece – especially when you don’t know the right search terms to use.

This reverse glossary lets you look up a variety of vintage and antique items using common terms. You’ll see suggestions for various proper or alternative words to try in search engines. Check each of the sections, since many of the same terms apply to glass and pottery.

I’ll keep adding to the list as I discover new terms, so subscribe to the blog if you want to keep up! And feel free to suggest additional terms that I should add.

GENERAL
Signature: Try “mark,” “hallmark” or “backstamp.”

GLASS
Bottle: Large, usually rounded, blue or green, with narrow neck and stopper (may be covered with straw, wicker or metal): Try “demijohn” or “carboy.”
Butter Dish: “Butter tub” or “covered butter.” Also, try “cheese bowl”
Cake Stand: If there’s a deeper dish on top, try “compote,” “covered compote,” “fruit server,” “salver” or “footed bowl.”
Condiment Set and Stand (salt/pepper/cruets): “Castor set”
Cookie Jar: “Biscuit jar” or “cracker jar” – even “cigar jar”!

EAPG Biscuit Jar, "Aztec" Pattern

EAPG Biscuit Jar, “Aztec” Pattern

Cruet: “Syrup jug” or “molasses can”
Cut Glass: “American Brilliant Cut Glass” is the proper term. Often abbreviated to “ABP” for “American Brilliant Period.”
Decanter: Try “bar bottle”
Dish: Round, with inset rim: Try “butter dish” or “cheese dish.”

Indiana Glass "Bosworth" or "Star Band" covered butter or cheese dish, without lid.

Indiana Glass “Bosworth” or “Star Band” covered butter or cheese dish, without lid.

Drinking Glasses: The proper term is “tumbler.” If it looks like a tumbler but you’re not sure, try “spoon holder” or “spooner.” Also, try “juice glass.”
Drinking Glass with Heavy Rim (with or without foot): Try “spoon holder” or “spooner.”

EAPG Spoon Holder without a Foot

EAPG Spoon Holder without a Foot

Etched Glassware: Try “Floricut” (a popular brand of etched EAPG) or “Elegant Glass”
Footed Glass Jar: Try “candy dish,” “pickle jar”
Goblet, oversized. Try “spooner” or “buttermilk goblet.”
Ice Bucket: “Ice tub” or “ice bowl”
Juice Pitcher: Try “water pitcher” or “water set”
Miniature glass bowls (1 inch or so): Open Salt

EAPG Open Salts

EAPG Open Salts

Multicolored Glass(colors all running together): “Spatterware” or “End of Day,” “frigger,” “slag glass”

Vintage End of Day or Spatter glass vase, circa 1920s

Vintage End of Day or Spatter glass vase, circa 1920s

Oval or Elongated Bowls and Plates: “Celery,” “bread tray,” “spoon tray,” “banana bowl,” “centerpiece” “ice cream tray” or “pickle”

American Brilliant Cut Glass Celery Dish

American Brilliant Cut Glass Celery Dish

Pitcher: The proper term is “jug” for one with straight sides and flat bottom. (Also, try “tankard” or “decanter”)
Plate with center handle: Try “sandwich plate” or “sandwich server.” If the edges are turned up, it could be a fruit tray.
Plate that looks like a frying pan: Try “spider”
Plate with opposite sides turned up: Try “muffin tray” or “folded edge.”
Pressed Glass: The proper term is Early American Pattern Glass (EAPG). Many websites use this term exclusively.
Small Shallow Bowls (With or without handle): “Nappy,” bonbon,” “fruit bowl,” “finger bowl,” “honey dish” or “berry bowl.”

EAPG Nappy or Fruit Bowl

EAPG Nappy or Fruit Bowl – also Berry Bowl.

Small Glasses (Shot glass size): Try “spill holder” or “match holder” as well as “whiskey glass” and “toothpick holder”
Small round bowl with two handles: Olive
Sugar bowl: “Covered sugar”
Wine Glass (Or any glass with a foot): “Goblet,” “jelly glass,” “pilsner,” “ale,” “rummer,” “parfait”

JEWELRY
Brooch with a piece on a spring: “En tremblent” or “trembler” (can also apply to other jewelry)

Clasps, earring backs, hooks (anything that holds jewelry together): “Findings”

  • Brooch pin that slides into a holder: “C” style clasp
  • Brooch pin that slides into holder that closes: Safety or Rollover clasp
  • Necklace clasp that looks like a question mark and springs open: Lobster claw
  • Necklace clasp where a “T” shaped piece of metal slides into a circle, then straightens out to hold it closed: Try “toggle clasp.”

Earring posts:
Open wire (no closure): Fish hook (common on older jewelry)
Open wire (slips into hook at the end): Wire Kidney(also common on older jewelry)
Matching set of jewelry (necklace, bracelet and earrings): Parure
Piece that attaches a pendant to the necklace chain: “Bail”
Rhinestones: Try “diamante”
Smooth, round or oval stones with flat back: Cabochon
Stones set so tightly together that they make a uniform surface: Pavé

PORCELAIN AND POTTERY (Try “ceramic” “porcelain,” “ironstone” or “stoneware”
Beads (raised) of color on ceramics and porcelain: “Moriage”

Example of Moriage "beading"

Example of Moriage “beading”

Bowl, Candleholders and Flower “Frog”: Try “console set”
Bowl, serving: If you can’t find it under “serving,” try “console bowl.”
Candlestick: Try “candle holder” or “match holder”
Coasters: Try “pin dish”

4" Pin dish

4″ Pin dish

Divided Bowls or Dishes: Try “caboret,” “compartment” or “relish dish.”
Footed Porcelain Bowls: “Nut bowl” and sometimes “salt”
Holes on Top: Try “powder shaker” or “hatpin holder” as well as “salt & pepper”
Miniature Porcelain Dishes: “Nut dish” or “Open Salt”
Mug: Try “tankard”
Round, flat disk with pencil-sized holes throughout: Try “flower frog” or “frog.”
Shiny Porcelain (often made in Japan/Nippon): “Lusterware” or “Lustreware”

Noritake lusterware condiment set, circa 1920s.

Noritake lusterware condiment set, circa 1920s.

Small Bowl, Plate and Spoon: “Condiment set” or “Mayonnaise set”
Small bowls (4” to 6” in diameter): Try “berry,” “bonbon,” “nappy” or “nut” bowl
Stern Asian men in robes: Immortals (pictured on the moriaged lamp above)

VASES
Crimped, flared rim: Trumpet vase
Double handles: Try “urn”
Round, ball or globe-shaped: Rose vase
Smooth, flared rim: Tappan vase
Straight, wide opening, with or without foot (Like an oversized tumbler or spoon holder):Try “celery” – celery was often served “standing up” in a vase as well as on a dish.
Tall vase (usually plain) with gently sloping sides: Flip vase
Vertical ribbing, narrow in middle and ruffled rims (often iridized): Try “stretch vase.”
Strangely, irregularly shaped tall vase: Try “swung vase.”

EAPG Stretch Vase

EAPG Stretch Vase

MISCELLANEOUS
Handbags/Purses: Try “reticule” or “flapper purse” (for a beaded purse that’s one piece, handle and all)

Typical 1920s Beaded "Flapper Purse"

Typical 1920s Beaded “Flapper Purse”

Metal items with “miniature stained glass” motifs: Try “pique a jour.”
Metal tray painted with flowers: “Toleware”

Vintage Toleware Tray, Circa 1950s

Vintage Toleware Tray, Circa 1950s

Porcelain knick-knacks: Try “fairings,” especially if they feature pigs or funny situations and sayings.

This is no ordinary 1950s knick-knack. It’s an original fairing – a souvenir of 19th Century European street fairs (like those shown on “Downton Abbey”). Knowing an antique’s history adds immense value to even the simplest items.

This is no ordinary 1950s knick-knack. It’s an original fairing – a souvenir of 19th Century European street fairs (like those shown on “Downton Abbey”). Knowing an antique’s history adds immense value to even the simplest items.

Plastic: Try “Bakelite” or “celluloid.” For newer items, try “Lucite.”

9 Responses to “What’s that?” A glossary of vintage terms.

  1. Rachel Dallas says:

    Hi there!
    Thanks so much for this. I’ve bookmarked you twice now!! Especially with the Anchor Hocking, Wexford page. :)) I have a few tumblers and a small shallow bowl of theirs. The tumblers were some of the first vintage items I bought. I can’t tell you how relieved and happy I was to find your blog last night!! I’ve had those tumblers for nearly two years without a name. Wahoo! Makes it all worthwhile. Doesn’t it?! 🙂
    With regards to your key item searches for glassware and crystal, are they particularly for American items?
    I do have three key word searches off the top of my head regarding glass items or crystal which are ‘carnival glass,”crystalline,’ or ‘ lead crystal.’ I’ve also found that the Waterford crystal website which may help those stuck for special keywords for various items.
    Thanks again so much!
    Will definitely follow your blog!! Hello all!
    Kindest regards,
    Rachel 🙂

  2. Gail Laird says:

    So glad to find this site. I have an old Noritake vase that I now know is lusterware

  3. David Parrish says:

    Hello,

    I found your blog from a post I posed a question on on “Vintage Glass” on Facebook. So glad to find this blog!

    I don’t know much about blogs nor have I ever subscribed to any. So I was wondering how I can subscribe to yours? Do I need to download an app or anything? Or can you use my email I’ve provided for updates on your blog? I appreciate any help you may have.

    Sincerely,

    David

    • sarathurston says:

      Welcome, David!
      I hope to continue writing about the exciting things I discover about all sorts of “old” things. Thanks for the follow!

    • Kris Forman says:

      Hi David! Great post! I have a photo of some decanters that I can’t figure out what they are… They look a bit like pitchers. They have handles. They are made of ceramic. They have wide mouths that look like they are for pouring. But the tops are closed and they each have (like a group of three to four) small holes in the tops of each of the closed tops. The tops are indented. But the holes almost look like the type you’d see in the tops of salt and pepper shakers. But the decanters are large, like pitchers. These are strange looking. I have no idea what they are. I wish I could upload a photo to you. Do you have any idea what these are, or what they were used for?
      Thanks much!
      Kris Forman

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