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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article


The brass candlesticks used to have a place of honor on the candlestand by a comfortable armchair or at the four corners of a game table. They vary enough in design, following the influence of the various periods of decoration, so that a group makes an attractive display. English and American brass candlesticks are so similar in appearance that it is difficult to tell which is which except in the case of a rare marked one. Candlesticks were used in churches from the earliest times, and domestic candlesticks also date back to the use of the early spricket type. However, the earliest brass candlestick that the present-day collector is likely to find is the 17th-century column type with a small socket and no lip and a bell-shaped base with a drip pan low on the base. A few years later the base flattened out and the grease pan was moved about halfway up the column, but the small lipless socket remained. This candlestick is usually made of solid metal and is quite heavy. There is no removable nozzle, but often a bolt to adjust or expel the candle. These early candlesticks have a turned baluster stem which is plain or in simple knots. The large grease tray at the base or up the stem was a feature of many brass candlesticks late in the century, but candlesticks were also cast with an octagonal baluster stem embellished with narrow moldings and a large octagon-shaped base which held a small concave circle for drippings. They still did not have a socket lip. A little later, in the early 18th century pictures of Hogarth, we see baluster candlesticks with knobs and a wide saucer drip pan at the base. By the middle of the 18th century, under the influence of Chippendale, the grease pan has moved to its place at the socket lip. The baluster stems are cast into various ridges and the base is octagonal and often shaped into curves or petals with many narrow moldings. A few years later the Adam influence brought in candlesticks with urnshaped sockets, plain or fluted. Stems were sometimes fluted, and sometimes the baluster took the form of an elongated urn. Bases were square and often had a border of beading. These designs were delicate and refined and show the influence of silver-candlestick design more than at any other period. By the 19th century brass candlesticks again were larger and heavier. The stems had heavy knobs, which were both round and cone-shaped; sometimes the cone is upright and sometimes inverted. The bases were square or rectangular and often the corners are cut to make them octagonal. These candlesticks are hollow and lighter in weight than those of the century before.

It is rare to find an exact pair of old brass candlesticks, so when a pair is offered, one should be sure that the candlesticks are old. Here are a few things to consider. The weight is important, since old brass is usually heavier. It also has a peculiar silky surface that you are able to distinguish only after you have handled many pieces and compared them with reproductions. The detail on old brass is more refined in workmanship than on new work. Marks are rare but worth looking for. Sometimes one candlestick is marked and the mate of the pair is not. The Metropolitan Museum of Art owns two pairs of candlesticks with a baluster stem and an eight-lobe base (1750-1760), one of which is marked "E.D. Durnall" in a semicircle on the underside of the base. Candlesticks were made in America in the early 18th century in Boston by Jonathan Jackson, who also made door knockers, firedogs, warming pans, and skillets. In 1763 Daniel Jackson of Boston moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where he made "brass hand irons, fire shovels, tongs, candlesticks, snuffers and knockers," according to his advertisement in the Providence Gazette and Country Journal, October 26, 1763. Richard Collier, brazier from Boston, also moved to Providence in 1763. There were braziers in New York as early as 1744 who made candlesticks, andirons, tongs, shovels, fenders, and warming pans, as well as kettles of various sorts. Jacob Wilkins in 1765 worked at the "Sign of the Brass Andiron and Candlestick." In 1775 brass candlesticks were advertised at 22S, 18S, 6d, and 16S. a pair. Candlesticks also continued to be imported from England.

The candlestick collector is also interested in snuffers and trays, which were necessary accessories. The trays were usually at least 6 inches long, and narrow, with a flanged border. The edges were plain or might have a scalloped or Chippendale shape and may have a border of lines, beading, or leaf decoration. While we are particularly interested in brass trays, there were also snuffer trays of tin, plain or painted, and also trays of silver. Snuffers are of various forms, and their evolution from the 16th-century double heart-shaped box type of brass or iron down to the late 18th-century patented types offers many interesting and different designs for the collector. In the 17th century the familiar rectangular box came into use. The point at the end of the snuffer seldom varies, but the design of the box and particularly the handle design is different on each pair of snuffers, and this is the collector's delight. In the 18th century snuffers were mostly made of steel, but there were some in iron and brass. Late in the century they were made of Pinchbeck metal, and the first patent mechanical snuffers came into use. Many patents on snuffers followed, and for the collector interested in this phase of the antique this offers a field in itself. There are many 18th- and 19th-century snuffers available of both English and American make.

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