Desert Rose china is toast cover

This piece of Desert Rose China was found in a gift shop. It is a fairly uncommon piece in the Desert Rose pattern, and should retail around $150-$175.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I found this piece of Desert Rose china in an antiques booth at the gift shop of a local tourist attraction. It is about 5 inches wide and looks like a cover of some kind but has a small vent hole on top. What is it? I gave it to my sister-in-law, who collects Desert Rose, and she has never seen it before nor is it in her books on the subject. Can you help?

Thank you,

L. F., Cabot, Ark.

Dear L. F.:

When we first saw the piece, with its domed shape and small vent hole near the three- dimensional rose finial, we guessed it might be a pancake or toast cover. Breakfast services from the first and second quarter of the 20th century sometimes had them. But this raises the question as to whether or not covers of this sort were made in the Desert Rose pattern.

Desert Rose is associated with the tradename Franciscan Ware or Franciscan Pottery, but the actual corporation responsible for making the products was Gladding, McBean, originally of Lincoln, Calif. Lincoln is in the Sacramento metropolitan area and was essentially settled in the 1860s (the population in 1880 was 275).

Early in the 1870s, high quality deposits of kaolin — one of the essential ingredients for making hard paste porcelain — along with coal and sand were discovered. Gladding, McBean was founded there in 1875 to turn the raw ingredients into building materials such as terracotta and vitrified sewer pipe.

Over the years, Gladding, McBean acquired several other companies, including the Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company and the Tropico Pottery, also located in Los Angeles. In 1929, the stock market crash and the advent of the Great Depression curtailed Gladding, McBean’s building trades business significantly and they decided to go into the manufacture of earthenware dinnerware, which they made at the old Tropico Pottery facility in L.A. near Glendale.

Their first efforts were solid color wares, and in 1934 the trade name “Franciscan Pottery” was introduced. This became “Franciscan Ware” by the late 1930s. Apple, an embossed hand decorated line, was introduced in 1940 and became Gladden, McBean’s best seller. Desert Rose, the second embossed hand-decorated line, was introduced in 1941.

The still very popular Desert Rose pattern was designed by Mary Jane Winans and is still being made by an English successor to Gladden, McBean. In 1942, a Desert Rose breakfast set was introduced, and the company’s catalog indicates the set contained the #869 toast cover, which is what L. F. appears to have.

This toast cover should have a diameter of approximately 5 1/2 inches. (We suppose it could also be used to keep pancakes warm.) It is a fairly uncommon piece in the Desert Rose pattern, and although we have seen it offered for sale for much less, it should retail around $150-$175.

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Treasures: Alabaster lamps from early 1900s

This lamp was probably carved at the end of World War I.

Dear Helaine and Joe: We have two alabaster lamps on alabaster columns. They were purchased by our grandmother in Chicago in the 1940s. The question is: What might they be worth?

— D.D., Texas

Dear D. D.: Wow! Your grandmother bought one visually spectacular lamp and another that is pretty darn good.

When she purchased them, they were probably out of fashion: just used lamps that were probably less than 20 years old. But almost 80 years later, the world is a different place, and we can only call her a really good shopper.

We should probably break the bad news before we get too far along. In this case, the two columns or pedestals on which the lamps reside are not original. The larger lamp has an oddly shaped base that does not fit the top of its pedestal. The smaller lamp does not integrate well with its column, either.

This means both were originally designed to be table and not floor lamps. And alabaster floor lamps are much more valuable than their table lamp cousins. Still, with the smaller “Rebecca at the Well” lamp standing 31 inches tall and the turbaned lady 46 inches tall, they are good substantial alabaster lamps, and both make a design statement.

Alabaster is a soft and easily carved mineral. Archaeologists and geologists disagree on exactly what it is, but boiling it all down, there are two types. The first is fine-grained gypsum, while the second is a fine-grained banded calcite. The gypsum is so soft it can be scratched with a fingernail, but the calcite is a little bit harder (a 3 on the Mohs scale) and requires tools to carve it.

Both minerals are slightly water-soluble, so care should be taken. We believe the lamps are probably of the calcite variety and that they were probably carved in Italy after the end of World War I, say circa 1925 (Florence is a likely location). It would enhance their monetary value if they were signed by the artist, but D.D. did not report a signature and we did not see one in the photographs.

The second lamp depicts a woman with a pitcher held high on her shoulders and is very much in the “Rebecca at the Well” style. If it is in perfect condition, the lamp itself should be valued for insurance purposes in the $1,800 to $2,500 range. The column pedestal adds another $250 to $350.

The lamp pictured with this letter is a real beauty. At 46 inches tall, it depicts a stylishly dressed woman in a turbanlike hat with a dress that incorporates a sort of shawl with deep sleeves that the woman is holding off to her side. The shade is beautifully detailed around the edge, and the dome is etched with an attractive band of leaf designs.

The lamp should be valued for insurance purposes in the $3,500-4,000 range and again, the pedestal adds another $250 to $350.

Read the original article here.

Vases probably designed to be mantel decorations

These vases are more than 100 years old, but they were inexpensive when new.

Hi Helaine and Joe:

This pair of vases belonged to my husband’s grandmother. We inherited them when she died and are wondering if they are valuable. They are marked “England” along with some numbers on the base. One has a small crack but the other is in good condition. Anything you could tell us about these vases would be greatly appreciated.

Looking forward to hearing from you

B. S., The Villages, Fla.

Dear B. S.:

A few weeks ago, we answered a question about a vase made by an important English potter that was worth thousand of dollars and was very rare.

This week we want to point out that for every vase like that, there are hundreds of thousands of others that are essentially worth little. The vases in today’s question are earthenware, made sometime between 1891 and the end of World War I, say circa 1910, and unfortunately, they fall into the latter category.

Some earthenware items from this era can be exquisite and made to exacting standards by an artist who sold his wares at upscale venues such as Liberty & Co. and Tiffany’s. But the vast majority was less glorious in workmanship and retailed for a small amount of money at mass-market outlets. The lesser objects are now often referred to as being “cheap lines.”

They were molded, sometimes a bit crudely and for the most part inexpensively embellished with transfer prints of floral designs, as well as some quasi-historical scenes. The pottery pieces decorated cottages and row houses across the English-speaking world, and today they are still cheap, as a general rule.

The pair of vases in today’s question is actually a tad better than this. They are hand-painted, but poorly so with globs of paint that go here and there around the rims and tint the applied leaves and flowers in a rather haphazard way.

The circumstance that elevates the pair is the applied leaves and flowers, which did require the work of some semiskilled labor. B. S. should note the numbers found on the bottom of her piece were placed there by the workmen who did the embellishment.

It looks like workman “347” did most of the work, with some other workmen doing their bit here and there and adding their numbers or symbols to the bottom. The marks are there because the workmen were getting paid on a piece basis and had to leave a notation of who had done the work to get paid.

The “England” is probably there because the manufacturer thought the vases might be exported to the United States, and the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890 required the country of origin to be noted on all foreign items shipped into the U.S. The vases were probably designed to be mantel decorations, and we do like the raised lizards (alligators?) with the open mouths on either side of the top. Insurance replacement value with the damage is probably in the $125-$175 range for the pair.

Read the original post here.

Convertible sofa is potentially charming

This convertible sofa will be hard to save, but it has some interesting features.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I recently purchased this piece with its ratcheting arms because I thought it was unique. I have never seen anything like it before. I asked around at my local antiques shops, but no one seemed to know much about it. I have three questions. What is it called? How old is it? Is it worth reupholstering? Any information would be appreciated.

Thank you,

L. B.

Dear L. B.:

The word “unique” means one of a kind. This interesting convertible sofa is far from being that.

Many people would call the piece a train wreck because of its current condition. But it is really a potentially charming convertible sofa — we believe it is more of a love seat size — with ratcheting arms that adjust down to form a bed.

We have seen pieces a tad older described as being convertible fainting couches, but we think that is a touch too precious. The so-called Victorian “fainting couch” was nothing more than a daybed, and that is exactly what this was intended to be — sofa by day, bed for night — and in the afternoon perhaps a comfy place to take a nap. But to receive a person in a “faint” was an unlikely occurrence.

These convertible pieces of furniture can be found as early as the American classic/Victorian transition period of the 1840s and ’50s. Except at that time, the sofa tended to be full-sized, and the back released to come down and form a flat surface so the piece could be used as a bed for sleep.

We suppose they were nice to have around in the mid- to late 19th century and into the early 20th century when guests visited and required an extra bed. The rather smallish piece in today’s question might have been most useful in a small apartment when having a sofa that became a bed could be practical, if not terribly comfortable.

The convertible sofa belonging to L. B. appears to be from the early years of the 20th century. We feel a circa 1905 date would probably be about right. Looking at the construction in the many pictures we were sent (thank you!) we wonder if the back was not designed to be removed as well.

The arms that ratchet down are an interesting modern innovation on the convertible sofa, but they do not greatly enhance the monetary value. Now let’s get to the point and examine the actual monetary value. Earlier we called this a train wreck, and it is. The overall condition is unsightly with a leather covering (which looks like the original) being scuffed and scored, tattered and torn beyond redemption. Currently, the value is close to zero.

In addition, we see what may be either a replaced leg or missing veneer on a leg and feel restoring the piece will be a lot of work. But if L. B, loves it, she should give it a try with the understanding that when she is finished — and if she does an outstanding job — the convertible sofa will only be worth in the $175-$250 range at most.

Read the original article here.

Treasure hunt: A maker’s label would help with valuing this china cabinet

Does this curved glass cabinet have a maker’s label?

DEAR A.P.: To identify a piece of furniture, you need a maker’s label or, at the very least, really strong stylistic clues that can narrow a piece down to a specific craftsman or factory.

Unfortunately, this lovely and attractive early 20th-century (circa 1910) curved glass china cabinet does not have strong clues. But it does have some echoes that can help us narrow down its origins. First, A.P. needs to examine her piece for a label. The one we are hoping she might find would read something like “R.J. Horner 61, 63, 69 W23rd Street N.Y.”

Finding such a label would increase the cabinet’s value significantly, but we do not think she will actually find it. Robert J. Horner established his furniture emporium on 23rd Street in Manhattan in 1886. He made and sold furniture to wealthy New Yorkers, but he did not ignore those of more moderate means. His advertising touted “first class and medium quality furniture.”

He was known for his quarter-sawn tiger oak that was lavishly decorated with extensive bands or areas of shallow carvings coupled with 3-D figures such as griffins, gargoyles, cherubs and mythological figures such as Atlas and caryatids. He was also known for using paw feet similar to the ones on the china cabinet in today’s question.

The china cabinet also has bands of shallow carvings at the top of the columns on each side of the door, but they are rather subdued compared to most of the shallow carvings found on signed examples of Horner furniture. There are also roaring animal heads (possibly griffins) on the crest and on the column capitals, but these too are a little subdued and not as full bodied as we might expect.

The crest has some rather restrained pierced tracery and a gadrooned sun crest that is very attractive, but again is a little less lavish than might be expected on Horner furniture. In summation, all we can say is in the absence of a label, the piece appears to be in the style of Horner’s furniture (probably from his medium quality line), but it might be by another maker copying Horner’s successful style.

This is an above average curved glass china cabinet. If it is Horner, it was probably made after the 1904 fire that destroyed part of Horner’s furniture factory but before he moved to 36th Street in 1913. The dates also work if someone else was inspired by Horner and made the piece. At auction without a label the cabinet should sell in the $1,000 to $1,300 range and have an insurance replacement value of $2,000 to $2,500. A label would come close to doubling these figures.

Read the original article here.

Treasure Hunt: Determining value of Gorham sterling silver flatware in Strasbourg pattern


This sterling silver pattern is one of Gorham’s most popular.

DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: We are sending you photographs of our family Gorham sterling silver flatware — 72 pieces, pat. 1897. We also have a pair of Towle 7-inch-tall candlesticks, No. 131. They are “filled reinforced.” Please let me know the value of both and any other information you might have.

— D.P.E.

DEAR D.P.E.: We are going to focus primarily on the Gorham flatware because it is the more interesting and the more monetarily valuable.

Jabez Gorham was born in Providence, R.I., in 1792 and became an apprentice at age 14 to jeweler and silversmith Nehemiah Dodge. When Gorham finished his apprenticeship at age 21, he went into business in Providence with several partners, making small items mainly from gold, and became famous for the so-called “Gorham chain.”

Gorham and Henry L. Webster founded Gorham & Webster in 1831 to make small pieces of coin silver, specifically coin silver spoons. Various partnerships followed, and in 1841, Gorham’s son joined the firm and introduced the use of machinery in the silver manufacturing process.

Gorham is still in business in Providence and is the commercial powerhouse of American silver making. The flatware in today’s question is in their Strasbourg pattern, which was indeed first made in 1897 and continues to be popular.

D.P.E. supplied a photograph of six pieces of Strasbourg pattern flatware and said he has 72 pieces in total, which may suggest he has a service for 12. But no serving pieces were shown in the photographs. This is a bit unusual because most owners of sterling silver flatware sets want such things as tablespoons, cold meat forks, casserole spoons, gravy ladles and the like to complete their set and make it more useful.

The pieces do not appear to be monogrammed, and that is a plus as far as value goes. Retail, the 72-piece flatware set should probably be valued in the $3,000 to $4,000 range — if it is indeed without serving pieces — but for fair market value, that price drops significantly to the items’ worth as silver metal, and that is probably in the $1,000 to $1,500 range.

As for the Towle 7-inch-tall candlesticks, they are so tarnished it is hard to tell much about them. They appear to be in a sort of Georgian-inspired pattern, but they have one huge thing going against them: Their weight is largely from cement (or some similar heavy substance) placed in the candlestick’s base, which is what the phrase “filled reinforced” is really saying.

Weighted candlesticks were made so they would not tip over easily during use and prevent the lit candles from setting the tablecloth on fire. But as practical as they are, they are more “cement” than silver, which keeps their price down drastically. This set is probably mid-20th century and would retail in the $45 to $65 range.

Read the original article here.

Moorcraft vase is a valuable rarity

This is a wonderful rarity with significant value.


Q: This vase came from my husband’s great-aunt and is about 12 inches tall. It was originally in her home near Detroit. Any information would be appreciated.

A: The green sprawl across the bottom is the signature of English potter William Moorcroft (1872-1945), who was an art school graduate and son of a professional china painter. In 1897, Moorcroft went to work as a designer for the James Macintyre and Co. pottery in Burslem, Staffordshire.

Within a year, Moorcroft was heading Macintyre’s art pottery studio and developing lines in the art nouveau taste that were often decorated with specially colored glazes and raised slip (liquid clay piped through a tube) designs. Moorcroft developed his famous “Florian” line, which was entirely hand-decorated. His work won a gold metal at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

Much of Moorcroft’s work at Macintyre’s was sold in London at the famous department store Liberty & Co., and in New York at Tiffany’s. Moorcroft’s work was soon overshadowing the other products of Macintyre and Co., and his art pottery studio at that company was closed in 1912.

With financial backing from Liberty & Co., Moorcroft established his own art pottery at Cobridge in 1913 with many of the former Macintyre employees. Moorcroft’s son Walter took over the Moorcroft pottery when William Moorcroft died in 1945. The company is still in business.

Around the turn of the 20th century, Moorcroft developed a line of pottery called “Hazeldene,” which generally featured slip outlined trees in a landscape rendered in various shades of blue and green against a cream background. There can be variations in this color scheme (including some in shades of red), but the vase in today’s question is a typically colored example. At 12 inches tall and 4 inches across the base is a large and highly desirable piece.

Some pieces of Moorcroft’s Hazeldene were dated, and some had a “Made for Liberty & Co.” stamp on the bottom, but your piece appears to be lacking both marks. The signature is “W. Moorcroft des.” We believe the “des” stands for “designer” or “dessinateur,” and the “Rd No 3979664” is the English registration number or patent for the design.

We believe the vase is circa 1905 and at auction would sell in the $3,500 to $4,500 range. Its insurance replacement value would be in the $6,000 range.

Willetts Bileek vase likely painted by hobbyist

Roses bloom on this lovely Willets Bileek vase, but who painted it?

Dear Helaine and Joe:

Hello. I read about your expertise on Belleek Willets. I recently acquired a beautiful vase and I am wondering if my piece might have value and who the artist might have been.

Thank you,

C. Y.

Dear C. Y.:

“Expertise” is a strong word we try to avoid. We prefer seeing ourselves as being research specialists with a lot of practical experience in the field of art and antiques that helps us decode what we uncover in our investigations.

“Belleek” (“beal leice” in Gaelic, meaning “flagstone ford”) is the name of an Irish village where a special type of china was developed on the estate of John Caldwell Bloomfield. During Ireland’s Great Famine (1845-49), Bloomfield’s Castle Caldwell estate in County Fermanagh was run down and Bloomfield’s tenants were in a bad way.

Bloomfield was more interested in mineralogy than agriculture. And upon exploring his property, he soon found feldspar and kaolin, the ingredients for making porcelain. He found a place on the nearby River Erne, where the rapidly flowing river would power a mill. Before long, porcelain was made.

The new pottery was financed by David McBirney and managed by Robert William Armstrong from the Worcester Royal Porcelain Works. It is said that pottery started being made at Belleek as early as 1849. But Belleek porcelain production, which was formulated by English potter William Henry Goss, did not begin until about 1863. Sometimes called “Parian” because it is said to resemble Parian marble, the product was a white porcelain covered with an iridescent glaze. Belleek was a big success and is in business to this day.

Closer to home, the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 featured a large display of Irish Belleek wares that completely overshadowed anything being made in the United States at the time. John Brewer of Trenton, N.J.’s Ott and Brewer Pottery saw the Belleek and thought his company could produce the same type of wares.

Ott and Brewer hired Englishmen William Bromley Jr. and Sr. to help achieve the goal. Bromley Sr. had worked with William Henry Goss. And in late 1883 or 1884 they produced the first American Belleek. It should be noted that in the products made in the U.S. the term “Belleek” just referred to fine porcelain and not a strict imitation of the Irish wares.

Another company in Trenton established in 1879 was the Willets Manufacturing Company. Initially it manufactured such things as sanitary wares and white pottery that was sometimes decorated. But like Ott and Brewer, they too wanted to make fine porcelain wares and in 1884 they hired Bromley Sr. to teach them how.

The result was “Willets Belleek,” which was made between around 1885 and 1909. Willets decorated a lot of its Belleek in-house, but they also sold vast quantities of undecorated blanks to china painters. China painting was a big hobby in the U.S. at the time. We believe the vase in today’s question was embellished by one of those hobbyists who will forever be anonymous. At about 8 inches tall, the insurance replacement value of the piece is $250-$350.

Read the original article here.

‘Treasures in the Attic’: Dolls need to have original clothing to capture highest value

The back of the doll’s head shows it’s a Heinrich Handwerck mold No. 109, which was made in Germany.

DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: My mother collected these dolls. She passed away almost 30 years ago and they are in my attic. Can you advise me regarding their value? The first two are 30 inches tall. I would be interested in any information you could provide.

— Thank you, K. C.

DEAR K. C.: For years we had a television show titled “Treasures in Your Attic,” we even wrote a book with the name, and this column is also titled with that phrase. But we need to make it clear that the attic is a terrible place to store anything you care about or want to keep in good condition.

Attics often have wide swings in their climate, they have insects, and they can have vermin. The poor dolls look to be in decent condition, but they still need to be stored somewhere other than the attic.

K. C. wants to know about four dolls, but we have too little information on two of them, so we will concentrate on the two we can identify and quantify. The first is marked J. D. K. and has a mold No. 214. This means the doll was made by J. D. Kestner of Waltershausen, Thuringia, Germany.

Johann Daniel Kestner Jr. began making papier mache and wooden dolls in 1816. He was so successful it is said that he eventually employed nearly three-quarters of the population of Waltershausen, earning himself the nickname “King Kestner.”

Kestner died in 1858. and the company was taken over by his grandson Adolf. At this time, the company was making wax instead of papier mache doll heads and did not start making bisque headed dolls, such as the one in today’s question, until after 1860, when Kestner acquired a porcelain factory in Ohrdruf, Thuringia.

Kestner’s mold No. 214 doll should have a shoulder bisque head on a Kestner ball jointed body, and this appears to be the case. To have its full value, however, it should have appropriate clothing of the period (probably early 20th century). With proper clothing and in very good condition, the 30-inch-tall 214 Kestner doll should have been worth around $1,200 to $1,500 some 15 years ago. But today the retail value is around $300 to $450.

The other doll pictured by K. C. is the Heinrich Handwerck mold No. 109 doll with a head that was designed by Handwerck (also located in Waltershausen, Germany) but actually made by Simon & Halbig.

The mold No. 109 doll should have a ball jointed body, and the socket head should have pierced ears and sleep eyes. Fifteen years ago the dressed No. 109 in good condition should have retailed in the $750 to $1,000 range. But today its value is more like $275 to $400.

Undressed, the dolls in today’s question should be valued no higher than the low price quoted, probably a bit lower.

Read the original article here.

Portrait shows Napoleon’s unfortunate son in his prime

This painting depicts the youthful, romantic, but doomed Napoleon II.

DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: I think I inherited an interesting item for which I would appreciate any professional advice you are able to provide. The item is a portrait of Napoleon’s son, Napoleon II. The painting is dated 1831 and is signed by Rudolf Hille of Vienna. My father bought this 12-by-14-inch piece in New York in 1960.

— R.W., Minneapolis

DEAR R.W.: He was born Napoleon Francois Joseph Charles Bonaparte on March 20, 1811, in Paris’ Tuileries Palace. His mother was Archduchess Marie Louise, and he was the only legitimate son of France’s Emperor Napoleon I.

He came to be known as “Franz” and was born prince imperial and king of Rome. He was the heir apparent to the French throne and for a brief 17 days in June and July 1815, he was the titular emperor of France. With the end of the first French Empire, Franz Bonaparte became the Duke of Reichstadt. But to his adherents (and perhaps in his own mind) he continued to be “His Imperial Majesty Emperor Napoleon II” until his untimely death from tuberculosis in 1832.

This painting, which we believe to be a watercolor, was done by Vienna artist Rudolf Hille, who was born in 1875 (44 years after the date on the painting). It is our opinion that the 1831 date signifies the year in which the subject was supposed to have looked the way he appears in the picture.

Hille’s death date is not known, but we must assume the portrait was painted sometime in the very late 19th century or early 20th century, and we feel it was based on one of several portraits of Napoleon II shown clutching his father’s sword with two military decorations on the left side of his chest. The somewhat romantic portrait by Moritz Daffinger and the standing image by Leopold Bucher come to mind.

Hille was known for painting watercolor panoramas of battle scenes, not for his portrait work. Perhaps Hille was paying tribute to a somewhat tragic figure who gained the nickname “L’Aiglon” — the eaglet — after his death. “Franz” Bonaparte yearned to follow in his famous father’s footsteps in battle but never got the chance.

As a young man, “Franz” was made colonel of the 60th Imperial Regiment by his grandfather, the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Francis I, and given command of 200 men. Not yet 20 years old, the task is said to have exhausted the youthful Napoleon II. He died shortly thereafter. The story is both martial and tragic. That is perhaps why Hille chose to execute this image of a handsome yet doomed royal princeling.

Hille’s battle panoramas sell for between $1,000 and $2,000 on the European continent, but this atypical portrait would bring less. The Napoleon II lore and the romantic nature of the image add to the desirability, but the insurance replacement value is probably around $700 to $900.

View the original article here.