Paste Jewellery

Sometimes, in the world of Antiques, the imitation can be as collectable as the original. Not as valuable, but certainly as collectable. Look, for example, at Old Sheffield Plate and look also at Paste Jewellery.

Paste Jewellery, or ‘false diamonds’ as it was sometimes known, came about due to the experiments of an Englishman, George Ravenscroft, back in the 17th century. He was frustrated by the nature of glass used in jewellery, which being so soft was easily worn down. He began experimenting with new compounds of flint, potash and lead oxide and produced ‘lead glass’, a material that was hard enough to cut and polish like a gemstone.

However, it was not Ravenscroft who gets the credit for popularity of paste jewellery, that honour lies with George Frederic Strass, a Parisian jeweller in the 18th century. Strass played with the concept of lead crystal further still until he could imitate diamonds which when mounted in silver settings could rival the genuine.

Strass’ jewellery took the form of its original counterparts with pastes set in silver or silver gilt, usually backed with tinfoil to increase sparkle and many were decorated with strips of gold or gold beading for an extra touch of glitter.

Although paste Jewellery continued to be popular up until the 1930s, it became somewhat ‘cheap and cheerful’ and lacked the beauty and finish of the 18th century examples.

Antique paste jewellery is popular in the salerooms when it is embraced for what it is; elegant, beautiful jewellery in its own right, not merely a copy of real diamonds. It is marvellous to handle, versatile and enriching to wear and a perfect expression of the period in which it was constructed.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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

Telephones

As a small boy, growing up in mid twentieth century England, we were lucky enough to be a household with a telephone. I was never allowed to answer it though as it was an adult only instrument. We were, I remember, on a party line. I knew this because even though my sisters and I were threatened with ‘serious consequences’ if we answered the telephone, I often picked it up when no was around and sometimes heard our neighbour chatting on the other end. That was a serious thrill.

Later teenage years, after suitable tuition on method and politeness, brought the grown up responsibility of answering incoming calls. Fascination and intrigue quickly evaporated after that.

It was Alexander Graham Bell who set the ball rolling in1876 when he patented the speaking telephone. Since then all manner of designs for this amazing invention have been made.

An early design for the telephone was the ‘candlestick’ model made with a separate mouth piece and ear piece, synonymous with Al Capone.

It was however, the invention of Bakelite that saw the development of telephones take a new direction, beginning with ‘pyramid’ phones which are now Art Deco icons. Commonly made in black, the rarer green, white and red versions make much more at auction.

All Bakelite telephones show their date and manufacturer on the base” and their value increases if they still have their original chrome dial, plaited cord and pullout drawer in tact.

Like most things, the telephone also had it designers styles; the first of these is largely credited to the ‘Ericofon’. It was the first one piece telephone and was developed by Ericsson in the early 1950’s. It came in fourteen different colours but pink and orange still are the rarest and most collectable.

The production of the ‘Ericofon’ was world wide. The British one piece telephone, the ‘Trimphone’ and the Italian version ‘Grillo’ never achieved the success of the ‘Ericofon’ and very few are available on the auction market today. Obviously though, this only increases their value if you are lucky enough to find one. The value of a telephone lies in the desirability of the model and the rarity of the colour.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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

Toby Jugs

Once upon a time many years ago, when ‘horse power’ referred to how many horses pulled your coach and the tricorn hat rather than the baseball cap was the ‘go to’ choice for headgear, there lived a man called Henry Elwes.

Now Henry, even amongst his closest friends, had a reputation for being miserable. He was the king of miserable a short, fat man with dirty lanky hair and he held a record for drinking two thousand pints of Stingo. Stingo was very strong ale, but unfortunately there are no records to say how long it took Henry to drink all those pints. It matters not, however, how long it took, the mere fact it was drunk gave Henry Elwes the nickname Toby Fillpot.

There are many claims to the origin of the Toby jug, but one of the most convincing is that it is based on poor old Toby Fillpot. This is further backed by the work of a publisher Carington Bowles, who in 1761 published illustrations of a short, fat miserable man with lanky hair poking from a tricorn hat and titled him Toby Fillpot. A few years later Toby Jugs began to emerge from pottery factories.

Shakespeare’s Sir Toby Belch from “Twelfth Night”, who in the play is portrayed as an excessive drinker, is thought by some to be the source of the famous jug, but he just doesn’t have the portly misery of Mr Fillpot.

As time passed and more jugs were made, the grim face of Toby cheered up a little, particularly in examples like “The Sailor” and “Hearty Good Fellow”. The name, though, stuck, even when famous faces such as Winston Churchill appeared on these jugs, they remained Toby Jugs.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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

Suzie Cooper

Recently, during a house contents valuation I was conducting for Probate purposes in Clay Cross, near Chesterfield, I came across one of the most extensive collections of Susie Cooper ceramics I have ever seen. I have always been a take it or leave it sort of chap when it comes to Susie Cooper, but when i saw her talent en masse I have to say my opinion changed to one of admiration.

Susie Cooper was one of the most successful designers of the twentieth century. Born in 1902, she joined local potter A. E. Gray & Co. Ltd to gain the experience she required to attend London’s Royal College of Art. Initially Cooper was a production line painter, but her talent was quickly spotted and instead of going to London she became a designer at Gray’s.

Cooper was influenced by many artists, but her contribution to the company was highly personal. Gray’s used the factory mark “Designed by Susie Cooper” to identify her work and this early work of flowers and chintzware is still very popular with collectors.

By 1929 Susie Cooper had left Gray’s and set up on her own in premises at the Chelsea Works, Burslem. Products made after her departure from Gray’s are marked “A Susie Cooper Production”. However, in 1931, after interest from Wood & Sons, she moved to a larger studio at their Crown Works and products were then marked with the familiar leaping deer, that is most often associated with her.

The 1930s were the most dazzling years for Cooper and the high demand for her work led to her use of lithography at a time when most firms were still using mechanical decoration.

By the late 1930s Susie Cooper was producing up to 200 new designs a year, featuring banding, polka dots and stylised flowers. Patterns that were both modern and timeless such as “Patricia Rose” and “Endon” were the key to her success, appealing to a far wider audience than the work of many of her contemporaries.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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

Breakfast Wares

Between us, my wife and I have five siblings. We are in the fortunate position of, not only being on speaking terms with all of them, but actually being on very friendly terms with all of them. Having spent, what seems like a lifetime dealing with deceased estates I have sadly met many families where this is not the case. I always find it very sad when families are no longer friends.

At the beginning of the twentieth century a very famous family had a very famous disagreement. Let me take you back to 1894 and introduce Dr John Kellogg, who ran a sanatorium. Amazingly and completely by accident he created the corn flake as he attempted to improve the diet of his patients. Sensibly he applied for a patent that same year and all in the proverbial sanatorium garden was rosy.

Now, those wonderful flakes of corn became so popular that Dr John’s brother, Will Keith Kellogg, set up the Kellogg Company to produce Corn Flakes and sell them to the general public. Then, unfortunately, it happened. In 1906 Will and John fell out over sugar which Will wanted to put in the Cornflakes and unbelievably this led to a life time rift and the success of the company was left to Will Kellogg.

Even though the Cornflake craze didn’t happen overnight, slowly and by the 1930s a change in breakfasting habits was definitely happening. The great British public now required new ceramics to enjoy the first meal of a new day. Cereal bowls, toast racks, teapots and for the lucky ones, all on a tray to be served in bed.

These breakfast wares are popular collectors items today, especially investable designers like Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper. The rarer the pattern, the more exciting the purchase.

What a shame it was that the Kellogg brothers couldn’t have stayed friends and marvelled together how their simple flakes of corn were influencing Britain’s pottery designs.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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

1905 FA Cup

When Harry Hampton woke up on the morning of April 15th 1905 he was both nervous and excited, but also, somewhere deep inside, he felt lucky. Today was the day he was going to join his teammates at Aston Villa, so that together they could knock seven bells out of Newcastle United and the team could lift the FA Cup.

Well, in front of a crowd of 101,117 roaring football fans, Harry went on to score both goals in the 2-0 win Aston Villa secured over their rivals Newcastle United. They lifted the trophy and somewhere in the crowd, cheering himself hoarse, was the owner of a programme from the game which was brought into our saleroom last week. Just think, all those years ago, our programme was in the pocket of one of the fans, who stood on the terraces at Crystal Palace, in 1905 and watched Harry score those goals.

There is something slightly different about our programme though……. In those “good old days” unscrupulous fellows produced cheaply forged copies of the big match programmes and their associates stood outside the ground and sold them to unsuspecting fans, for large profits. It only happened for big games as the smaller matches wouldn’t have had the crowds to make the whole exercise viable.

We have a Football Programmes and Sporting Memorabilia Auction on September 2nd and this wonderful 1905 programme will be one of the exciting lots included and we are expecting it to realise many hundreds of pounds.

Our own football Guru and sporting memorabilia specialist, Robert Lea told me that a genuine programme from that game would make considerably more, possibly between five and eight thousand pounds. It seems strange to me, a man who doesn’t collect football programmes, that there should be such a difference in the two values. Both were produced at the same time, both witnessed Harry’s two goals and both cost an Edwardian fan some of their hard earned cash.

As a footnote; well played Harry Hampton.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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

Stanhopes

The television programme that all antiques enthusiasts love to watch, The Great Antiques Hunt, occasionally finds its way onto the 14” screen in the Dowse House sitting room and occasionally we watch it. I find it very entertaining, especially when we are on it. One programme recently screened (possibly not too recently recorded though) featured one of the hunter’s with a Stanhope. A lovely novelty.

Stanhopes are small, novelty mementos that contain a miniature peephole revealing a mystery photograph. The Stanhope is a lens just millimetres wide to which one or more minute photographs, which look like black pinheads, are attached. When held up to the light the lens magnifies the micro-photograph as if it was projected onto a screen.

The name Stanhope came from Charles Stanhope, the third Earl Stanhope, who invented a uniquely powerful magnifying lens. However, it wasn’t until well after Stanhope’s death that his invention was adapted for these souvenirs.

It was a Frenchman, Rene Dragon, who combined Stanhope’s lens with Englishman John Benjamin Dancer’s micro-photography in 1860 to produce a tiny viewer with an image attached to a lens. He quickly realised the potential and began fitting these viewers into everyday objects.

Victorians bought into the Stanhope with untold ferocity and their popularity continued until the early twentieth century. By the mid twentieth century they had almost died out except for special occasions such as the Coronation of Elizabeth II.

Stanhopes are a great theme for the novice collector as they are relatively inexpensive and yet extremely interesting.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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

Belleek

The brown patches on our lawn are getting bigger. Other gardeners in the village seem to feel now is the time to seed, so in an attempt to cover our patches, I have decided to do the same. Along with general DIY, gardening and lawn management are not really my forte, so we shall be watching my project with interest. Fortunately the neighbours cannot see it, so failure, which is reasonably likely, can stay within the family.

I mention my lawn because it links beautifully to this weeks topic. The country known to have the greenest lawns is Ireland and Ireland is the home of the wonderful and under collected Belleek porcelain.

Image courtesy of Belleek Porcelain

The Belleek porcelain factory in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland was established in the village of Belleek in the late 1850s by three men. John Caldwell Bloomfield, to whom the land had been left, and two businessmen Robert William Armstrong, an architect from London with an interest in ceramics, and a trader from Dublin, David McBirney. As well as local workers and apprentices the partners hired fourteen experienced men from Stroke-on-Trent.

The partners always wanted to make fine porcelain, but the early pieces to come out of the factory were items such as floor tiles and tableware. However, following a few failed attempts they succeeded in making a certain amount of parian by 1863. Belleek is popular for it’s parian wares. They did not decorate the pieces with transfer printing or painting but instead used lustre glazes to enhance the cream colour of the porcelain itself. The intricate baskets produced by the factory are some of the most popular items with collectors.

By 1865 the company already had a growing market in Ireland and England and was beginning to export items further afield to the United States and elsewhere. Queen Victoria was even a customer.

Although the factory is still in operation today, it is still the early pieces that collectors crave.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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

Penny Toys

As grandchildren continue to be born and so the Dowse dynasty continues to expand, the wallet of the Patriarch no longer has time to grow a moth, never mind a colony, like it used to. Birthdays and Christmas are bad enough, but then there are all those other things…… If only we still had the penny toy.

Cheaply made from pressed tin and very easy to break, these small toys, measuring no longer than five inches, were affordable to all as they really were sold for just a penny by many street pedlars and market stalls who still made a good profit on them.

Penny toys were in production from the 1860s but peaked in popularity around 1900, largely due to the process of transfer colour lithography that was widely available by 1890. It enabled fine detail and colour to be added to sheets of tinplate very quickly and economically making the toys very bright, exciting and desirable to children.

Many of the Penny toys were produced by well-known toy manufacturers and largely in Germany. German-based Distler, for example, started off as a penny tinplate toy manufacturer before expanding its range.

Penny toys were very small and that actually made them quite difficult for children to play with, especially where the toy involved a tiny detachable piece, like a0 driver, which was tricky to take in and out of a car. Vehicles were a dominant subject matter for Penny toys; they would all move, some needed pushing while the more sought after were fitted with a flywheel allowing them to propel themselves. Penny toys were quite often tiny replicas of larger, more expensive tinplate toys on sale at the time.

There is a good collectors’ market for Penny toys, with very good or mint condition being the most important element in value, closely followed by rarity. Early examples tend to be more popular as the quality of production did decline over time as demand grew. Fine lithography and interesting or intricate designs are also keenly collected.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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

Costume Jewellery

I’ve always been a cup half full sort of chap. Occasionally during my many years on this planet, my cup may have dribbled just below it’s half way point, but usually it can be found languishing between halfway and full. This week however it is overflowing. Easter is here, summertime is here, a hot spell is round the corner, half the adults in the country have been vaccinated and very soon we will be able to socialise once again. Let’s dress up and have some fun, everyone put on your costume jewellery.

Costume jewellery made from non precious materials is often more evocative of its age than precious jewels. Worn since antiquity when the Romans excelled at glass imitation gemstones, this “secondary” jewellery exhibits impeccable craftsmanship and clever use of strong period style at relatively low cost. Costume jewellery sold now usually dates from the late 18th, 19th and 20th centuries and is by and large British or European.

Jewellery set with cut and polished lead glass in imitation of gemstones was first created in France in the 1730s by the jeweller Georges Frederic Stress. This paste jewellery was often cut and backed with foil to give colour and depth and then set in silver in dish like coilet settings. These jewels were popular in France and Britain and in Spain they were even worn in court.

Paste jewellery is very collectable and reasonably priced, although Georgian paste is considerably more valuable than the mid to late Victorian examples and will always realise higher prices, especially the earrings.

Pinchbeck, which is an alloy of copper and zinc, was invented around 1720 by the English watchmaker, Christopher Pinchbeck, as a substitute for gold. It was the perfect partner for paste, as it could be intricately chased, engraved and coloured just like fashionable gold work. Popular designs included wide mesh bracelets, muff chains and hair ornaments. Other imitations exist but genuine Pinchbeck is characterised by its rich burnished colour and matt surface.

Later 19th century gilt metal, often erroneously called Pinchbeck, was ideal for less expensive versions of fashionably extravagant jewellery, lockets, bracelets and brooches.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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