Dear Helaine and Joe:
I inherited this pair of what I think are vases, but I do not know for sure what they are. I have searched a few antique sites and have been unable to find anything like them.
Can you provide any information as to origin and value? I have included a photograph of the mark.
Dear S. C.:
We need to apologize up front. The name we are going to give this pair of covered urns or mantel ornaments may sound more than a bit judgmental, but it is the name that is often given to pieces such as these.
But before we get to that, we want to answer S. C.’s specific questions. The mark on the bottom is blurry, but it tells the whole story.
It gives us information that would be extremely difficult to discover online and a trip to the good old-fashioned library is the only way to accomplish unraveling the facts.
The mark is of a crown inside a wreath surmounted by a lion with the initials “H J” on either side of the bottom of the wreath with the designation “England” below that.
This last word answers many of S. C.’s queries — it tells us that the piece was made in the United Kingdom (England) sometime after 1891 — but probably before the end of World War I.
The rest of the mark leads to the name of the manufacturer, which was A. G. Harley Jones — and if S. G. Googles that name, she would find a picture of urns remarkably similar to hers.
When this name is known, the rest of the story is easy to find. A quick look at Geoffrey A. Godden’s Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks reveals that this company went into business in 1907 and ceased operation in 1934.
They operated the “Royal Vienna Art Pottery” works in Fenton, Staffordshire and made earthenware’s and some china.
The name chosen for this operation was also that of a firm associated with fine porcelain wares made in the capital of the Austro Hungarian Empire. But the piece made by A. G. Hanley Jones are knockoffs of the originals and inexpensive ones at that.
Yes, we have now come to the judgmental part we spoke about earlier. Items such as these are often called “cheapwares” by the British because they were turned out in large numbers using shoddy materials and manufacturing techniques.
In this case the images on the vases are transfer printed and the worker who applied the prints did a relatively poor job (we see seams and voids).
The colors are not well applied and the blue and green are not nearly as attractive as they would have been on more expensive wares.
Real “Royal Vienna” wares might have had a place on the mantel of the rich, but the two covered urns in today’s question were intended for the homes and mantels of more ordinary people.
From a distance they might fool the eye, but up close, they tell what they are in an instant. They are wonderful heirlooms, but their monetary value is in the $250 to $300 range.