Archive for Sunday, January 28, 2001


January 28, 2001


The first lightbulbs were invented in 1879. By the 1890s, electric lamps were used in the home. At first they looked like the familiar gas fixtures. Bulbs were often bare, because they were new inventions and were admired.

Very dim light was the rule, so lampshades were not needed. Shades, when used, were usually made of glass, probably because makers of earlier lamps had to worry about the danger of flames.

By 1910, lightbulbs had been improved and lamps were often made with painted- or leaded-glass shades that concealed several lightbulbs. The Art Nouveau and Art Deco lamps with glass shades sometimes resembled mushrooms or dancing women holding seashells. The famous Tiffany, Handel and Pairpont lamps were made in this era.

By the 1920s, the fabric shade was popular. It was often made with a beaded or fabric fringe. The shade, made from a metal frame covered with translucent silk, was in style by the late 1920s and has remained popular.

By the 1950s, very expensive lamps made from antique vases or figurines had hand-painted silk shades made to match. Modern-style lamps were made with paper, plastic or other shades.

Today's most extreme lamps can use the new, small halogen bulbs. Designers create metal, glass and even paper lamps that resemble toys, rocks, spaceships or hanging bulbs.

For years, my family has displayed a plate picturing Queen Victoria of England. The plate is cream-colored with a banner on the top that reads, "County Borough of St. Helens." On each side of the queen are the dates 1837 and 1897. Do you know what the plate commemorates and what it's worth?

Your plate celebrates Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. It marked her record 60th year on the English throne. Plates, mugs, plaques and various other souvenirs were commissioned by towns all over England to celebrate the event. St. Helens is a city near Liverpool in Lancashire, England. Your plate is worth at least $100.

Several years ago, my grandmother gave me a turquoise pottery plate decorated with a modern-style painting of two prancing horses. The back of the plate is marked "United States Quarry Tile Co., Romany Tiles." Can you tell me how old it is?

The U.S. Quarry Tile Co. worked from 1926 to 1954 in Canton, Ohio. Its earlier corporate history includes a 1913 merger between the U.S. Tile Co. and the Canton Roofing Tile Co. In 1954, the company became the U.S. Ceramic Tile Co.

U.S. Quarry Tile Co. and U.S. Ceramic Tile Co. made products other than tiles, including teapots, sugar bowls, pitchers and decorative plates like yours. The marks used on these pieces are the same marks the companies used on tiles. Your plate probably dates from the late 1940s or early 1950s.

I inherited a three-piece bedroom set from my aunt. The pieces are made of dark-blond wood with light-blond wood handles. I think the set dates from the 1930s. There is a small, round metal marker on each piece that reads, "Designed by Leo Jiranek, 310 Rockefeller Center."

Leo Jiranek was a furniture designer who worked for Heywood-Wakefield Co., a famous American furniture maker, from 1935 to the 1950s. Your set might be from the company's Swedish Modern Group, which was made after 1938. The three-drawer dresser and mirror from that set are worth $500.

Many years ago my wife and I were given a set of antique weights. The set consists of four straight-sided brass nesting cups. A metal cover with carved figures and a hinged bale handle sit on top of the cups when they're nested. The outer cup is decorated with carvings. We have used the set as a doorstop for years. Could you tell me where and when it was made?

We suggest you find a new doorstop. Your set of nested weights is the type made in Nuremburg, Germany, 200 to 300 years ago. From at least the 16th to the 18th century, Nuremburg had a monopoly on the manufacture of nested weights. Most of the sets were brass, and fancy ones like yours usually date from the 17th century. Nested weights of various sizes were used by coppersmiths, craftsmen, jewelers, money-changers, pharmacies and even households throughout Europe.

The carved designs on the outer (master) weight might indicate who made the set. Check to see if you have a complete set. The master cup should weigh exactly the same as all the other cups combined. The second-largest weight should weigh half that of the master cup and exactly the same as the remaining smaller cups. This ratio continues to the small, solid insert that fits inside the smallest cup. Many sets of nested weights found today are missing that last insert.

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