The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – P is for…

Parcel gilt

Parcel gilt is a term used to describe silverware or furniture, parts of which are gilded, such as areas of carved or moulded decoration.

From Carlton Hobbs: one of a rare pair of white painted and parcel gilt salon chairs in the French taste. English, 1830.

Partners desk

A partners’ desk is a late 18th century and 19th century type of large English desk at which two people can work facing each other. The desk has drawers and/or cupboards on each side.

From Daniel Stein Antiques: An English mahogany partners desk of compact size with a gilt-tooled leather top, circa 1860.


A parure is a matching set of jewelery, usually including a necklace, brooch, bracelet and earrings. Parures were first worn in the 16th century and came into vogue again in the 19th century.

Antique neoclassical cameo parure in original box. Grand tour souvenir from Italy, early 19th century. Image via Eleuteri.


A patera is a small flat circular or oval medallion motif, often decorated with acanthus leaves or flower petals, and often used on silver, furniture, etcetera.

Design for a frieze, ornamented with lion’s head paterae. British, late 18th – early 19th century. Image via The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Pavé, from the French word for “paved”, referring to a jewelery setting in which gemstones, often diamonds, are set very close together like paving stones to hide the backing metal. The technique was popular in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

From Lang Antiques: Pavé platinum dome ring.


A piecrust edge is a scalloped decorative rim reminiscent of the crimped edges of a pie, which was popular on furniture and silverware (where it is known as a Chippendale rim) in the mid- 18th century, and much reproduced in the 19th century.

The Bunting family Chippendale carved and figured mahogany piecrust tilt-top tea table, Philadelphia, circa 1770. Image via Sotheby’s.

Pietra dura

Pietra dura is a term for the inlay technique of using cut and fitted, highly polished semiprecious stones and different colored marbles to create patterns and images. Pietra dura is also known as Florentine mosaic.

From Carlton Hobbs: Remarkable center table with inscribed top made with a mosaic of ancient specimen marbles collected from the site of the Palace of the Caesars in the Farnese gardens, Rome. The Top, probably Rome, circa 1845. Base designed to support top, circa 1980s.

Poker work

Poker work is a technique for decorating woodwork, using a hot tool to burn patterns into a surface, practiced since at least the early 17th century in Italy. It was particularly popular during the Victorian period in Britain and during the arts and crafts movement. It also appears on cottage-style furniture of the early 20th century.

An Italian cedar and poker work cassone, late 17th century. Image via Christie’s.


A pricket – or pricket stick – is the earliest type of candlestick, with a metal spike on which the candle was stuck.

Pricket candlestick with fantastic creatures. Circa 1150 – 1175, South Netherlands. Image via The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

By Vera Vandenbosch