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Metals (B) - Encylopedia Of Antiques

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BAIL HANDLE: A metal handle curved upward at the ends, depending from the sockets of the mount. See HANDLES.

BASINS: The basin was used in the 15th and 16th centuries with the ewer for cleansing the hands after meals, and has continued in use for domestic purposes since. In this country early in the 18th century, it was also used for baptismal rites. Basins were made of pewter or silver, sometimes even of glass.

BEAKER: A pewter or silver cup, varying in height, with a flat bottom and sides tap' pering outward from the base, usually engraved. They were without handles, as a rule, although some of the early American beakers were made with handles. During the Middle Ages they were used as domestic vessels but later were made for both church and domestic use. Beakers were among the earliest objects in silver in New England, and the Puritans adopted them almost exclusively as communion cups.

BELL-METAL: A bronze made of copper and tin in proportion of three or four parts of copper to one of tin, together with a small amount of zinc. Besides its use for bells, it was also used for mortars and for standard weights and measures.


BEZEL: The metal ring, usually hinged, surrounding a clock-face glass.


BLEEDING DISHES: Sometimes called in England blood porringers. Bowls to contain blood, sometimes made in nests, of silver or pewter. They were usually graduated, so as to show in ounces the quantity taken, and were made with but one handle. They first appeared in England in the first quarter of the 17th century.

BOSS: A protuberant part in ornament.

BRASS: An alloy of copper and zinc, and sometimes containing tin, ductile, and capable of being hammered or rolled into thin leaves. Also much used for castings. The proportion of copper varies from 60TO' to 75/%-. From the days of Queen Elizabeth onward it has been much favored for domestic utensils. Furniture mounts (See BRASSES, FURNITURE), candlesticks and andirons are other fields for its use. See BRASS UTENSILS, and ORMOLU.

BRASSES, FURNITURE: The pendant drop brasses came into use the last halt of the 17th century, followed by the chased brass plates, with loop handle. Chippendale made popular the so-called "willow" brasses, and after these came the oval plates of Hepplewhite and Sheraton. Many of the earlier brasses used were cast, some with flat surfaces, others with raised design. The handles of these earliest brasses were held in place by narrow strips of brass or iron thrust through a hole drilled in the drawer and clinched inside. These were called "cotter-pin" brasses. Prior to the Revolution most of the brasses used on furniture made in this country came from England. Brasses on old furniture should be of the same period as the antique. It is better to makF, use of good reproductions than to use a later style, although old.

BRASSES, MONUMENTAL: Large plates of brass or of latten (q.v.) inlaid on slabs of stone forming a part of the pavement, or placed on altar tombs of old churches in Europe. They flourished in England in the 13th and 14th centuries.

BRASS UTENSILS: Included among them were the kettles, warming-pans, basins, pots of various sizes, candlesticks, fire sets, braziers, lamps, fenders and cooking utensils. Some of these were made of copper also. Those of the 17th century used in this country were brought from England or Holland. Early in the 18th century braziers began producing brass and copper utensils here, although castings of brass were not made here until late in the century. Old brass has a soft sparkle and brilliancy not found later.

BRAZIER: A portable metal pan or hearth in which charcoal or coke is burned. Its earliest use was for live coals for heating. It later became a domestic utensil, the forerunner of the modern chafing dish, first made in the 15th and 16th centuries, in England and the Low Countries, of copper or brass. During the 18th century it was also made of silver by both English and American silversmiths. Among the earliest were those of John Coney of Boston about 1720. BRAZIER also is used to designate the brass-worker.

BRIGHT-CUTTING: A form of engraving on metal in which the designs are lightly cut into the metal in such a way as to offer a reflective surface.

BRITANNIA METAL: An alloy which contained no lead, superseding ordinary pewter because of its supposed injurious effect on health. As first made in the middle of the 18th century, Britannia metal was strictly first-grade pewter. Although there were many variations of the proportions, tin 85%, antimony 100, zinc 3% and copper 1o was a standard composition. Bismuth was also used at times. It afterwards changed its pewter-like character and adapted itself to the new factory methods of manufacture. Britannia metal can be "spun" more readily than pewter and can also be electroplated.

BRONZE: An alloy of copper and tin, sometimes with traces of zinc, phosphorus, etc., used for domestic utensils from a prehistoric period. Bronze was almost universally used by the Romans for metal objects other than those of gold and silver, and during the so-called Bronze Age bronze was used as the material for cutting implements and weapons. Bronze has been extensively and beautifully wrought by the Chinese and Japanese through many centuries.

BUCKLES: Comparatively little has been written about the Colonial shoe- and kneebuckles. About the time of Charles the Second, the ornamental shoe-buckle came into fashion in England, small at first, but destined to increase in size and in richness of design. Shoe- and kneebuckles were immensely popular throughout the 18th century and later,and thousands of pairs were exported to America. They were made of pewter, pinchbeck, silver, and sometimes of gold, set with jewels, real or paste.

BULL'S-EYE LAMP: A lens lamp, first half of the 19th century, used for reading. It was usually of pewter and mounted on a low stand.

BURNERS, LAMP: The earliest burners were of 18thcentury invention, when the flat wick was introduced and connected between the oil and the flame by a metal casing, with the wick adjusted by a spur-wheel. In 1783 A. Argand, of Geneva, invented a round burner with holes in the side, through which more air was drawn against the flame, making it a steadier and brighter light. The upright-wick burner was an epoch-making contribution to the development of lighting. During the first half of the 19th century many patents for burners to improve the lighting qualities were issued. Few of them were practical, and their further development was discouraged when gas and electricity became popular.