Monday, March 19, 2012


An Etui (pronounced a-twee) is a pocket-sized ornamental case dating from the 18th to 19th century. These cases were made of different materials, such as silver, gold, enamel, gilt metal and tortoiseshell.

See image 1 of an 18th century Meissen style porcelain etui (image courtesy of Times Past Antiques,,gilt-banded-18th,

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Etuis had fitted interiors containing various small useful items, such as writing sets, scent bottles, knife, fork and spoon sets, and sewing accessories. Others contained just about everything.

See image 2 that shows a mid 18th century Georgian Etui Necessaire. The front and back of the tapering case is decorated with various musical instruments and foliage, on a stippled background. The interior is fitted with 11 implements, including fork, two knives, measure ruler, scissors, ivory leaves, snuff spoon, tweezers, file, and a needle threader. (Image courtesy of Louis Wine Antiques, Toronto, Canada

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See this example (image 3). It is a circa 1840 bloodletting etui with four tortoiseshell covered lancets. The instruments are known as thumb lancets due to the way in which they were held and pushed into a blood vessel! (Image courtesy of Alex Peck Medical Antiques,

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Sunday, February 19, 2012


Tea was introduced in England from China in the mid 17th century. Because tea was regarded as a precious commodity, special boxes called caddies were used to store the tea leaves. Tea caddies were made from various materials, including tortoiseshell, porcelain, carved and inlaid woods, and metals ranging from painted tin to engraved silver.

The two images below show a circa 1790 blonde tortoiseshell tea caddy with ivory and pewter stringing. It has two interior lids (images courtesy of http://www.bazaar

And below are two images of a circa 1840 rosewood sarcophagus form tea caddy on lion paw feet with two interior lids and center mixing bowl (images courtesy of http://www.bazaar

DID YOU KNOW THAT the British crown had imposed such high taxes on the importation of tea, that by the mid 18th century the duty on tea had reached 119 percent? Such heavy taxation brought a new found income for the government but soon, it also helped create a new booming industry: tea smuggling! (source:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tunbridge Ware

Tunbridge Ware refers to a process of inlaid wood decoration developed and made popular in the town of Tunbridge Wells in Kent, England. Although the process was developed earlier, Tunbridge Ware was most popular in the 19th century Victorian period.

The most famous makers of Tunbridge Ware were family owned businesses: Wise Family; Burrows Family; Fenner; Nye; Barton; Hollamby; Boyce, Brown & Kemp; and Tunbridge Wells Manufacturing Company.

The most popular item to be produced in this fashion was the box; e.g., tea, snuff, stamps, gloves, handkerchiefs, matches, among others. Many of the geometric patterned boxes are from the earlier part of the century while floral patterns were adapted later on.
(Sources: and

The following images are courtesy of Armherst Antiques.

Image 1 shows a dressing case with a view of Windsor Castle by George Wise, circa 1840

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Image 2 shows a writing slope/lap desk with a view of Battle Abbey Gatehouse by Henry Hollamby, circa 1870.

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DID YOU KNOW that the then young Princess (later Queen) Victoria was a frequent visitor to the town of Tunbridge Wells and used to buy articles of Tunbridge ware as gifts for her family? As gratitude to her, the town's people presented her with a specially made example: a kingwood work table (see image 3 below, courtesy of the Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery (

According to the Museum, the principal manufacturers of the time had to draw lots for the privilege of making the table.

Image 3

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Santa Candy Containers

Santa candy containers became popular in the 19th century and are still being made today.

Christmas trees in the early 19th century were adorned with, for example, cookies, fruits, nuts, and cones. Born in Germany, Santa candy containers were given as gifts but were often used as tree or table decorations after the candy was gone (source: Kovel's On Antiques And Collectibles).

Some of the more elaborate candy containers were very detailed figures that separated at the waist, concealing the cylinder that held the candy. Others separated at the neck, held candy in small attached baskets or on a covered attached sleigh (source:

Image 1 shows an 1890 German Belsnickel candy container with rabbit fur beard. He carries a brown basket on his back. Image courtesy of Grossmutters Christmas Past (

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Image 2 shows a 1930 German Santa wearing a red felt coat. He has a fur beard and carries a feather tree branch. Image courtesy of Grossmutters Christmas Past (

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Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition in the 16th century but, DID YOU KNOW that the first artificial Christmas tree was developed in Germany in the 19th century as a response to reduce German deforestation? These trees were first made of goose feathers that were dyed green.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Very interesting discussion on October 18, 2011 at Yale's School of Management with Sotheby's CEO William Ruprecht.

See Yale's Dean Edward A. Snyder's interview with Ruprecht (link below).

  • In the last decade there has been major changes in the auction world, with China in the foreground. Given China's massive wealth generation, there "has been a total shift of where the demand and supply are".
  • The United States and Europe have now become net sellers of art, while China - whose market has exploded - has become the largest art market in the world.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rococo Revival Furniture


Rococo (pronouned roh-cocoa) Revival was an effort during the early to mid-Victorian period (around 1845-1870) to revive the Rococo Louis XV style that had originated in France in the early 18th century; however, the 19th century Revival has much more exaggerated curves and intricate and realistic carved ornamentation.

One of the most famous makers of Rococo Revival for the luxury market was German-born John Henry Belter of New York City. Belter (1804-1863) created elaborate lacy pieces from laminated rosewood panels using a technique that he patented. Several layers of wood were glued together in alternating directions to give it strength, and the panels were then steamed under pressure in molds to produce curves. After that, the furniture components were carved in intricate patterns of scrolls, fruit, and flowers (source: Kovel’s On Antiques and Collecting). Belter was famous for his large and exuberant parlor room sofas, which are embellished with bouquets of naturalistic blooms.

Image 1 below, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a superb example of Belter's high-end sofas.

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Another company, J. and J.W. Meeks, also of New York, made similarly ornate pieces. See image 2 of a pair of walnut chairs by Meeks, circa 1850 (image courtesy of Timeless Antiques, Laguna Beach, CA).

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Other notable markers of this style were Alexander Roux, Charles Baudouine, Leon Marcotte, and Ignatiius Lutz.

DID YOU KNOW that most of the Rococo Revival furniture were pieces designed for the parlor (rather than, say, for the dining area or library)? The curved, often pierced carved wood pieces appeared more "feminine" and therefore were more conducive to the parlor - the "domain" of the lady of the house.

Monday, September 19, 2011

American Coin Silver

Most silver articles made in the United States before around 1860, when the sterling silver standard was accepted, are referred to as "coin."

Coin silver has a slightly higher silver content than sterling silver. Pure silver is too soft for normal use and has to be alloyed, usually with copper and other trace elements. Sterling is 925 parts silver per 1000 parts, and American coin silver has a lower percentage: from 1792 to 1837, it was .892; thereafter, .900. Other countries may use the words “coin silver” to mean the purity used in their silver coins, which may be different from US coins.

In America’s colonial days, coin silver was literally made from melted-down coins. Between about 1830 and 1860 silver was often marked “Coin,” “Pure Coin” or “Dollar” to show that the piece was the same quality as coins. (Source: Kovels On Antiques and Collectibles).

Image 1 is of a coin silver ladle, with monogrammed fiddle-back handle by Anthony Rasch, circa 1855-1963, marked "A. Rasch" (image courtesy of

Image 2 is of a coin silver coffee pot by Eoff & Shepard of New York City, circa 1850, marked "E & S" (image courtesy of

DID YOU KNOW that besides being useful, coin silver items in the home helped secure the family's fortune? A thief would find it more difficult to dispose of the distinctly marked and engraved pieces than he would a sack of coins (source: Kovels On Antiques and Collectibles)