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Personal Belongings And Antiques - Part 5

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( Originally Published 1963 )

Pins and earrings of millefiori and mosaic often are delightful. The rose was a favorite motif for mosaic, usually delicate pink inlaid in a polished black background. The detail is sometimes so sharp that the flower can be identified as a Cabbage rose.

Men wore jewelry, too, probably more than at the present time. Their watch fobs and seals have a ready market for the charm bracelets women wear today. Few stickpins, unless they are set with a precious stone of fairly good size, can be sold for more than a very small sum. However, stickpins are enjoying some popularity among women, who group several on a lapel or have them mounted together to make an important pin. Cuff links were as varied as stickpins, and if they are not appealing for their original purpose, can be converted quite easily and inexpensively to earrings.

As might be expected, jewel cases were cherished by Victorian ladies. The small, hinged box or coffer for storing jewelry was turned out in a wealth of shapes and materials and was invariably decorative. Sometimes a jewel box was included in a dresser set of silver or other material. More often, individual boxes were made of various metals, papier-mache or tortoiseshell, glass or china, or were covered with velvet, plush, or occasionally leather. Ormolu mounts were common before 1850.

Cut glass jewel cases, which became popular between 1876 and 1900, often had sterling silver covers. Opaline glass boxes in delicate blue, green, or pale pink are still charming. Some opaque glass boxes, like those of china, were painted with landscapes or figures.

Some jewel boxes were made in fanciful shapes. Small opaline glass ones might be egg-shaped and mounted in brass. Others in the shape of a suitcase or clover of glass cannot be considered unusual, in view of all the whimsies made to hold matches and toothpicks.

Jewel boxes were not likely to be decorated with enamels, but many smaller boxes such as those for snuff and patches, and also cases for personal toothpicks, often were. Perfume bottles, spoons, and buttons as well as mirror knobs were other favorite subjects for enamelwork or European cloisonne.

Generally referred to as enamels are objects covered with colored enamels fused on a metal base, less often on glass or pottery. Until the close of the fifteenth century, surface decoration with enamels was properly called cloisonne. This term stemmed from the fact that wire fillets attached to a base formed cells or cloisons into which the enamel was sunk. Cloisonne as well as later methods of enameling was practiced in both Europe and the Orient. Some of the most exquisite cloisonne was made in China in ancient times.

About 1750 in Battersea, England, a process of painting and then fusing enamels on copper was discovered. It was done in several large factories, for only a few years. Afterward, some amount was produced in the Staffordshire District. France also produced admirable enamels before the Revolution and during the Empire period, and Russian craftsmen under the Czars did outstanding work. Boxes, bowls, vases, occasionally an inkwell, plate, or jardiniere, were the chief items in both oriental and European work. Enamels always have been expensive and still are, as antiques.

An enamel or silver toothpick case may still have the owner's toothpick in it. Toothpicks have been carried by men and women since Elizabethan days. The Victorians went one step further and had decorative cases in which to carry their toothpicks carved from bone, ivory, or a quill or, more rarely, of gold.

The social and economic history of the United States has been influenced tremendously by tobacco. The American Indians were the first to smoke tobacco and the Portuguese and Spanish introduced the custom to Europe. Probably because not only the Dutch who settled New Amsterdam but also those who stayed at home so greatly enjoyed their smoking, Holland more than any other nation devised accessories to help make this habit a pleasure. And, of course, tobacco became the financial mainstay of the colony of Virginia.

Pipes are the oldest method of enjoying tobacco. The Indians held the tobacco that they smoked in shells or horns. The white settlers used longstemmed clay pipes, many of them made in Liverpool and Scotland. Steel pipes, introduced in the eighteenth century, became popular with sailors and stagecoach passengers because they did not break as easily as clay ones. Meerschaum, porcelain, and ivory were used for the bowls of pipes, which often were carved or painted.

Because tobacco was a costly luxury, pouches were made to carry and keep safe any small amount. Then came tobacco boxes. Narrow brass boxes, embossed, were exported everywhere from Holland during the seventeenth century. Lead and pewter ones came from England.

Other accessories included long tongs with which to pluck a coal from the fireplace to light a pipe. These appeared during the 1700's, as did tinder boxes with flints and steel, often designed in the shape of a pistol. Then there were pipe tampers. That century also, brought the introduction of smoking stands and hanging pipe racks. The latter usually had a drawer at the base for tobacco.

Tobacco jars also have been made since the 1700's. Usually these were not only a container for pipe tobacco or cigars but a humidor as well. Although tin, pewter, and some other materials were used for tobacco jars, the greatest variety was made in pottery and porcelain. Delft, majolica, bisque, and porcelain became common. Most of them had appropriate decorations. Some were shaped in the form of an animal or of an Indian or a white man smoking, and appropriately colored. On others, only the covers or knobs had shapes linked to smoking.

Cigars did not become generally popular in America until about 1850, although Spaniards had smoked them almost since the discovery of tobacco. Cigarettes date back to the Aztec Indians. However, the modern style of cigarette was hand-rolled in the 1850's and has been mass-produced since the 1880's. Cigar and cigarette accessories include cigar cutters, clippers, and cases, and the cards found in cigarette packages circa 1900.

Firearms are a highly specialized field as well as a popular one that attracts many collectors. Their interest ranges from the early blunderbusses, flintlocks, and muskets to the long rifles called Kentucky or Pennsylvania rifles. These long rifles were made first in the vicinity of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where they were adapted from Yeager hunting rifles brought to that area by settlers from Germany. Because these rifles were taken over the mountains by hunters and explorers, they became better known as Kentucky rifles. A Kentucky rifle was a prized possession that often was handed on from father to son. It always was kept within easy reach in case of trouble.

Firearms used during the War Between the States are of particular interest in the 1960's. Collectors also are attracted to those bearing such important names from the 1880's onward as Sharps, Springfield, Winchester, and Remington. Colt was a significant name in pistols and revolvers. Then there are derringers as well as pistols identified by such descriptive words as dueling, gambler, and muff.

Sidelines for those interested in firearms are bullet molds and cartridges. Powder horns are a mere decorative accessory nowadays, though once they were a necessity. They were first made in Europe, later in America, to carry gunpowder without damage to it. The earliest ones were made of horns from a cow, bullock, or ox. Later, in this country, buffalo horns were used. The natural curve of these horns made them fit nicely on a person's hip. Since the horns were impervious to water, they kept the powder dry. A tiny opening to form a spout was made in the tapered end, and this as well as the wide end were plugged with wooden stoppers cut to fit tightly.

Many a hunter, trapper, farmer, and settler in the United States made and carved his own powder horn. Engraved ones made in this country are at a premium now. The engravings were forts, maps, town buildings, animals, or birds, and the lines sometimes were colored with black, green, or red. It was not unusual for the owner's name and a date to be carved on the horn.

Powder horns began to be displaced by flasks in the 1830's. These small flasks, often with a measure to dole out the powder, were made from pewter, brass, or copper. Although flasks were inexpensive in their day, a powder flask in excellent condition can be sold for $10 or more at the present time. Plain, undecorated powder horns sell for $5 or so, but engraved ones run from $20 up, depending on the theme of the decoration and the quality.

Any kind of firearm, like jewelry, had best be taken to an expert or a specialist for appraisal and sale. The financial return from miscellaneous Victorian jewelry may be disappointing. Actually, more money may be obtained for a gun or pistol, even one that is less than a century old. But it's important to find out whether any kind of firearm is worth a few dollars or good deal more. Lace and buttons also are specialized fields in which it is important to find the right customers. Of course, a Mechlin lace wedding veil made during the 1700's and worn by several generations of brides is priceless. On the other hand, a Battenberg lace handkerchief made during the late 1800's should be worth about $5, and several yards of delicate hand-knitted or hand-crocheted lace for edging fully as much.

Again, with household linens, it's a case of finding the customer. A red or blue and white cloth with fringe should bring in the neighborhood of $10, depending on its size and condition. Towels with long, knotted fringe sell for about $3. In view of all the hand stitching that went into them, quilts and samplers sell reasonably. A person is fortunate to receive between $20 and $50, unless the piece has some historical significance.

In this diverse field of personal belongings, it is often the little things that bring surprising returns. Ordinary paper fans with simple wood sticks can be sold for $1 and the ostrich feather ones for about $5. A very old fan with carved ivory sticks and hand-painted silk or a paper fan made in France should be worth about $50 if it is in good condition. The unusual handle of an umbrella or parasol also brings good money.

The tobacco jar, perhaps of majolica, that you wouldn't have around your house is likely to sell to someone for $10 or more. Many china ones are worth twice as much. Pipes, particularly those with carved bowls or painted china ones, sell for as good, if not better, prices than the tobacco jars.

Any kind of box, large or small, always finds a buyer. Perhaps this is because boxes are fully as useful today as when they were made, even though the present-day use maybe quite different. The whimsically shaped jewel box sells as readily, and perhaps for as high a price, as the attractive one of fine workmanship. Glass ones bring particularly good prices.

A Battersea enamel box no more than 3 inches long and 1 1/4 inches high will almost certainly sell for about $135, or possibly a little more, if it has not been chipped or otherwise damaged. French and Russian enamels bring good prices. The work of certain artists is more valuable than that of others, so it is important to have enamels appraised or examined by an expert who has studied them and perhaps also knows something about the current market.

Although many personal belongings sell for only modest amounts and probably for far less money than you think they should bring, the sum-total realized should be quite satisfactory. Particularly since, at first glance, many of them seem silly things to have been saved for so long. It may take time to dispose of these diverse articles here and there, but in the long run some of the most baffling things you find will delight a new owner.

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