Glossary of Terms

It has often been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so too with the Shelley Glossary. Click on the image thumbnail for an enlarged view; click again to return to normal view.

The tabs below may be used to navigate to the various alphabetical sections in the Glossary. Please note that not all letters of the alphabet have an entry in the glossary.





advertisingAdvertising ware - various forms of Shelley wares which were covered with another firm’s advertising.   Shapes were typically ash trays, mugs and jugs, but some shapes were produced for advertising only and not for any other use.  An example is the “Baker’s Chocolate” mug described in a past Shelley magazine.


Afternoon set - Set of china composed of two afternoon teacups and saucers, one sugar basin, one cream jug, one pint-sized teapot and either an oval tray or two each four-inch plates.


alternateAlternate - Term used in Shelley database referring to alternating panels of color and a different color or pattern, typically on Queen Anne, Dainty and less often Ludlowshapes. 



Arms ware or china -  see heraldic ware


artdecoArt deco - wares which reflect a time period in the 1920’s-30’s characterized by high quality craftsmanship, inventive forms, colorful and flashy geometric shapes and machine made, mass produced wares.  Shelley art deco shapes were Mode, Vogue, Eve and Regent.



athomeAt home set - also referred to as “tea and toast” set, an oval shaped saucer or dish with a ridged indentation on one end to place the base of a teacup, while the remainder holds the toast, biscuits or other items served with tea.






backstampBackstamps - Also referred to as trademarks, the company name and symbol stamps applied to the underside or back side of china and pottery to distinguish it from all other manufacturers. See also Backstamps tab in What is Shelley.


badgedwareBadged ware - china which is usually basic white in different shapes, but has had applied crests or coat-of-arms of towns and other regions, or other advertising for a region or product.


bandedBanded - horizontal color lines and other designs applied on china which from certain perspectives appear as concentric circles.



baseBase - The flat part on the bottom of a china or pottery piece.



Blank - China which is sold without decoration or coloring of any kind for others to decorate with designs or hand painting.  See also “utility ware”.

Body - The combined materials which together make potter’s clay which leads to earthenware or stoneware; also the largest part of an object.

Bone china - Porcelain made from two parts calcined beef bones, one part China Clay, and one part China Stone, which when fired in ovens, becomes translucent and a superb platform for creative designs and shapes of tableware.  First manufactured by Josiah Spode in 1794.


bordertrimBorder trim - a repeating design or line of color applied at or near the base, lip or break in panel.  More decorative designs were typically print transfers.



breakfastsetBreakfast set – for one person; includes cup, saucer, 6” plate, 8” plate, fruit bowl, covered muffin dish, egg cup, 6” coffee pot, and cream and sugar.



burnishingBurnishing - The polishing needed on high quality gilding (gold decoration) on china to bring up the shine after it is fired.






chintzChintz - The all-over design usually of a repeating floral arrangement which covers at least one surface (inside or outside) of a china piece.  Often based on chintz fabric designs.



chopplateChop plate - A large size plate 13” and more in one dimension, round or oval and other shapes, the dish being a serving and display piece for chops or similar pieces of meat.



cloiselloCloisello ware - A chintz-like design of underglaze blue Grecian border with white Chinese daisy in relief on a blue plain or patterned background.



cloisonneCloisonné - decorative process where complex colored decorations are separated by fine lines of gold, black or other uniform color



coffeepotCoffeepot - one of the larger china containers for dispensing coffee, came in various sizes.  The shape is typically tall and skinny with a long curved spout projecting upwards from the base of the pot.



coffeesetCoffee set - a china set comprised of six cups and saucers, one sugar basin, one cream jug, and one coffee pot of 1.5 pints or more.



commenorativewareCommemorative ware or china - China, much like heraldic ware, but with busts or coats of arms of the current English monarch, usually with the monarch name and event commemorated, such as weddings, coronations, jubilees and other anniversaries.  Most popular between 1910 and 1920.


compoartComport - a decorative bowl raised above the table on a stand of varying heights, as a centerpiece above all else on the table; a compote.



coupeCoupe shape - a simpler, modernistic overall design for china which removed rims from plates and bowls; the design became popular in the early 1950's.



crestedminiaturesCrested ware - see heraldic ware




cruetCruet set - a set of covered ceramic vessels for vinegar, oil and other condiments,  with a tray or rack which holds them in place.






decoratormarkDecorator marks - letters and numbers hand applied to the underside or side of china pieces near the backstamp, signifying the decorator’s personal artistic license so-to-speak.


demitasseDemitasse - smaller size of cup or other china piece used for after dinner black coffee, about one-third smaller than teacup; also referred to as coffee size. (Demitasse on right compared to standard Tea)



Dessert set - a china set containing 6 or 12 ea. dessert plates (9-in.), 2 ea. fruit dishes and one comport.


Dinner set - sets of china sold with varying numbers of place settings, the largest contained 12 ea. 10-in. plates, 12 ea. 9-in. plates, 12 ea. 7-in. plates, 12 ea. 10-in. soups, 2 ea. 9-in. dishes, one each 10, 12, 14 and 16-in. dish,  2 ea. covered vegetable dishes, 2 ea. sauce tureen and stands and one soup tureen and stand.


dontilDontil - top edge trim to china pieces which looks like a continuous row of rounded upper teeth.





earthenwareEarthenware - a heavier, opaque ware, porous after the first firing, then decorated and glazed before a final firing.  Most Shelley earthenware was produced between 1910 and 1940.



elegantElegant - Shelley database term for the highly decorated series of  patterns, primarily on the Gainsborough shape produced in three or more colors during the World War II years, including such patterns as Georgian, Crochet, DuBarry, Regal, Sheraton and Duchess - see “plain white period.”


enameledEnameled - refers to metallic-based paint of any color, applied manually often over a lithographed design and then fired  as all or part of the china design.





faienceFaience - term applied to all kinds of glazed ceramics other than porcelain and stoneware.



farmerFarmer size - the largest size of cup and saucer about one-third larger than a teacup. (Farmer on left compared to Tea)


Fired - placing the formed “slip” or clay mixture into a special oven where temperatures over 1200 degrees Centigrade can be maintained for long periods, to change the material into the familiar porcelain.


figuresFigures - china pieces in a reduced scale model or version of some animal, vehicle, person or thing, as an ornament or toys.




Flat - Term in Shelley pattern books meaning saucer


floralFloral - a piece of china in a pattern with one or more flowers depicted.




fluteFlute - looking from the top of a cup, flutes appear to be some number of arcs (parts of circles) joined together to form a near circle.  From the side a flute appears large on one end and small on the other.  The number of flutes on the Dainty shape is six, Ludlow is 14 and so on.


Foley Potteries - region in England where many fine pottery firms operated, and the name of the firm taken over by Wileman prior to Shelley ownership.


footFoot - refers to the base of a pedestal, like the Gainsborough shape, or any comport.



footlineFootline, footband - hand-applied color encircling the china piece at the base, line is thin, band is wider.



fruitFruit - a database term meaning a pattern which has a fruit or fruit group as the primary feature of the pattern.



Fruit set - a china set containing one nine-inch flanged fruit bowl and six fruit saucers with rims.





Garland - a database term meaning a pattern which has leaves, vines and other items which appear to be hanging from the top or side edges of the china piece.


Glaze - the transparent, glassy outer finish of fine china pieces, a combination of silica (sand), potash and lead oxide, the same constituents of glass.  It is applied to the surface to make the china piece impervious and to protect the design.


grotesquesGrotesques - A Shelley line of ugly or disturbing shaped earthenware figures based on fantastic or mythical animal or semi-human forms.



Ground - the primary background color of a pattern

Groundlayed or groundlaid - a method of coating areas of a pattern design with oil to which the color in powder form is applied before firing.  The design repels the oil and therefore receives no coloring.




handpaintedHand-painted - as the name implies, enamels are applied by hand instead of machine, to create “print-and-enamel” patterns or completely unique miniature works of art on pieces of china.



harmonywareHarmony ware - a large range of hand-decorated, high-fired earthenwares where colors of various shades were applied and then allowed, or helped by spinning, to drip and blend together into a pleasing artistic pattern, each truly unique but similar to the other.



hearldicHeraldic ware or china - China pieces or small figures, mostly white, with colorful and real coats of arms applied for decoration.  These pieces were mostly sold as souvenirs.





idealIdeal - Ideal patterns began in 1938, for the main purpose of the export market, but this term was also used to symbolize cheaper ranges of china for the English market.  Recognized by the “IDEAL”  or “CS” backstamp or pattern numbers which begin with a “0”.


intarsioIntarsio - Pottery by Shelley, designed by Frederick Rhead and later Walter Slater, which used the technique of applying the painted decoration by hand to the earthenware object before it was glazed.  It is possible that as many as 388 designs were applied to a wide variety of pottery shapes.  Generally  striking, colorful designs were painted against dark backgrounds.




latefoleyLate Foley - A phrase employed by the Shelley pottery for several years (1910-16) while they advertised and converted their name and clientele to the new products stamped with the Shelley shield of quality.




lipLip - The top edge or rim of a cup or bowl, often decorated with a special trim color or border design.



Litho, lithograph - Designs made on a plate in ink are first fixed, then remaining porous areas are treated with water so that the printing ink adheres only to the design which is then transferred to the paper.


lustrewareLustre ware - pottery which is beautifully decorated and then covered with a thin layer of mother-of-pearl or metallic (gold or copper) glaze giving a special sheen to the applied  surfaces.





mabellucyatwellMabel Lucie Attwell (MLA) - famous English illustrator of children's books, employed by Shelley to produce nurseryware for children.




miniatureMiniature - tiny versions of a Shelley or other pattern on a piece or set of china. Shelley miniatures are very  rare and expensive.



morningsetMorning set - china set containing 2 ea. teacups and saucers, one sugar basin, one cream jug, one small plate and one teapot  (1 pint- 2 cup teapot).


mouldsMoulds - also known as jelly moulds, light gray porcelain molds in eighteen shapes and sixty-five sizes, very high quality and trademarked, special because inner and outer surfaces were essentially duplicated. For a complete list of shapes and sizes, click here.





nurserywareNurseryware - figurines and small-size china ware often decorated with nursery rhymes and verses, enjoyed by small children, and their parents.






panelPanel - a uniform surface of a piece of china which is repeated and connected much like the walls of a room.  Most evident in Shelley Queen Anne and Antique patterns.


Paste - the combined materials which together form the basis for porcelain or bone china.


pastelloPastello - A range or line of Shelley pottery consisting of figures, flowers and natural objects executed on a dark background as a cameo like figure in a semi-transparent paste.  Very few pieces have survived, so it is quite rare to find.


pastelsPastels - Shelley china, colored very simply with a lightly tinted color like pink.  The color may be the only color, or the handle and lip may be colored with gold or a different, complementary or contrasting shade.


patternPattern - the design of the colors, decals or similarly applied features on one or many different pieces and shapes of china.



Pattern Book - The Pattern Books are the equivalent of a modern day production database.  As new patterns were created, a detailed description, complete with hand painted pictures, was carefully added to the book so that the particular ware could be replicated in the future. There presently exist thrity-one pattern books, and four or five duplicates.  The story of the patterns books is quite extraordinary; for more on their history, click here



patternnumberPattern number - the number applied to the bottom of a china piece, usually near the trademark, which refers to the pattern design or name recorded in the original pattern book.  Sometimes it is the only information separating one pattern from another; some patterns have only a number, no name.


pedestalPedestal - a delicate attached stand which lifts a bowl, plate or part of a cup a bit higher above the table.



Piece - a term for the similarly designed items in a set of china, each with the same pattern and characteristics, but each one having a different function, such as plate, cup, saucer, teapot, bowl, eggcup, cheese dish, etc.


plainwhitePlain white period – during WWII and for several years thereafter, the manufacture of china other than plain white or ivory coloring for England’s domestic sales was prohibited.  See also “utility ware”.



Porcelain - a translucent, vitrified ware, fired at high temperature until hard (and brittle like glass) and ready for decoration and later use.

Pottery - a soft, lightly fired, opaque earthenware, generally considered less expensive than porcelain, at least as regarding production cost.

Primitif - little known range of Shelley/Wileman china which apparently utilized “random glaze effects.” 

Print - the design in one or more colors and the paper it was applied to, prior to being placed permanently onto the piece of china as decoration, sometimes referred to as a decal.  In database terms this refers to a gold or other solid color design overlayed onto some other design.

Print and enamel - a decorating process where engraved prints are applied to a china surface, then hand-painted in up to six separate enamel colors applied over the glazing and fired to fuse the enamel to the glaze.




Range - a line or series of china pieces in a certain shape and style, such as Dainty.

registrationnumberRegistration number - a number registered in the patent office of the country or countries a product is sold in to prevent sale of  inexpensive copies and provide legal rights for the inventor and fines against the product copier, often abbreviated as Rd. followed by the number.


repeatRepeat - Shelley database term referring to patterns with a smaller design which is repeatedly applied in a uniform manner over one surface of the piece, like Shamrock.



ribbedRibbed - the vertical “washboard” or corduroy-like effect molded into some mainly Wileman shapes of china such as Alexandra.



Ring - the tone given off when gently striking the side of good china; also ping




sandwichSandwich set - china set consisting of one sandwich tray and 6 ea. 6-in. plates.




scallopScallop - ornamentation derived from the shape of the scallop shell, consisting of a repeated series of arcs.



scenicScenic - Shelley database term for photograph-like pictures applied to the surfaces of china pieces.  Shelley scenics were generally applied to relatively flat-surfaced shapes like Henley, Cambridge, Richmond, and many plate shapes.


secondsSeconds - Seconds patterns began in 1919 and were intended to indicate china which didn't meet the high quality standards of the Shelley factory.  Patterns were often just like the best china but several special “seconds-only” patterns arose.  Seconds had a number in the series of 2000-2999 and might have a “2” or “2nd” applied.


sgraffitoSgraffito - Designs which are hand-carved into colored layers on pottery until completed; “scratched ware”.



Shape - Like models sold by an automobile manufacturer, each range of china had its own design and dimensions which combine to represent its shape.  There are over 130 Shelley and Wileman backstamped shapes.


shelleygirlShelley girl - a china figurine about 12-inches high which was used in advertising Shelley wares as a fashionable and stylish form of china, circa 1926.  An extremely valuable piece today.




Slip - A creamy mixture of completely mixed bone china powder and water is poured into molds to create china.  Slip is also used as a glue to attach handles to the china cup body before firing.


solidSolid - Shelley database term referring to patterns which are all, or nearly all one color, including pastels, for example.



souvenirSouvenir china - china produced for purposes of advertising the best features of some area, e.g. the Bermudas and Niagara Falls, which was sold entirely as souvenirs for visitors.



spanolustraSpano-lustra - A variation of the sgraffito or "scratched ware" process, after the design is cut away from the pottery layers, a heavy lustrous glaze was applied to cover the surface.




Special - Specials patterns began in 1920 and were made with special designs, patterns and words applied to allow the pattern to be used for decoration for cafes, badges, etc.


stampedStamp, stamped - generic term for the many varieties of fancy gold litho designs applied over elements in a pattern to add a fancy finish.



Stoneware - china which is somewhere between porcelain and earthenware but much stronger than either.  It is opaque, intensely hard and non-porous.


strokeStroke - a long thin color line manually applied, to handles,  most common example is Dainty Blue pattern.



Style - the total quality and artistic value of all patterns, shapes and colors of china produced by a pottery, contents of “The  Shelley Style” for example.




teasetTea set - a china set containing 6 or 12 ea. teacups and saucers, 6 or 12 ea. plates of either 6 or 7-in. diameter, one or 2 ea. bread and butter plates, one slop basin, one cream jug.



toiletsetToilet set - Large jug and basin for purposes of washing, in days before, or places and rooms where running water was not available.



Toilet Service - Toilet set plus soap dish, covered dish and small bowl.


tracingTracing - the hand-applied gold trim to the handle of a china piece, a thin line painted along the higher surfaces.



Trademark - The special design and name unique to a company’s wares which are registered with governments to ensure cheap copies of products cannot be made and sold with copied trademarks as well. 

Transfer-printing - Method by which a design is printed in ink on an engraved copper plate and transferred to paper, which is then pressed on the ceramic surface while still wet.



unknownUnknown - in Shelley database, refers to patterns or shapes which haven’t been identified or verified to date.



urbatoUrbato - A more complex development of sgraffito “scratched ware” which used multiple colored layers of carving and added colors with brushes on occasion to make the final design, to which a plain layer of glaze was applied.



utilitywareUtility ware - very plain white or ivory ware with clear or white glaze, produced in the 1940’s and 50’s mostly for the English domestic market by direction of the Board of Trade at the time.  Also known as white ware.




Ware - All the products manufactured by a firm for use on a table for purposes related to eating and drinking.

Wileman - The name of the Foley area china works originated in 1860 by Henry Wileman,  which later was purchased by  Percy Shelley and renamed to Shelley Potteries in 1910.