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

Auctions Covid Style

I remember many, many years ago, when my father was alive and computers were in their infancy, having a discussion with him about the internet and he said to me “one day we will sell a whole auction on a computer and no one will be in the saleroom”. I remember laughing with him in a “Yeh, right Dad?!” sort of a way. Well Dad…. you were right.

Last Monday at Sheffield Auction Gallery that happened. No one there, but everyone there, no need to distance because everyone was at home. It was amazing and the prices were exactly what we would have expected from a “regular” auction and in some cases, better.

One thing Covid-19 has done for us all is to make us think outside of the usual box our thoughts tend to be restricted to. The pub pulling pints of beer from the back of a van, until it was stopped. The restaurants turning into takeaways. Endless small shops delivering food, filling a gap the supermarkets can’t cope with. The list goes on and on.

Believe it or not, the auction fraternity is also thinking outside of it’s own little box. Well, some of us are. Now it is well known in many circles that my ability with and love of, all things IT is questionable, so it is difficult for me to take any credit for Monday’s auction, but by golly I am still going to bask in it’s glory. It was brilliant.

This is the way forward through our Covid-19 experience and ourselves along with some of the other Auction Houses around the country are marching onward. When the present crisis is a dim and distant memory these sales will still be running alongside the regular auctions.

Collection of goods following the sale will still be very controlled with strict distancing observed by all and of course the postal delivery service will take a great deal.

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

Victorian Jugs

In an attempt to keep healthy my wife and I have introduced water as one of our evening meal beverages. This requires a jug on the table and hence a little extra preparation. I am somewhat doubtful about the longevity of this new custom as the preparation seems to be falling upon me. It does however make me contemplate the jug as an artefact.

A few years before Victoria came to the throne moulded jugs had developed into an art form. Almost every potter of the time began producing them and on the whole all followed each other as the moulded jug developed and changed throughout the century.

The jugs of the 1830s were moulded in a crisp and deep relief. Apart from a few angular exceptions the body was generally round. In terms of decoration, this was a period when designs and inspirations seemed limitless. Hunting scenes were popular, as were religious, mythological, historical and even drinking themes. But inspiration was also found in books, poems and art. In fact almost every aspect of Victorian life.

By the latter part of the 1840s the earlier distinctive pedestal foot had become a foot rim and the lip was a little less flared. The body was still essentially round and the relief had become more shallow. The new trend in design was naturalistic plant life, with some jugs being completely covered, examples being the Cob of Corn jug and the Pine Cone jug.

By the 1860s the relief was very shallow and the naturalistic designs were replaced with stylised flowers and foliage. By the time, towards the end of the century, that the Art Nouveau style had arrived the moulded jug had largely had its day.

Made usually in earthenware, stoneware or Parian the moulded jug makes a lovely addition to any collection which is why they have always remained popular in the auction room.

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

Sweetmeat Glasses

As I have said many times, we all love a glass of wine and within the field of glass collecting, drinking glasses have always commanded the greatest interest from enthusiasts. However there is a whole sphere of glass production which is equally as exciting and readily available to the collector.

The Georgians loved their desserts and the taking of dessert was an important occasion in its own right. The late 18th century was a time when the wealthiest members of society entertained with parties incorporating a large and varied amount of food, as well as generous amounts of wine and desserts.

Desserts may be taken with the meal or served away from the table in a kind of buffet form which could be directly after the dinner or later in the evening. The kind of treats on offer included candied fruit, marshmallows, crystallised citrus peels and almonds.

These desserts 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. Shorter thicker glasses with practically no stem were also used for holding jelly and ice creams. Custard cups, another variant on the jelly glass, were used for syllabub ( a creamy alcoholic sweetmeat ), egg custard and egg trifles. Sometimes all of these vessels would be presented on large stemmed salvers placed in the form of a pyramid.

These wonderful Georgian occasions and marvellous Georgian sweetmeats have provided the modern collector with an enormous wealth of collecting opportunity.

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

Goss China

Carrying out chattels valuations sees me traveling all over the region and last Saturday I was in the beautiful Cathedral town of Ripon (where £2.00 sees you safely parked for 24 hours) to visit the property of an older lady who has now gone into a home. This lady loved her Goss china, but sadly she is in the minority these days. Could this be the time to invest?

William Henry Goss was chief designer at the Spode works in Stoke-on-Trent by the time he was twenty-five, but he was not happy and decided to branch out on his own.In the 1880’s, Williams son, Adolphus, joined the company. He was no potter, but he was an ideas man with a flare for marketing. His father had been producing specially commissioned commemorative pieces bearing heraldic emblems and he saw an opportunity to expand.

Adolphus realised that such wares would make great souvenirs for the mass market who, taking advantage of increased wages, were taking more holidays and day tripping on the growing railway network. He worked his way round the country over the next 20 years making contacts until he had a network of more than 1000 local agents. Each agent was responsible for promoting their local coats of arms which could be put on up to 600 small, mass produced named models. The local agents could ask for their symbols to be placed on just about anything.

Goss also produced a popular series of hand painted buildings, known as the Goss Cottages; examples included Shakespeare’s House and Robert Burns’ birthplace. However the heraldic crested wares still made up the bulk of the company’s sales. These wares became less popular after the First World War and in 1929 the Goss family sold out to a competitor Arcadian China.

Standards slowly fell and eventually the factory closed in 1944.

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