Marriages

As if she doesn’t have enough to do, my wife is a regular reader of my weekly missive and I have to say, an all too regular critic. As this weeks subject is marriage I feel it is therefore important to get a few things into the open in the first paragraph. I am a faithful and loving husband. Admittedly I don’t cook anything, but I have other more important attributes. There, that seems to cover things nicely.

The reason I mention this is obviously to say how wonderful married life is, but also to say some pieces of furniture are also married and it is something to watch out for. A “marriage” is the term used to describe furniture that has been “made up” from different pieces, often of a similar date.

Most frequently seen on bureau cabinets and bureau bookcases, but also on larger bookcases, marriages are usually betrayed by differences in colour, grain and quality of the timber, particularly on the sides. As a rule the backboards on genuine pieces should closely resemble one another, both in timber used and in construction techniques.

Married pieces are often out of proportion, showing a visual imbalance between joined parts. In addition, they can often be identified by an examination of the junction of the top and base sections, which may not fit tightly.

On veneered furniture, a marriage may be apparent when the top section is removed. The veneer should not extend far beyond the point where the base meets the top. Finally, a genuine piece will display a stylistic union and decorative embellishments should be identical in both design and execution.

In this instance furniture mirrors life and there are good and bad marriages. A good marriage doesn’t shout at you though it just is a good marriage.

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

Hallmarks

A friend recently asked me to look at a silver tea service he had acquired in a distant relative’s will. Apparently he always played with it as a small child. Not remembering the tea service and hardly remembering the relative, he was however interested in it’s history and I think more importantly it’s value. Sadly I was a disappointment to him as what looked to him like hallmarks were not and the service was silver plated not silver. The value therefore was greatly reduced. In an attempt to appear interested after his let down he asked the question, “Well what exactly is silver and how can you tell?”

Pure silver is too soft to be practical and is therefore combined with small amounts of copper. Ideal proportions of 925 parts silver to 75 parts copper have been used in Britain since the 13th century and this is Sterling silver. The use of Sterling silver is enforced by The WorshipfulI Company of Goldsmiths and Silversmiths and the proof of the purity of the metal is punched into items, making hallmarks.

In Britain, a hallmark generally consists of the Sterling mark (the lion passant) together with symbols to denote place of assay, date and maker. Full hallmarks are present on the main body of an item and detachable parts such as lids, but part hallmarks are used for other areas such as handles, which could be separated by removing a screw or pin.

By 1300 the hallmark was made compulsory and in 1363 every Silversmith had to have their own mark. Originally the first two letters of a Silversmiths surname were used and then from around 1720, the initials of the first name and surname became more common and are still used today.

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

Tinplate Toys

When I watch our older grandchildren playing with their toys they just don’t seem to cherish them in the same way that I remember cherishing my childhood toys. Now maybe I was just a sad old toy cherisher or maybe attitudes have changed slightly. If attitudes are changing and us oldies cared more for our toys, just imagine then how much those late Victorian and Edwardian children must have cherished their exciting new tin plate toys.

The best tinplate toys combine fine detailing, period styling and renowned makers and it was in the early 19th century that they began to exceed the popularity and manufacture of their wooden counterparts. They are amongst the earliest mass produced toys available.

The toys were made from sheets of tinplated steel which was cut out, shaped and then decorated, making them cheaper and easier to produce than the wooden toys of the period. The late 19th and early 20th centuries are considered the ‘Golden Age’ of the tinplate toy.

Many of the important makers were German, with the most sought after including Marklin and Bing although the American makers Marx and Strauss are also keenly collected.

Before the 1890s tinplate toys were hand painted which ensured a high level of detail. This detail included boats with portholes that opened and very realistic rigging and motor cars with lamps, doors that opened and rubber tyres. These examples, although inexpensive in their day, are amongst the most highly prized by collectors in the saleroom.

From the 1900s the painting was largely replaced by the printing technique of colour lithography which used a transfer. It was faster and more economical but it made the toys lighter and less complex. However the prices for such examples are still relatively high, depending of course on type size and condition.

As with most collectables the key to value is rarity, quality and condition and this coupled with the desire of ownership ensures that the tinplate market is always very buoyant.

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

Ann Howse

Each week, in my search for the antique, I travel the highways and byways of Yorkshire and Derbyshire meeting the old and the young, the eccentric and odd and the happy and the sad. I love every single minute of it. As I wake and jump excitedly from my bed each morning I have no idea what joys are in store for me.

Over the years I have met and known some amazing people. I deal with a great many deceased estates and so meet hundreds of relatives and friends of amazing people. Some relatives are truly awful and very unkind, most however are lovely. Friends are always lovely. Recently I was lucky enough to meet a friend of the recently deceased Ann Howse.

From the Ann Howse Estate; A modern art mineral sculpture of a kneeling figure.

Ann Howse was born in Hull and became a sculptress and artist of some talent. Always on the move, Ann’s family finally settled in Sheffield where Ann went to school and eventually to the Sheffield College of Art. From there her talent gained her entry to The Royal College of Art in London. After college Ann eventually acquired a studio in West Hampstead, from where she exhibited at the Woodstock Gallery. During her working life Ann received many commissions from tiny wooden models to six foot high concrete sculptures.

Ann Howse was one of life’s eccentrics who loved the antique I spend my days searching for and who had a talent which is largely still undiscovered. Beauty, as the saying goes, is in the eye of the beholder and an opportunity to see the beauty of Ann Howse’s work can be had on August 21st when we offer for auction a number of pieces in our Antiques and Collectables auction.

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

Dessert Glass

Before lockdown my only claim to fame was that I could produce an edible scrambled egg. Since lockdown I am a new man. I can make very palatable crumble, with a mixture of fruits and jams, including marmalade. I do a chocolate banana on a biscuit base and a sponge pudding with a particularly saggy bottom. All these come with lashings of Birds own, extra thick. I love desserts and my dessert cooking journey is in its infancy. Now I am on the lookout for some dessert glass.

In preceding centuries dessert was considered an important occasion in its own right. These were times when the wealthiest members of society would celebrate with parties incorporating large and varied amounts of food.

Desserts would often be served away from the table in buffet form. This could be directly after dinner or later in the evening. The atmosphere would be something that we might expect at a cheese and wine party today.

The kind of treats on offer included candied fruit, marshmallows, crystallised citrus peels and almonds. They would be served in glasses on tall stems known as suckets, that resemble drinking glasses. They would also be served on footed and stemmed plates and saucers known as tazzas and comports.

Jelly and ice creams were served in glasses that were shorter and thicker with practically no stem. The custard cup is a variant on the jelly glass, but this time with handles. Custard cups were used for dishes like egg custard and baked egg trifles.

Sometimes all of these dishes would be placed on large, stemmed salvers placed to form a pyramid. Is it possible, I ask myself, to conjure up a picture of anything more delicious? What are we left with today? A wonderful wealth of marvellous glass to collect.

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

Tureens

In today’s fast living world the dining room rarely functions as it’s name suggests it should. There is little wonder therefore that the poor old tureen, once a highlight of the room’s table, has died a death. I find this a great sadness as I love the tureen.

Tureens were introduced in the early 18th century, reflecting the French fashion for serving stews, soups and sauces. It is said that the tureen was named after the 17th century Vicomte de Turenne, who ate his soup from his upturned helmet. In fact, the term derives from the French “terrine”. The tureen became associated with a show of wealth and was often the most richly ornamented and expensive piece in the dinner service.

Soup tureens were introduced c.1720 but examples pre-dating 1750 are rare. Generally of heavy gauge silver, they were set on four cast feet, with cast scroll ring drop handles at the sides and a domed cover. Some of the rare early tureens from the 1730’s and 1740’s by famous French silversmiths are among the most magnificent pieces of Rococo silver made.

Tureens from the late 18th century are generally oval and on a single pedestal foot. They were influenced by architects such as Robert Adam who was producing designs to match the dining room furnishings. The early 19th century Regency tureens were by contrast much heavier and more richly decorated with lion mask handles and Classical ornaments. However this was the time when gradually fewer silver tureens were made and the ceramic became much more fashionable.

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

Motto Ware

Last night, as part of our life on the edge lifestyle, my wife an I were watching a re-run episode from the Vicar of Dibley series and somebody said “better a flawed diamond than a flawless pebble”. I thought it was a wonderful motto and tried to recall ever having seen it on a piece of Motto Ware.

Motto Ware was first introduced at Aller Vale, near Newton Abbott. The Aller Vale Pottery was founded in 1881 by John Philips.

Motto Ware is essentially everyday household items inscribed with light hearted sayings and rhyming mottos, often extolling the virtues of hard work and sober living. All production was without mechanisation, the clay was dug locally, the Pottery hand thrown on a wheel and the paints and glazes made on the premises.

A typical piece of Motto Ware will have a yellow slip ground covering most of the piece, leaving edges, spouts and handles in the dark brown slip. The most common pattern is the “Scandy” pattern, which is highly coloured stylised feathers. Sgraffito is the name given to the pattern which forms the letters of the motto. It simply means scratching through the yellow slip to form the letters.

Motto Ware was made until the mid 20th century. Examples are fairly easy to find and generally they are undervalued. An investment opportunity awaits the collector perhaps?

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

Clarice Cliff

One of my favourite designers and, due to our generational differences, someone I have never met, is Clarice Cliff. I have written about her more than once over the many years of my weekly missive and I have, I am sure said rare shapes, rare patterns and rare colours are by far the most expensive of her products. I have also said that the mundane pieces never attract a great deal of interest.

However, I have never really discussed Clarice herself. What an amazing woman she was. Unlike her four sisters Sara, Hannah, Dorothy and Ethel, Clarice had a goal for herself and she was determined to achieve it.

At the age of 17, due to a shortage of workers caused by the First World War, Clarice Cliff began a job as an apprentice lithographer with the A J Wilkinson factory in Burslem. Here she began to learn the techniques of modelling, gilding and decorating. The girls who worked with Clarice at this time recalled that she was never really one of them. When they left for home Clarice stayed behind practicing and modelling because she regarded her work as more than just a job.

For a female to become a designer in the 1920’s was really unheard of and it was largely due to her incredibly strong personality, amazing talent and her association with one of the Shorter brothers who owned the factory.

When the brothers purchased Newport Pottery, the adjoining factory to their own, Colley Shorter quickly recognised Clarice Cliffs talents. He became her protector, her sponsor, and her lover. By 1927 he had set her up in her own small studio and on 21st December 1940 he married her.

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

Babie

I have a wife, who is female, three out of my four children are female and four out of my many grandchildren are female. It is fair to say therefore that I am familiar with the doll as a toy. There is one doll all my females, including my wife in her oh so distant childhood, all loved; enter Barbie.

Barbie was developed by the toy company Mattel, run by Harold Mattson and Elliot Handler. Elliot’s wife Ruth created the idea and made Barbie a success.

By the 1950s Mattel was enjoying great success. Ruth’s idea to produce a plastic doll which would aid imaginary play, having watched her daughter playing make believe with paper dolls, did not go down well with her male colleagues. The costs and scepticism at producing a doll with explicit adult features also met with resistance, despite that Ruth had observed her daughter recreating adult like situations with her paper dolls.

It was in Switzerland on holiday that Ruth noticed in a shop window a doll similar to her own idea. However this doll was targeting a purely adult market. Eventually Mattel acquired the patent for this doll and after an analysis of every technical detail of the body design, the doll we know today was born, named after Ruth’s daughter Barbara, finally arriving on the American toy market in 1959.

The first Barbie ever produced measured 11.5” and was available in both blonde and brunette. She wore a black and white swim suit, black high heeled shoes, white sunglasses and gold earrings.

Barbie’s initial success and prevailing popularity is not in her adult features, but in her wardrobe, her ability to be transformed simply with a change of outfit. There are endless accessories on sale today and Barbie still has the ability to inspire children’s imagination, the essence of Ruth’s initial vision.

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

Goldscheider Figurines

The Goldscheider Porcelain Manufacturer and Majolica Factory was founded in Vienna in 1885 by Freidrich Goldscheider. It quickly earned itself international acclaim becoming one of the leading ceramics companies in Europe opening branches in Paris, Florence, Leipzig and Berlin. Freidrich worked with his sons Walter and Marcell who would later move to America and England respectively to continue expanding the business after Hilter’s regime forced the family to flee Austria in 1938.

The Goldscheider factories are probably the most well known of the potteries who made the beautiful Art Deco figurines that were so popular in the 1920s and 30s. The figurines depicted elegant, slim-lined and fashionable ladies typically displayed in movement, whether it was mid-dance, an acrobatic stance or simply a sweeping gesture, with dramatic curves that allowed their flowing dresses and sleeves to produce eye-catching, decorative features for the pieces.

The large flat areas of the extended dresses, scarves or sleeves were decorated with intricate, colourful designs that contrasted with the light, porcelain-like skin tones of the women. A high quality of detail and skill in the artwork as well as a characterful and appealing face all add value to these figurines. Erotic subjects are particularly popular. Damage or poor restoration can dramatically reduce desirability and thus value.

Many talented designers worked with Goldscheider at this time and work by two of the best, Stefan Dakon and Josef Lorenzl is particularly desirable. Dakon and Lorenzl worked on a huge range of these stylish and stylised women, working not just in ceramics but also in the more desirable and expensive bronze and ivory.

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