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What is a Finial?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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A finial is a decorative accent piece usually found at the top of a building or decor item. Finials are also featured at the ends of curtain rods and the top of flagpoles. A finial is sometimes called a knop. The three most common materials used to create finials are stone, metal and wood.

Wooden finials may top fence posts or bed posts also made out of wood. A fence post finial may be called a cap. Finials made from turned or carved wood can often be seen as a decoration on top of a wooden clock such as on grandfather clocks. A wooden clock finial is usually featured in a broken pediment. A broken pediment is a decorative wood piece placed in two parts with an open area in the middle.

Newel finials sit on the tops of the newels or posts of a staircase. A newel finial may be just a plain geometric shape or it could be intricately carved to look like an acorn, flower or other design. Hollow or solid metal finials may top fences and gates as well as appear at the ends of curtain and tapestry rods. Lamp finials are often made of metal although some are formed from glass or synthetic materials. A lamp finial may be shaped like a ring or it could be a small solid piece that helps hold the lamp shade onto the base.

The spire is a popular type of metal finial seen on many old buildings such as churches. Spires are tall, narrow decorative roof top pieces with a pointed end. Copper finials are a popular type of spire, but many other metals are also used. India's Taj Mahal features a gilded finial of Hindu and Persian design on its large center dome.

A metal finial may decorate the peak of a gable roof, but stone finials decorate the sides and top of buildings. Stone finials may be in the shape of a fleur-de-lis, flame or pineapple. Many different fancy patterns are possible for finial designs.

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