Royal Dux

My wife loves elephants. I have nothing against the elephant and as our home is covered with them, I have little choice. I have to admit that some of the models are really quite lovely, especially those from Duchov.

In 1853 in the town of Duchov a factory was founded and the story of Royal Dux began. After several years of producing utility ceramics the factory was bought by Eduard Eichler and became E Eichler Thonwaren Fabrik. Success followed with the production of terracotta, faience and majolica items, winning a Silver award at the 1878 Paris Exhibition.

A pink triangle became the trademark in 1900.The raised triangle has an acorn in the centre with the inscription ‘Royal Dux Bohemia’, which is still used today.

The Art Nouveau and the Vienna Secession were probably the most successful periods for Royal Dux production. The company won awards in Exhibitions in Milan, Liberec and St. Louis, having representatives and showrooms all over Europe.

The Art Nouveau production is the most collected period. Pieces from this period are very recognisable with their fleshy colourings and attention to facial detail. Classically modelled maidens abound, along with shell shaped vases and bowls, elephants, dogs and Arab figures on camels and horses.

The World Wars affected production, output ceased in the first war and in the second, the German government took over. After the war it was taken over by the new communist government of Czechoslovakia, but today it is privately owned.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Faberge

Forty three years ago last week my wife and I plunged headlong into life together. For our honeymoon I treated my bride to four nights in the Lake District, in a little known hostel, costing the princely sum of six pounds a night, which I excitedly told her included breakfast, an evening meal and en-suite facilities. I loved her so much I would have bought her one of the missing Faberge Imperial eggs, but she seemed happy enough with our room.

Peter Carl Faberge was born in 1846 and he gained a reputation for elegance and originality in his jewellery design after taking over his father’s shop in St Petersburg at the tender age of twenty four.

In 1884 he was commissioned by the Tsar Alexander III to make the first Imperial Easter egg. These projects became top priority for the company and were planned and worked on far in advance, sometimes for over a year. Fifty six Imperial eggs were made and the location of all but about ten is known.

This relationship with the Imperial family blossomed and lasted right up until the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and it opened up many doors of influence for Faberge. Perhaps his greatest success was expanding production to include purely decorative objects, called his ‘Objects of Fantasy’

Many of the Faberge pieces sold today fetches huge prices on the international stage with a ‘jet set’ following. However it is still possible to purchase some of the more ‘modest’ brooches or smaller jewellery items such as tiepins and cuff links in salerooms at more reasonable prices. The miniature enamel and jewelled egg pendants are still far and away the most popular of all these ‘more affordable’ gems.

What about fakes? Well, fakes are so common in the field of Faberge that the Fine Art world came up with a special little phrase, ‘Fauxberge’ to encompass them all. They include everything from near perfect matches to disastrous copies.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Art Nouveau

Throughout the history of art and design there have been a great many different styles, all championed by different characters. My favourite is the Art Nouveau style.

Art Nouveau describes a style used in architecture and the arts from the last decade of the 19th century and into the early years of the 20th century and it had essentially two main aims.

One was a rejection of the historical retrospective styles so prominent in the latter half of the 19th century. Art Nouveau was of the here and now and the future, not an imitation of past styles. However the style did at times use ideas and motifs of medieval origin.

The other aim was a rejection of another trend, that of naturalism, which was basically an imitation or copy of the natural world and everyday life. Art Nouveau did embrace nature but not in the form of imitation. Some of the most characteristic and recognisable images of Art Nouveau are the undulating or waving lines and the stylised foliage motifs.

The style, as with all styles, does have many variations and these depend on several factors, including country of production, techniques and materials. Also many items produced did not live up to the aspirations of the style. Many, for example, included too many New-Classical influences or relied too heavily on Japanese or Eastern themes.

Art Nouveau can provide a wealth of collecting themes. There are many well known names to be found including Galle, an important artist in the French Art Nouveau who is known for his polychrome glass vases; Tiffany from New York who also did wonderful things with glass and Lalique who truly raised the level of applied arts with his ability to turn even a piece of jewellery into an intricate work of art.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Bakelite

In our dining room we have a Bakelite telephone. Once upon a time this was connected to our extensive ‘two phone’ telephone system. The problem was because of a fault on the receiver we were forced to shout to be heard, resulting in conversations being somewhat stilted. Repair was always discussed but never enacted so a modern replacement now graces our dining area. The Bakelite telephone is still around though and the grandchildren love it.

Plastics and Bakelite really epitomise the energy of modern design between the wars. Their bright colours, exciting styling and new affordable materials caught people’s imagination at the time and now their appeal is being rediscovered because these early plastic items are an easy inexpensive way to achieve the Art Deco look.

Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic, was developed in1907 by a Belgian, Dr Leo Baekeland. In the 1920’s and 1930’s it hit its peak in popularity and was known as the ‘material of a thousand uses’. Bakelite and its imitations ushered in a new age of colourful and stylish, yet inexpensive household goods.

Bakelite can be identified by the strong carbolic smell it gives off when rubbed. It was made in mottled and plain browns, black, green, red and blue. Colours other than brown and black make any plastic object more desirable and larger objects, particularly in Bakelite, are rare and so more valuable.

Styling is also very important and pieces that reflect the Art Deco style of the 1930’s – typified by stepped forms, streamlining and clean lines- are especially collectable. Plastics from the 1950’s onwards tend to be less desirable and so less valuable as styling is not as strong and the quality is generally poorer than the early plastics made between 1910 and 1930.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Carriage Clocks

I love the motor car and I love all the gadgets and accessories found inside the motor car. Had I been born in the 19th century I am sure I would have been just as passionate about the carriage and without doubt one of the first “in carriage” accessories I would have purchased would have been a carriage clock. They were a marvellous little mechanism.

If the basic carriage clock had had a tin, it would have done exactly what it said on it. It was a clock, it told the time and it could be taken into a carriage. A standard carriage clock is plain, made of brass, has clear glass panels and a white enamel dial. It stands about five inches tall.

Following the invention of the coil spring in the 16th century the carriage clock and other portable clocks became far more attractive propositions. The French were leaders in carriage clock production, although we English did make some larger heavier examples. The 19th century was the hey-day of the carriage clock and when the First World War began in1914 production faltered greatly and never really recovered

Value is influenced by many things. Quality, as always, is a great barometer. Size also affects value, with small and tiny clocks being very desirable. Enamelling on the brass frames adds to collectability.

A carriage clock with a repeater mechanism is always more highly prized and the minute repeater is the best of all. In the dark, through the case the weary traveller can press a button on top of the clock and then listen to the time. First count the hour strike, then count the quarters striking and finally count the minutes past the last quarter being struck.

Simple, very technical and very expensive.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Corkscrews

Recently my wife and I decided, for a fixed period, to stop drinking wine. This went well until we found ourselves in an Italian restaurant with two friends. We decided that eating out in company could be an exception. The following week our son and his family came to stay and we decided that eating in with visitors would also count as an exception. We are searching hard for further exceptions as the corkscrew awaits our next move.

Worldwide there are a thousand patents for different types of bottle openers, but the most common remains the corkscrew. There are essentially two types; the straight pull, which relies on strength and the mechanical versions which are more sought after and more valuable.

The interest in corkscrews comes from a mixture of things, including the mechanism used such as levers, crank handles and complex concertina styles, the handles made in a variety of materials and their individual style including decorative form and advertising.

The first English corkscrew patent was taken out by Samuel Henshall in 1795 for a T-shaped straight pull and it lasted for fourteen years. Early versions of the corkscrew are very rare and can be extremely valuable.

During the 19th century many patents were taken out for a variety of different corkscrews. Examples to look out for include Robert Jones’ design of 1840, which has a brass ‘worm’ or screw and three prongs to pierce and grip the cork. Jones’ design enjoyed limited success in its day, probably because like many of today’s tin openers, it didn’t work very well. Today however it is a rare and valuable find, sometimes realising more than four figure sums in auction, if intact and in good condition.

Corkscrews of the twentieth century are less valuable, due to the simpler less appealing designs and the volume of their production, but they would be a good place to start a collection. Unusual examples with fine mechanisms or beautifully crafted versions are always worth watching out for though.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Staffordshire Figures

We all have our favourite things. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens have never been on my list, but custard on fruit pie and warm summer evenings certainly have. If I had to make a list of my favourite things it would be endless and up there near the top would be the early Staffordshire figure. What an absolute joy those figures are.

The production of Staffordshire figures began during the reign of George lll in about 1780. The early figures are much better quality than their Victorian cousins and so always command a much higher price. By the early Victorian period the figures were so popular that corners had to be cut and production techniques altered to increase output. Demand remained high until the end of the 19th century.

To produce a model a skilled designer sculpted an original. From this a mould was made and this would produce about 200 models. The older the mould the more worn the details on the model became and this affects the price paid by collectors today. Quality from one factory to another can differ greatly. The flatback figure (with no detailing or painting on the back) was the result of even further cutbacks.

Staffordshire figures provide a social history of the period. They cover every type of person from the notorious rogue to the Royal family, celebrities, fictional characters, military heroes, sportsmen, and politicians.

One of the most popular models were dogs and in particular the seated King Charles spaniel. No Victorian parlour was complete without a pair of these comforter dogs by the fire. They are mainly white with painted features and of varying sizes.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Coffers and Chests

Recently we stayed overnight in a small hotel in a very small bedroom. After our stay we were pestered by management for a review. This is something we never do, but to stop being badgered we decided to report on the room for them. The hotel was dog friendly, but we don’t have a dog, however in the review I mentioned that if we had owned a cat we wouldn’t have been able to swing it in the room. What I think upset us the most was that after pestering us no one responded to our reply.

The medieval bedroom was a very different room to the modern 21st century hotel bedroom. There were no beds with slide out drawers and there were no fitted wardrobes. Where did medieval woman store all her medieval possessions?

The earliest form of moveable storage furniture was the hollowed out log and these primitive beginnings are still evoked by the name “trunk” for a travelling container. During the medieval period simple chests and coffers were used as containers for a wide variety of objects and items. However these chests were not exactly convenient forms of storage and during the 17th century more sophisticated methods of storage designed for storing specific items such as books, clothing and linen were developed.

The medieval period though saw the chest as the main storage method and it was made in huge numbers. Generally they were containers with flat, hinged lids usually with feet to keep the carcass away from the damp floor and usually with handles. Coffers were travelling trunks without feet but with handles. Chests were made by joiners and coffers were made by cofferers.

A simple chest consisted of six planks nailed or dovetailed together, with the vertical slab ends shaped at the bottom to form feet. Later, in the 15th century, the chest developed a framed and panelled construction and this style was immediately more popular with the everyday chest buyer.

The chest in a similar form has remained popular right up to the present day and throughout the centuries the framed and panelled construction developed in the 15th century has essentially stayed the same.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Wine Labels

In January 2019 I had a dry January. In January 2020 I felt that the concept was too populist and so went for a wet January. I did however promise myself a dry February but now having decided that the ship has sailed on dry months I shall continue to consume an occasional glass of wine all year round. Now, all this talk of wine makes me think of that marvellous collectable, the wine label.

During the Restoration (1660-1685 ) there developed a trend for decanting wine. This in turn created a need for labelling and thus wine Labels were born and by the 1770s they were considered commonplace.

The most popular design was to suspend the labels from the neck of the bottle or decanter using a chain, but rings were also used and some Labels were even fixed to the cork or stopper.Most early Labels were made from sheet silver. However the finest ones were fashioned by the process of casting and were heavier and thicker than the simple sheet silver ones.

The titles (e.g. Madeira, Port, etc.) were also created in various ways from simple engravings or piercing to the rarest examples where the title was cast along with the body of the label. The value of most Labels is often contained within the title, with popular beverages like Claret and Sherry being more common and thus less desirable and Champagne and Whisky fetching more for their rarity.

It can generally be said that the style of the different Labels mirrors the prevailing style of the time in which they were produced. Hence there are more neo-classical examples of urns and scrolls in the second half of the 18th century while the more common and simple designs in oblongs and ovals were produced in vast quantities in the 19th century.

By the middle of the 19th century a new law forced all vintners to stick labels to their bottles before sale and so the fashion for wine Labels faded.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Tea Services

It is a sad fact, even in our retro loving world and even though a slight increase is perceptible, that a large percentage of tea services from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have limited value. The service which upsets many with its lack of value is the one with gilded outlines which is inscribed “genuine 22ct gold”. Sadly this cannot be scraped off and “weighed in” for scrap to give the service at least some value.

The gold used to decorate ceramics is always 22ct and it is applied by mixing and heating. One of the earliest forms was honey and gold, ground together and painted onto the article. When fired at a low temperature the result was thick and rich and could be tooled. By the 1770’s mercury gilding was taking over which led to a much thinner, more delicate result.

Had there been an enthusiastic health and safety department operating in the 18th century they would have been very busy investigating unexplained deaths of kiln workers resulting from the poisonous nature of the mercury used in the gilding process.

The other tea service which upsets people with its lack of value is the late Victorian printed and painted service. These have all been owned by a “great great” relative and are often complete,8 because they were rarely used. The reason they are worth so little is that every home had one and now few homes want one

With the resurgence of the “cup-cake” and an ever growing interest in baking and decorating cakes, cups, saucers and tea services are making a little bit of a comeback. Perhaps now is the time to start buying them again.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website