Archive for Sunday, November 5, 2000

Tables remain at center of attention

Furniture designers reveled during the Renaissance Revival period

November 5, 2000


The late-Victorian period was a time of innovation and invention. Furniture designers took advantage of new technologies, making turnings and ornaments that were impossible earlier.

Designs were either traditional with hand carving and marquetry, or in a more modern style with geometric turnings, strange protrusions and cutouts. The center table was an important piece of furniture in a Victorian home. It was a focal point in the room, and it held a lamp.

Designers had a few choices. The table had a round, oval or rectangular top. The corners of a rectangular table were usually rounded. The top surface was marble, or plain or inlaid wood. The base had a pedestal, four corner legs or a trestle-type leg. Most had stretchers.

Some of the finest Renaissance Revival Victorian tables used several kinds of wood. The most popular were satinwood, pine, mahogany and walnut. The top was shaped and inlaid. The base had an intricate mixture of curved and fluted legs with dark and light woods. Rosettes, masks, hoofs or shields, and often an urn, were in the center of the stretcher. This type of table was out of favor until the 1970s.

Today, a good Renaissance Revival table costs more than $2,000 and a great one can cost $25,000.

My aunt collects what she calls "jadite" kitchen glassware. All the pieces are light green. She has pitchers, canisters, spice sets, salt and pepper shakers, mixing bowls, baking dishes and storage containers that she calls "leftovers." Can you tell me who made this glassware and if it is related to jade glass?

Jade glass and jadite kitchenware are not related except that their names are both based on the famous jade stone. Real jade can be one of two minerals: nephrite or jadeite (note the spelling). It is found in many colors, including green, lavender, white, red-brown and yellow.

Jade glass is a term used today to refer to an art glass created by Frederick Carder a century ago. The McKee Glass Co. of Jeannette, Pa., introduced a line of opaque "jade glass" kitchenware and dinnerware in 1930. The line was made in several colors that were based on the various shades of real jade. McKee called the line's green-colored dishes "Skokie green" or "Jade green."

Jeannette Glass Co., McKee's rival in the same town, introduced its own line of opaque kitchenware in 1932 and called its green dishes "Jadite." Other companies, including Anchor-Hocking, made similar glassware, sometimes spelling it "jad-ite or "jade-ite."

Today's collectors refer to all opaque, green glass kitchen and dinnerware as jadite.

A blue-and-white, 9-inch Wedgwood plate has been in my family for years. It pictures a man holding a rifle and standing on a pile of boulders. The border is a rose-and-leaf design. The rifleman is identified on the back: "Capt. John Parker, Battle Creek, Lexington, Mass., Commander of Minute Men, April 19, 1775." On the back there is also a quotation, the words "Wedgwood, England," and a faded circular mark surrounded by "sole importers." Can you tell me how old the plate is and what it's worth?

Your souvenir plate is one in a large series of historical and souvenir plates made by Wedgwood between about 1890 and 1910. The cabbage-rose border is found on all of these blue-and-white plates. Several of the central designs are based on American Revolution scenes.

The circular mark you can't read said "Jones, McDuffee and Stratton," a Boston importer. A single plate from this series sells for about $75.

I have an old, perforated silver ball about 2 inches in diameter that opens on a hinge. It is attached to a chain. What could it be?

It is probably a tea ball. To make tea, fill one-third of the silver ball with tea leaves. Then soak it in a cup or teapot of boiling-hot water for a few minutes, until the tea is dark enough. Remove the ball and drink the tea. The tea leaves will have expanded to fill the entire ball.

Tea balls, tea infusers and other clever devices have been used since the 18th century. Look for a maker's mark on the teaball. It will indicate where it was made and maybe even who made it. There are modern tea balls available in gift shops today.

My parents bought a second-hand reel lawnmower sometime during the 1920s or '30s. The words "Pennsylvania, patented Sept. 1877" are cast into the side. It is rusty, but much of the original green paint still shows. Would collectors be interested in this mower?

Old lawnmowers are collectible. But the patent date on your mower does not indicate its age. Mowers were made for decades using the same patented design. If your mower, including the handle, is all iron, it is an antique and would sell for up to $1,000. If the handle is wooden, the mower was made in the 1920s or later and would sell for about $50.


Have you ever pulled a drawer handle and had it fall off the drawer? This problem is not uncommon for very old furniture with bail handles. The best way to get the handleless drawer open is to use a plunger the plumber's friend. Stick it to the front of the drawer, then pull.

The Kovels answer as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for its use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names and addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, Lawrence Journal-World, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017.

The updated paperback edition of "Kovels' Know Your Collectibles" is an illustrated guide for beginning collectors interested in 20th-century collectibles. It's available at bookstores or send $16 plus $3 postage to Kovels' Know Your Collectibles, Box 22900, Beachwood, Ohio 44122 or call (800) 571-1555.

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