Bric-à-brac for sale at a street market in Cambridge
Bric-à-brac (French: [bʁi.ka.bʁak]) or bric-a-brac (from French), first used in the Victorian era, refers to lesser objets d'art forming collections of curios, such as elaborately decorated teacups and small vases, compositions of feathers or wax flowers under glass domes, decorated eggshells, porcelain figurines, painted miniatures or photographs in stand-up frames, and so on.
In middle-class homes bric-à-brac was used as ornament on mantelpieces, tables, and shelves, or was displayed in curio cabinets: sometimes these cabinets have glass doors to display the items within while protecting them from dust. Today, "bric-à-brac" refers to a selection of items of modest value, often sold in street markets and charity shops, and may be more commonly known in colloquial English as "knick knacks."
Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman, Jr., in The Decoration of Houses (1897), distinguished three gradations of quality in such "household ornaments": bric-à-brac, bibelots (trinkets) and objets d'art.