The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – J is for …

Jabot pin

A jabot pin is a brooch with a bejeweled motif at either end. It is pinned in such a way that only the decorative ends are seen, allowing the fabric to show in between. Jabot pins were used to secure the ruffled or lace piece of fabric (the jabot) that men wore on the front of their shirts.

An Art Deco jadeite, pearl, onyx, enamel and diamond jabot pin, by Cartier, circa 1925. Image via Bonhams.


Jacobean refers to the English style influenced by the reign of King James (1603-1625). Jacobean furniture was lighter than Tudor furniture, made to be seen from all angles, placed a greater emphasis on comfort, and reflected England’s growing global presence. Early American furniture is based on this period.

Model of a Jacobean “withdrawing room” or bedroom, based upon an interior from the manor house of Knole, Kent, England, mixed-media model by the workshop of Mrs. James Ward Thorne, circa1930–40; in the Art Institute of Chicago. Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago

Jadeite versus Jade

Jadeite is the term used to differentiate the high-quality jade suitable for use in jewelery from the lower quality jade used in larger decorative pieces. Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is the source of more than 90 per cent of the world’s jadeite. Contrary to popular belief, jadeite is not only green. It comes in many colors, including white, black, lavender, red and yellow, and can also be a colorless stone.

From Lang Antiques: French Art Deco natural Burmese jadeite, diamond and enamel brooch. Circa 1920s.


Japanning is a type of finish that originated as a European imitation of Asian lacquerwork. It was first used on furniture, but was later much used on small items in metal. The word originated in the 17th century. American work is more often called toleware. Japanning is most often a heavy black “lacquer”, almost like enamel paint. The European technique uses varnishes that have a resin base, similar to shellac, applied in heat-dried layers which are then polished, to give a smooth glossy finish. It can also come in reds, greens and blues.

From Carlton Hobbs: A Regency japanned secretaire set commemorating the “great comet” of 1811. English, circa 1811.


A jardinière (“female gardener” in French) is an ornamental stand for plants or flowers or a large – usually ceramic – flowerpot holder.

From Jesse Davis Antiques: Beautiful Minton majolica passion flower motif jardiniere on stand. English, circa 1860.


A jarretière is a strap bracelet made from flat, broad links with a buckle fastener. The style appeared in the mid-nineteenth century and has been revived in all succeeding decorative periods.

From Lang Antiques: Retro jarretière with buckle and mordant, accented by chrysoberyl and diamonds.


Jasperware is a type of pottery first developed by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1770s. Usually described as stoneware, it has an unglazed matte “biscuit” finish and is produced in a number of different colors, of which the most common and best known is a pale blue that has become known as Wedgwood Blue. Relief decorations in contrasting colors (typically in white) are characteristic of jasperware, giving a cameo effect.

Jasperware dish by Josiah Wedgwood and Sons, circa 1789. Image via the Metropolitan Museum.


Jet is a type of black/brown coal formed from the fossilized wood of a Jurassic period tree. Under great pressure for millions of years, ordinary driftwood from this tree is transformed into the gem we refer to as jet.The necessary ingredients and chemistry were present in abundance on the north-eastern coast of Great Britain 180 million years ago, in particular, the area around the fishing port of Whitby, Yorkshire. Jet was used in Britain as far back as the Neolithic period when it was made into beads for personal adornment. The Romans used jet for rings, hair embellishment, pendants and other forms of jewelry. Popular use of this stone died out until the Victorian era, when it was often used in mourning jewelry that was worn in remembrance of a dearly departed family member or friend.

From Lang Antiques: Georgian hair and French jet mourning brooch.


Jūbako are tiered boxes used to hold and present food in Japan. The boxes are often used to hold takeaway lunches, or bento, or to hold osechi, foods traditional to the Japanese New Year.

Mid-19th century jūbako by Shibata Zeshin, housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

By Vera Vandenbosch