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 (

Image 1

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 (

Image 2

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.

Image 1

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).

Image 2

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)

Friday, August 19, 2011


The Danish porcelain factory Royal Copenhagen has been producing the "Blue Fluted" pattern since 1775. This pattern, which depicts a fluted border with flowers, berries and vines, comes in three distinct configurations, depicted below:

BLUE FLUTED - FULL LACE, with perforated lace edges (see image 1)

Image 1

BLUE FLUTED - HALF LACE, with painted lace edges (image 2)

Image 2

BLUE FLUTED - PLAIN, with simple smooth edges (image 3)

Image 3

Images courtesy of

DID YOU KNOW THAT because it is the first pattern Royal Copenhagen ever made, the company's mark on its Blue Fluted items will often include a number 1 above the item number? See for example the following mark with the numbers 1 over 1018. The number 1 stands for the pattern (Blue Fluted pattern), and the number 1018 refers to the specific item (Full Lace salad serving bowl).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Majolica is a type of earthenware (pottery, which is fired to a porous state) decorated in vibrant colors using a lead or tin glaze. This form of pottery was popularized in the second half of the 19th century.

Majolica was made in England, France, Spain, Italy, US, and other countries. Popular examples featured molded, raised decorations of flowers, fruits, vegetables, birds, fish, and other animals.

Not all majolica makers would mark their pieces, but popular artists were Minton, Wedgwood, Holdcroft, and George Jones in England; Griffin, Smith, and Hill in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania; and Chesapeake Pottery in Baltimore, Maryland.

See below amazing examples of majolica. First, a Wedgwood Punch & Toby cobalt blue punchbowl

Also, see below a Minton Mermaid Ewer

Both images courtesy of

DID YOU KNOW that Majolica's popularity took off in England in 1851, shortly after Minton displayed several vases at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London? Minton called the designs Victorian Majolica (Victorian in reference to Queen Victoria who reigned from 1837 to 1901). In the US, Majolica became popular after the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876. Majolica was out of fashion from the 1920s to the 1960s until collectors began seeking these pieces for their own collections beginning in the 1980s (source: Kovel's Antiques and Collectibles newsletter).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Storage Trunks

Storage trunks originated as traveling luggage for use on long journeys. The most common styles seen today date from the late 18th to early 20th century. After that, trunks were replaced by suitcases. Forms vary, from dome top, round top, bevel top, slatted and non-slatted top, among others. Below are a few examples of different styles, with information and images courtesy of Eagle Trunk Designs

Monitor top trunks (see image 1 below). This type of trunk, circa third quarter 19th to early 20th century, purportedly got its name from the USS Monitor warship and is characterized by rounded front and rear corners.

(image 1)

Steamer trunks (see image 2 below). Circa 1880 to 1930, this trunk has a flat top and is short enough to fit under the beds or seats in steamships and trains. Most examples of the metal covered ones are from the 1900s onwards.

(image 2)

Automobile trunks (see image 3 below). Circa 1910 to 1950. Early automobiles did not have storage spaces to speak of and were equipped with a rack or slot for which a trunk could be placed. Some of these trunks were built specially for a particular vehicle while others were generic.

(image 3)

Wardrobe trunks (see image 4 below). These were very popular from the late 19th to the mid 20th century. Inside, these usually have drawers on one side and a place to hang clothes on the other.

(image 4)

DID YOU KNOW, speaking of wardrobe trunks, that some came with detachable brief or make-up cases, ironing boards, mirrors, shoe holders, almost everything but the kitchen sink. See this image of a lady ironing on a 1921 Phillips wardrobe trunk. Image courtesy of

Thursday, May 19, 2011

American Brilliant Period Cut Glass

Cut glass is art glass with a design made by cutting or grinding the surface, and brilliant cut glass are objects with elaborate deeply cut patterns that usually cover the entire surface and are highly polished.

The Brilliant Period in glass (1876 - 1910) began with the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, PA where, thanks to new rail transportation, record numbers of people attended and were captivated by the elegant cut glass tableware, lamps, perfume bottles and other fine products on display. While previously Europe’s fine glass was in vogue, a boom was sparked in the US for glass furnaces to sprout throughout the Northeast.

Patterns quite unlike earlier European designs were developed, and patterns were given intriguing names, such as Hobstar, Pinwheel, Button Bull’s-Eye, Strawberry Diamond Vesica, Crosshatch, etc. (source: American Cut Glass Association)

An example of a sought-after shape in American Brilliant cut glass is this footed, three-handled loving cup made by The Libbey Glass Co., generally considered today to have made the best cut and faceted glass during the brilliant period. (Image courtesy of The House of Brilliant Glass,

Eventually, high labor costs made these items cost prohibited for most people, and the vogue of setting entire tables with glass began to decline.

DID YOU KNOW THAT during the Brilliant Period nearly 1,000 glass cutting shops were established in the US but by 1908 less than 100 remained?

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Most countries have some sort of system - standard - for making sure that the content of silver is represented truthfully. Because pure silver is too soft, it is usually alloyed with other metals, typically copper, to give it strength. In the US, for example, all pieces marked "sterling" must be .925 fineness (92.5% by weight of silver and 7.5% by weight of other metals, usually copper).

In 1810 after Napoleon's defeat, the Austrian Empire was divided into three distinct groups: The German-Slavonian lands (Slavonia), the Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom, and the Hungarian Kingdom. Each region had a different standard for silver.

In around 1886 a law was passed that set a common silver standard for all three regions. Under that law, four standards were set for silver, using the head of goddess Diana with a crescent moon. The standard is indicated by the shape of the cartouche and the numeral inside. See below the four silver marks courtesy of In the order they appear:

1= 1st standard .950
2= 2nd standard .900

3= 3rd standard .800
4= 4th standard .750

The letter indicates the city, with the letter "A" for Vienna.

Beginning in 1925 the hallmarks were changed from the head of the goddess Diana to bird heads.

One of the finest Austrian silversmiths of the late 19th century who fulfilled numerous commissions for the Austrian Royal Family was J.C. Klinkosch. See below a mirror by Klinkosch, circa 1890, in the rococo style having the crest, coat of arms and coronet of Prince Maximilian Egon II of Furstenburg and his wife nee Countess Emma
Schonborn-Buccheim. Image courtesy of MS Rau Antiques, New Orleans, LA

DID YOU KNOW THAT in 1954 the first standard was reduced to .925 fineness - same as the standard for sterling.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Lady head vases are made of ceramic. They have holes in the top of their heads and were originally sold at florists' shops as vases to hold flowers.
Most of the vases were imported from Japan in the early 1950s to 1970s. At that time they were very inexpensive and were sold at many five-and-dime stores across the country (source:
The most sought-after head vases with collectors today are ones that have embellishments, such as earrings and necklaces. See images (front and back) of a head vase of a lady wearing a black dress and red ribbon on her hair. She has a red heart applied necklace and pearl style earrings. (Image courtesy of

DID YOU KNOW that several head vases were made to resemble movie and TV stars and other famous women, such as Jackie Kennedy, Lucille Ball, and Bette Davis, to name a few. See this example called "Donna Reed," the TV actress of the late 50s to mid 60s sitcom The Donna Reed Show. (Image courtesy of

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Biedermeier Furniture

The Biedermeier period lasted from the fall of Napoleon in 1815 until the Industrial Revolution of 1848. This style is neoclassical and formal but with clean geometric lines. Bright, light colored woods, such as fruitwoods and walnut were popular.

The bulk of this style furniture was produced primarily for the middle class in Germany and Austria and was popular also in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Scandinavia and the Baltic States. As the middle class had gained wealth and education, their tastes became more similar to those previously of the aristocracy.

Revival periods of this style include 1860, late 19th century, and 1920s.

Image 1 is an example of an early 19th century Biedermeier walnut commode. Image courtesy of Jean Williams Antiques, Seattle, WA.

Image 2 is an example of a Biedermeier sofa, Swedish, first quarter 20th century. Image courtesy of Rupert Cavendish Antiques, London, UK.

DID YOU KNOW that the name Biedermeier was taken from the word "bieder", which in German means honest, simple, and "Meier", which is a common last name?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


In the late 19th century, product manufacturers began to send display cabinets along with their merchandise as an incentive for store owners to buy in bulk. By the beginning of the 20th century, however, these cabinets went out of fashion due to more efficient packaging methods. Their value today exists among collectors who enjoy their beauty and uniqueness.

Diamond Dye cabinets remain popular among collectors of these antique display cabinets. Diamond Dyes were made by the Wells & Richardson Company of Burlington, Vermont and were usually made of cherry, oak, and walnut. See for example, an 1890 Diamond Dyes "Evolution of Woman" cabinet made of birch with tin color lithograph front (image courtesy of

Cabinets that housed thread are another style that have remained popular throughout the years. In the 1860s, thread manufacturer George A. Clark, Clark Thread Company of Newark, NJ, created a new sturdy cotton thread, "O.N.T." (Our New Thread). The Clark Company would package the thread in display cabinets with the hopes of attracting more lucrative sales. One such cabinet is depicted below: a six-drawer walnut Clark's spool cabinet with red glass labels (this cabinet sold at Cowan's Auction, Cincinnati, OH -

Another popular manufacturer of threads that used a similar sales strategy was J. & P. Coats.

DID YOU KNOW that the use of cotton thread skyrocketed due primarily to the increase in popularity of the sewing machine? Sewing machines did not go into mass production until the 1850s when Isaac Singer built the first commercially successful machine. His was the first to have the needle move up and down rather than side to side and the needle was powered by a foot treadle. Previous machines were all hand-cranked. Source: