Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Jewelry for the Dinner Table

QUESTION: I’ve been collecting napkin rings for quite a while. To date, I have about 50 or 60. I’ve always been intrigued by the multitude of designs and materials from which they’re made. Recently, I was thinking that I don’t really know how they got started. Can you tell me the origin of napkin rings? To they go back a long time or are they a relatively recent invention?

ANSWER: While most people today use napkin rings for special holiday dinners or special dinner parties, in fact, they had a totally different use when they first appeared.

People use napkin rings, sometimes called christening bangles, to hold table napkins neatly on a dining table. Historians believe they were originally handmade from strips of fabric and used to identify the napkin of each user between weekly wash days so each person could continue using the exact same one as a way of keeping illnesses at bay.

The Chinese invented paper in the 2nd century BCE and soon after created paper napkins. People used paper folded in squares, known as chih pha, when serving tea.

Around 1800, members of the French bourgeoisie originally gave single silver napkin rings engraved with the name of the owner as christening gifts and pairs of them as wedding gifts. Soon, they became available in numbered sets of 4, 6, 8, 10, or 12 in all countries of the western world. Most 19th century napkin ring makers made them of silver or silver plate, as well as bone, wood, pearl embroidery, porcelain, glass, and other materials. In the 20th century, bakelite and other new materials were used.

Napkin rings appear as single items with the name or initials of the owner, notably given as christening presents, or pairs often given as gifts at weddings and silver weddings. In the English speaking countries, numbered sets of 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 napkin rings are found. Napkin rings are an invention of the European bourgeoisie, first appearing in France about 1800 and soon spreading to all countries in the western world. Most 19th century napkin rings were made of silver or silver plate, but others were made in bone, wood, pearl embroidery, porcelain, glass, and other materials. In the 20th century, they used Bakelite and other plastics.

Almost every silversmith in Europe and in the United States made sterling silver and plated napkin rings. Even the basic rings sometimes had fluted borders, scrolled patterns, and sections of satin finish.

Americans loved figural napkin rings—a simple napkin ring part of which was a small figure or sculpture that could take any shape and show any motif. Special rings made for children with little chicks, dogs, and cats were a favorite gift for christenings and Christmas. But beautifully designed rings with floral motifs, monograms and other design elements were just as popular.

Upper middle and upper class Victorian families used napkin rings for fashionable and refined dining from shortly after the Civil War to shortly before World War I. During this time, napkin rings were especially elaborate and artistic. Many makers created napkin rings set on a platform base along with an ornate figure of a bird, flower, or cherub.

People considered napkin rings personal items, so they had them engraved with an individual's name, initials, or family designation such as Mother and Father.

Sculptured fruit such as cherries and gooseberries, flowers including lilies and roses, a snail and shell, a frog and lily pad, a dog house with a dog at the door, butterflies and fans, are only a few of the Victorian fancies now available to the collector as a result of the variety which were manufactured.

The Meriden Britannia Company Probably was the largest and most prolific of the silver plated napkin ring manufacturers. Their catalogs sometimes included a half dozen pages of just rings.

Other sterling silver napkin rings came from Reed and Barton, William Rogers, Gorham, Tufts, Unger Brothers, Wilcox and even the legendary Tiffany. By 1893 Marshal Field Company of Chicago was proudly offering napkin rings of "engraved satin” or of 'bright silver and gold lined."

 To read more articles on antiques, please visit the Antiques Article section of my Web site.  And to stay up to the minute on antiques and collectibles, please join the other 18,000 readers by following my free online magazine, #TheAntiquesAlmanac. Learn more about the early 20th century in the Fall 2018 Edition, "20th Century Ltd.," online now.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Airline Collectibles Take Off

Question: I’ve traveled a lot for business in my career. Most of the time I’ve flown Business Class, but occasionally I got upgraded to First Class. Over the years, I’ve amassed a bunch of items from my many flights—baggage tags, menus, odd pieces of flatware, napkins, toiletry kits, and even little gifts from some overseas flights.  Are these things collectible? Are they worth anything?

Answer: Airline collectibles are hot. Although airline memorabilia collecting has been around for many years, many people don't realize just how long such items have been collected. Even the smallest of items can make for an interesting collection.

Collecting commercial airline items is still a new area, and, depending a what a collector chooses to collect, can still be quite affordable. The fact that many long-established airlines that were once household names have stopped flying adds to the lure of collecting airline memorabilia.

There are almost as many ways to collect airline items as there are airlines and airplanes. In fact, many people collect them by airline, a distinct collecting category. Some people have a love or hate relationship with a specific airline. It may be with the airline on which they flew first, or one they or a family member worked for. Some collectors build their collections around a specific aircraft or focus on a specific type of item such as airline china or insignias. There’s also a distinction between "vintage" airline items and newer ones, such as photographs or new models that can be found at shows. Beginning collectors should be aware that in addition to vintage postcards, newer ones have been produced in recent years and may be found at shows. Often these newer cards, which may look similar to vintage ones, are priced like them.

Some collectors choose to collect airline insignia or service pins by airline or crew position. Service pins feature small insignia, or items bearing the corporate insignia, awarded to crew members for a certain number of years in service. Collectors have found several different styles of insignia for an individual airline. Some companies used cloth hat badges before turning to metal hat insignia. Wings may be all metal or made with ceramic insets containing the corporate logo. The price for insignia varies depending on age, condition, style, crew position and airline. Depending on the piece, prices for more common insignia can be less than $50. Collectors can expect to pay up to several hundred dollars for older or rare pieces.

Today, many airlines have eliminated in-flight meals. Passengers are lucky to get a tiny bag of peanuts or pretzels. In the early days of air travel, passengers ate from fine china with metal flatware. Not only does the china reflect the elegance of an earlier time, but it’s a popular aviation collectible. Prices vary based on airline, age, piece and condition. When buying airline china, collectors use the same criteria as when purchasing other vintage china or ceramics, such as chips, cracks, and scratches.

Depending on where they’re purchased, prices for glasses can range from $5 to $25 as compared to cups and saucer sets that have a higher value of between $30 to $50. Plates can range from $50 to $250 depending on the age, decoration, condition and airline. Collectors expect to pay more for pieces from early airlines or ones that catered to "first-class service."

Airplanes themselves also attract collector interest. Some antique aircraft can be seen in museums. Others have been lovingly restored by collectors or consortiums and can be found tucked away in small local airports or seen flying high at air shows. For those who can't afford an entire plane, collectors can still land a variety of items related to their favorite aircraft such as instrument panel posters used for crew training or flight manuals.

Aircraft used by commercial airlines from around the world have been captured in photographs and prints, as well as on postcards and in paintings. Those who love the form and graceful lines of an aircraft aren’t restricted to pictures. Models, whether put together by future pilots or professionally made for a travel agent's desk, are collectible. A metal travel agents' model can cost upward of $2,000, even more if it’s of a popular airline or airplane.

Much of the paper ephemera directly associated with planes can be relatively inexpensive. Most safety cards are valued between $1 and $3. Safety cards are plastic laminated cards or folders that give information to passengers on the locations of emergency exits. Other types of paper collectibles are postcards and playing card decks. Postcards can be picked up for a dollar or two, and many playing card decks for between $5 and $10. For those who collect manuals, user's manuals and flight logs from the 1950s and older are preferred, although that may change as newer planes are removed from service. An added value to a manual is that many of them contain sketches and photographs, as well as the technical specifications, and were put in binders bearing the company logo.

Before the days of computers and the Internet, printed flight schedules were the travelers'—sometimes the flight crews'—travel guide. Prices vary for flight schedules depending on age, condition, airport and airline. For instance, those from the 1990s sell for $1-2, those from the1980s for $2-4, those from the 1970s for $4-6, and those from the 1940s and 1950s for $20-30. Schedules from the 1930s can cost between $60 and $100.

Almost anything with a corporate logo can be found in an airline collection including corporate literature, annual reports and magazine advertisements. There can also be crossover collecting where the advertisement showcases the aircraft. Illustrating the graciousness of airlines of the past are complimentary toiletry kits. Given to the traveler who forgot his toothbrush, kits can also contain razors, toothpaste and shampoo. Perhaps the most unusual airline collectible are air-sickness bags. Yes, there are collectors who desire them—preferably unused.

After eating Yankee pot roast and glazed carrots with sourdough rolls, passengers on a Pan Am flight could enjoy cherry pie and saltwater taffy. Beer was 50 cents and a split of champagne cost $1. And it didn’t cost a dime for you to be free of your luggage. Those were the days.

To learn more about collecting airline memorabilia, read "Up, Up and Away With Airline Collectibles" in my antiques ezine, The Antiques Almanac.

To read more articles on antiques, please visit the Antiques Article section of my Web site.  And to stay up to the minute on antiques and collectibles, please join the other 18,000 readers by following my free online magazine, #TheAntiquesAlmanac. Learn more about the early 20th century in the Fall 2018 Edition, "20th Century Ltd.," online now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Beauty of Doulton Burslem Ware

QUESTION: I recently came across several pieces of what a dealer called Doulton Burslem Ware at an antique show. I have never heard of this type of pottery, even though I have several pieces made by Royal Doulton in my collection. Were these pieces specially made? Did Doulton make them in a separate factory. Where did the name Burslem come from?

ANSWER: Over its history, Royal Doulton made a variety of types of ceramics, including pottery and porcelain. Its Burslem line featured its finest porcelains.

John Doulton began his working life as a potter’s apprentice at Dwight’s Pottery in Fulham, England. In 1815, he went into business for himself in Lambeth, partnering with a journeyman names John Watts and a widow named Martha Jones. After Martha Jones left the partnership in 1820, John Doulton changed the company’s  name to Doulton & Watts. The business specialized in making stoneware articles, including decorative bottles and salt glaze sewer pipes. The firm took the name Doulton & Company in 1853 after the retirement of John Watts.

His son, Henry, joined his father in 1835 at age 15. He quickly mastered the technique of throwing large vessels. Legend has it that he once made 15 3-gallon filter cases before breakfast. To celebrate his coming of age in 1841, Henry made and fired a 300-gallon chemical jar. His father was so proud of him he displayed it with a sign reading, "The largest stoneware vessel in the world."

Not only did Henry have skill in making pottery, but he was a big thinker and attuned to the artistic tastes of the public. By 1871, Henry Doulton launched a studio at the Lambeth pottery, offering work to designers and artists from the nearby Lambeth School of Art.  In 1877 Henry bought out Pinder, Bourne and Company, a pottery located in Burslem, Staffordshire, England. This placed him in the region known as The Potteries. Five years later he changed the name to Doulton and Company.

Henry fostered an artistic environment that encouraged individual expression, and  soon his workers made some of the most beautiful porcelains of the time. Not only did he hire women, but handicapped artists as well.

Henry was given the Albert Medal by the Royal Society of Arts in 1885 and was knighted in 1887 because of his contributions to the artistic life of England. In the late 1800s anyone who wanted to be in style owned Doulton items.

Sir Henry held off displaying the new Burslem porcelains at exhibitions until he was confident that he could show his competitors the best of his artists were cap-able of producing. At the Chicago Exhibition in 1893 he felt the public was ready for the new range. Large vases, including one which was 6 feet high, were modeled by Charles Noke' and painted by Charles Labarre, who had come to Doulton's from Sevres in France. Other items exhibited were floral painted dessert services and fish and game sets. The Doulton Works took seven of the highest awards, the most given to any ceramic firm.

Doulton's factory at Burslem produced a tremendous amount of tableware and beautifully decorated items, such as vases, ewers and plaques, all of high quality porcelain. It took the work of many skilled craftsman and women to accomplish this.

Notable artists such as Percy Curock, Daniel Dewsbury, Edward Raby, George White and, of course, Charles Noke experimented with glazes, including Changware, Chinese Jade, Sung, and Flambe'.

The Art Nouveau movement influenced many of Doulton’s artists in the late 19th century. In 1889, when Doulton recruited Charles Noke' from the Worcester factory as its chief modeler, many of his earliest pieces featured Oriental-style dragons in high relief. Vases and ewers had gilded dragon handles or molded dragons crawling up the sides. Dragons became an important part of Noke's work, especially when he began experimenting with the Chinese rouge flambe glazes in the early 1900s.

By this time Doulton had become known for its stoneware and ceramics, under the artistic direction of John Slater, who worked with figurines, vases, character jugs, and decorative pieces designed by the prolific Leslie Harradine. Doulton products came to the attention of the Royal family. In 1901 King Edward VII sold the Burslem factory the Royal Warrant, allowing the business to adopt new markings and a new name, Royal Doulton. The company added products during the first half of the 20th century while manufacturing fashionable and high-quality bone china.

Early Doulton artists frequently used nature as their theme, befitting the Art Nouveau style. Flowers were a very popular subject, usually done in muted colors outlined in gold. They also used animals, especially farm animals such as cows and goats, to decorate vases and other items, many with hand-painted landscapes.

In the first few years of the Burslem factory, some unique, very fragile pieces were made with colorful applied seashells or flowers, vines and leaves in an effort to duplicate some of the Amphora pieces made in Austria during that time. Some of these pieces are still in existence today and are eagerly sought by collectors.

During the late 19th century, when the Burslem craftsmen were producing their wares, many competing potters from the Worcester, Royal Bonn and Rudolstadt factories were also producing similar pieces. All of them employed the Spanish Ware technique—the  painting of very fine raised 22-karat gold outline traceries of flowers and leaves, combined with on-glaze enamel painting, often on an ivory or vellum ground. Many pieces had elaborate gilded scroll handles and three or four feet. Some rare pieces even had sections of reticulation.

Many of the cups and saucers from tea, coffee and chocolate services were very delicate in nature and also painted in muted colors using flowers as a theme. Much use of gold was used to decorate the cups and saucers, not only to outline the flowers, but the handle and trim were almost always done in gold. Doulton did a series called Blue Iris. The majority of the pieces in this line used blue flowers on a cream background, embellished by much gold tracery.

To read more articles on antiques, please visit the Antiques Article section of my Web site.  And to stay up to the minute on antiques and collectibles, please join the other 18,000 readers by following my free online magazine, #TheAntiquesAlmanac. Learn more about Colonial America in the Spring 2018 Edition, "Early Americana," online now.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Through the Glass Brightly

QUESTION: My grandmother had the most amazing collection of Heisey glassware. Though she didn’t know much about it, she loved the way it sparkled. Gran has passed on and now I have her collection. I, too, know very little about Heisey glass. What can you tell me about it? And how would I go about continuing to collect it?

ANSWER: It’s always nice to inherit someone’s collection. But the act of collecting is what brings joy to that person. That same joy is missing when someone hands you their collection. Should you curate it and improve the collection or just warehouse it. If you choose the former, you’ll need to educate yourself about Heisey glass in all its forms. If you choose the latter, you might as well sell it. Holding on to it won’t necessarily do you any good if you don’t know its true value.

A.H. Heisey formed the A.H. Heisey Company in Newark, Ohio, in 1895. The factory provided fine quality glass tableware and decorative glass figurines. It produced both pressed and blown glassware in a wide variety of patterns and colors. The company also made glass automobile headlights and Holophane Glassware lighting fixtures. After Heisey died, his sons ran the company until 1957, when the factory closed.

Augustus Heisey was born in 1842 in Hanover, Germany. In 1843, his father took the family to the United States, settling in Merrittown, Pa. After someone murdered his father, his mother returned to Germany. Augustus spent the rest of his childhood with his sister in Brownsville.Pennsylvania. He worked first in a printing business but soon began working as a clerk with either for the King Glass Company or Cascade Glass Works. By 1861. Augustus H. Heisey was in the glass business.

Heisey fought in the Civil War and returned to the glass business soon afterwards. By 1870 he was a highly regarded salesman for, and son-in-law of George Duncan, who owned the George Duncan Glass Company. By 1895, he was looking at a site in Newark, Ohio, with hopes of founding his own company. The high quality limestone deposits and abundant natural gas, water, oil and coal nearby made Newark an excellent choice.

Heisey understood the importance of marketing. His breakthrough technique for combining blown vessels with fancy pressed stems put his product in the country's dining rooms, but his marketing innovations kept them there. He was one of the first manufacturers to market directly to the end user through advertisements in popular magazines for women. Heisey also understood niche marketing, producing specific products to appeal to various regions.

In the years before World War I, the company prospered, adding lines and colors and developing a reputation for a quality product at an affordable price. The war brought with it problems due to government controls of production and lack of manpower, but Heisey had developed a new etching technique that was more economical and required less skill to execute. The company remained strong until the passage of the Prohibition Amendment which severely curtailed the market for glass items intended for alcoholic use.

Augustus Heisey died suddenly in February 1922, and his son, E. Wilson Heisey, assumed the presidency. E. Wilson's passion was color, and during his time with the company, he worked closely with company chemist Emmett Olsson to produce a variety of hues.

The company went to great lengths to produce distinct colors, and Heisey glass may often be identified from the specific colors alone. In 1925, the company introduced Flamingo, a pastel rose-pink, and Moongleam, a vivid green. Marigold was a brassy gold-yellow color. Sahara, which replaced Marigold, was a satisfying soft lemony yellow and Hawthorne a lavender. Tangerine, a bright orange-red produced from about 1933, was part of a trend to darker, more vivid colors. During this time, the company introduced a Cobalt color called Stiegel Blue. Alexandrite, the rarest of Heisey colors, can be a pale blue-green under normal light, but in sunlight or ultraviolet light, it glows with a pink-lavender hue. Zircon is a very modern grey-blue and was the last new color introduced.

High clarity and brilliance, due to the process of fire polishing, were a hallmark of Heisey glass. Many of the pressed pieces look like cut crystal because of the high quality of the glass and the crispness of the molding. The majority of the pieces are impressed with the company logo, a raised capital letter "H" inscribed in a diamond. Popular pattern names include Crystolite, Greek Key, Empress, Plantation, Ridgeleigh, Stanhope, Old Sandwich, and Yeoman, amongst dozens of others.

In 1942, E. Wilson Heisey died suddenly and his brother, T. Clarence Heisey, took over. Shortages from World War II drastically curtailed production. And after it, labor unrest led to strikes over wages. By the 1950s, overseas manufacturers began producing handmade glass for less, and cheaper machine-made glass for everyday use became widely available.

At the time the factory closed in 1957, the Imperial Glass Company bought the molds for the Heisey glass production and continued producing some pieces mostly with the Imperial Glass mark until they went out of business in 1984. Many of these pieces were animal figurines, mostly in new or original colors using the old molds.

To read more articles on antiques, please visit the Antiques Article section of my Web site.  And to stay up to the minute on antiques and collectibles, please join the other 18,000 readers by following my free online magazine, #TheAntiquesAlmanac. Learn more about Colonial America in the Spring 2018 Edition, "Early Americana," online now.

NOTE: Sorry for the interruption in my blog posts, but I suffered a prolonged Internet outage as a result of a severe storm.