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


As is usual over Christmas I have gained quite a few pounds and as is usual for January I am dieting. Things, however, are not going as well as in previous years and I have had to resort to moving the button which fastens my work trousers by a number of centimetres. This in addition to causing me heartache has made me ponder the button.

Buttons have always been used for fastening and decoration. They have been discovered in Egyptian tombs and over 15,000 have been found on a Court costume belonging to Henry VIII. However button making took on a new dimension in the 18th century with Dandies sporting ornamental buttons up to 4cm in diameter and handmade buttons produced in anything even fine porcelain.

The 19th century saw the growth of mechanisation and Birmingham became the centre of the industry and exported buttons all over the globe. Metal buttons were popular for uniforms and servants’ liveries while better buttons like silver and enamelled examples were enjoyed by the upper classes. These better buttons were often detachable for laundry purposes and some came in handsome cases.

Victorian and Edwardian fashions stimulated button demand leading to special examples being made for boots, gloves and even underwear. Queen Victoria’s grief at the death of her beloved Albert stimulated the demand for mourning dress and black buttons.

The development of colourful plastic buttons happened in the 20th century.Those produced were often large with strong colours and geometric shapes common in Art Deco design. Sadly for the button producers the introduction of the zip and other boring but effective fasteners saw a decline in the demand for the button. Hold this space though as I am reliably informed by the large and vocal female side of my family that once again the button is the height of fashion. What better time to start a collection.

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

The process of selling at auction

With Christmas now out of the way, you’re probably due a clear out! Why traipse to the local car-boot sale and stand out in the cold when we can do it all for you….

Have you ever wondered about selling your treasured possessions or family heirlooms at auction, but have never done so before because you don’t know how to?

It doesn’t have to be complicated or daunting. Read on to follow the simple process here at Sheffield Auction Gallery…

  1. Can you bring your item(s) to us or do you require a Valuer to come to you?
    • Our Sheffield Saleroom is conveniently located just off the A61 (Chesterfield Road) at Heeley next door to the Heeley Retail Park. We have a carpark and are fully disabled accessible. If you have items of a Specialist nature, it’s worthwhile ringing us on 0114 281 6161 to make sure a Specialist Valuer is available to see you. Generally, valuation days are Jewellery on Mondays and all other items Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays from 10am to 4pm and and one Saturday per month 9am to 12pm for all items.
    • If you can’t come to us, please call 0114 281 6161 to arrange for a Valuer to come to you. Alternatively you can email us –
    • Is there a closer location to you than our Sheffield Saleroom? We host many free valuation events around the region, please see our website to see where we are going…
  2. Our Valuer will initially advise whether your items are saleable, what their estimated auction value is, whether you would like to set reserves on them and finally which auction(s) they are most likely to go into. The Valuer will make all charges/fees clear to you at this point. Your items will then be securely stored in our building until the week prior to the auction.
  3. The week prior to the auction, we will send you a “pre-auction notification” reminding you that your items will be offered in the next auction, this will state the estimate/reserves you agreed with the Valuer.
  4. If your item(s) sell, we will send out a cheque to you in the post, generally 2 to 3weeks after the auction, with all charges already deducted. If your item fails to sell, we normally will re-offer them in the next suitable auction, with the original estimate halved. (You will be notified of this by a subsequent pre-auction notification as above).

See; that wasn’t complicated was it?

We have a full range of auctions through the year, which include our fortnightly Antiques & Collectables Auction, a monthly Saturday Household Auction and a range of Specialist Auctions which can be found on our website. If you have more valuable items, we also have our signature Antique & Fine Art Auction and Silver, Jewellery & Watches Auction which are usually 3 to 4 times per year.

Next time; we’ll look at the process of “buying at auction”

We hope to see you soon!

Rookwood Pottery

Arts and Crafts pottery became big business in America after inspiration from the European wares on show at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876 and Rookwood Potteries was where the finest examples of ‘Art Pottery’ were produced.

Rookwood was established in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1880 and from the very beginning focused on making high quality art pottery by employing the best designers and potters available. Artists such as Matt Daly, Grace Young and the Japanese ceramicist Kataro Shirayamadani worked for Rookwood as did Laura Fry who developed and patented the now famous ‘Standard’ clear glossy glaze and William P. McDonald and Matthew A. Daly who painted the highly collectable American Indian portraits.

It was the designs and quality of the decoration that secured Rookwood’s reputation of brilliance ahead of other American potteries such as Roseville, Weller and Lonhuda who were producing simple wares. Rookwood designs were largely inspired by the natural world, flowers in particular, although portraits were also used as decoration mainly the aforementioned Native Indians and the Old Masters. Rookwood was known for their subtly of tone, richness of colour and exquisite painting and these are all reasons why they are so highly desirable today. ‘Standard Brown’ ware was the first major line to come out of the pottery but huge success hit in 1894 with the release of Ariel Blue, Iris and Sea Green.

Most Rookwood pottery is signed by the artist with a date and shape number. From 1886 a RP flame mark monogram was used and each year from 1887 a flame was added to this monogram until by 1900 it had fourteen. Roman numerals were used from 1901.

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

Sulphide Paperweights

Paperweights have become a very collectable field and within that field are a multitude of different weights. Take for example the Sulphide weight.

A ‘Sulphide Paperweight’ refers to a paperweight which has a shaped “cameo” made from porcelain-like material encased within the clear glass. It involved cutting a hole in the hot glass sometimes through a bubble in blown glass, sliding in the insert which had been previously moulded, fired and left to cool and then resealing the glass or allowing the bubble to close by extracting the air through the blowpipe.

The technique of cameo incrustation or the encasement of porcelain medallions in glass was first developed in France in the early 19th century and it was used in America from 1814 and the United Kingdom from 1817. In 1819, English Glassmaker Apsley Pellatt (1791 – 1863) patented the technique, calling it “crystalo ceramie” in view of its French origins. The technique was not at first used in paperweights but was seen in glass plaques, pendants, vases and other decorative glass items before paperweight manufacturers realised the design appeal.

The three major paperweight manufacturers; Baccarat, Clichy and Saint Louis, all made sulphide paperweights. The value and appeal of these paperweights can depend on other factors besides the individual cameo, including the use of techniques such as detailed and elaborate faceting or engraving and the addition of millefiori (coloured glass rods shaped into patterns).

The objects cast inside the paperweights were most commonly people or animals sometimes both and the best with landscapes included. Many examples feature famous people or capture historical events with images sometimes cast off objects such as coins and medals. Generally, the more complex the design, the more desirable the paperweight as the process of moulding the objects was difficult and creating a single cast for one feature was the job of highly skilled craftsmen.

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


This summer, as part of our summer break my wife and I plan to travel the highways and byways of Scotland, with the top of my extended mid-life crisis sports car tucked away in the boot and our hair (well at least my wife’s) blowing in the wind. One of the towns I am keen to visit on this exciting drive through Scottish history is Mauchline.

Mauchline is a town in East Ayrshire in Scotland which became famous in the 1800s for the production of box-ware, now commonly referred to as Mauchlineware. Mauchlineware was souvenir ware made from sycamore trees. This Scottish souvenir wood ware was exported all over the world from Europe to Australia and America.

The success really came from the trend in the late 18th century for snuff-taking. Snuff boxes had been gold and silver, tortoiseshell and papier-mâché but the wooden ones failed to keep the tobacco fresh. This was all to change when James Sandy perfected the integral wooden hinge making wooden snuff boxes airtight and so began a new industry in handmade wooden boxes.

All manner of small and later large items were made in Mauchlineware from cigar cases, bookmarks and pin cushions to vases, jewellery boxes and other household objects. An incredible range of boxes including the aforementioned snuff boxes were produced in every shape and size one could wish for.

Designs were transfer printed and then varnished; some receiving up to 26 layers of varnish and the pictures transferred were popular landscape scenes, famous landmarks and attractions from across the world. Mauchlineware was specifically aimed at the tourist market, both domestic now the British people were travelling further by rail, but also with the export market in mind.

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


Over Easter, we entertained many family and friends, so as an establishment we must have drunk gallons of Coca-Cola. My preferred tipple is full fat, but I drink the sugar free caffeine free option. When young Pemberton first started mixing leaves and nuts I bet he never dreamt of a caffeine free version.

The phenomenon known as Coca-Cola was invented in 1886 by said pharmacist John Pemberton as a simple experiment of curiosity and started life sold by the glass in the Jacobs Pharmacy in Atlanta where he worked. The name comes from the ingredients originally used to make the drink; coca leaves and kola nuts. Frank Robinson, the Pemberton’s bookkeeper was actually the one who created both the name and the very distinctive Coca-Cola logo, which was in fact simply his own handwriting. He was also responsible for publicising the drink as a medicinal ‘pick me up’. Coca leaves, which were also used to make the drug cocaine, were eventually replaced in the early 1920s by caffeine.

Coca-Cola was first officially advertised in a magazine in 1902 and other merchandise quickly followed such as glasses and trays. The Coca-Cola image changed slightly during the 1920s and 1930s, alongside the ingredients, to become more family-inclusive, focusing on group enjoyment. The most well-known product of this, of course, is the famous Santa Claus images. The Winter Wonderland Santa Claus was developed by Swedish artist, Haddon Sundblom in the early 1930s to match the patented red of the Coca-Cola cans and is still an image synonymous with the Coca-Cola we love today.

The value of most Coca-Cola advertising is calculated the same as most collectables; rarity and condition are generally most important and realise the highest prices. Items from the late 1880s and 1890s, before official advertising from the company, are difficult to find these days making them highly sought after as are unusual items such as artwork with images of men, instead of the traditional smiling ladies.

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

Baxter Prints

How often, I wonder, do we think about the feelings of the subjects in our historical past when they experienced the highs and lows in their lives. How excited, for example, did George Baxter feel as he walked home from work after realising he had perfected his colour printing process and how incredibly sad he must have felt in 1865 (more about that later).

George Baxter (1804-1867) is regarded by many as the ‘inventor’ of colour printing; he achieved a way to bring colour printing to the masses in a cheaper and more time effective way. Before Baxter, colour printing meant hand painting which was labour intensive and thus expensive. Baxter’s process, patented in 1835, put an end to this.

The process involved a steel key plate and a number of wooden and metal colour blocks. The image was first engraved onto the key plate which was laid onto the paper to leave a monochrome image. Blocks were then produced with the same image, each representing a different colour. Each individual block was then inked and added to the paper in a prescribed order. Baxter was a perfectionist taking time to ensure each colour was dry between pressings, resulting in only two colours being applied each day.

Originally Baxter’s prints were used for frontispieces in books, but quickly a market for his prints in their own right developed. His attention to detail made him slow so he regularly missed deadlines, including those of International Exhibitions. Combined with his lack of business acumen poor George’s slow completion rate eventually led to his bankruptcy in 1865. A very sad day and he died only two years later.

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