The Chinese enameling called cloisonne has been made for centuries. A thin metal wire is bent into shape on a metal vase and soldered into place. Then colored enamels are floated in to fill each space and form the decoration. The word “cloison” is French for “fence” and is the source of the word cloisonne.
But there also was another type of enamel-on-metal object made in China by the 17th century. It is called “Peking enamel” or “Canton enamel.” A metal vase was covered with thick enamel, usually white, then fired. Then an artist painted a scene or pattern with colored enamels and the vase was fired again. These enameled metal pieces were usually made to resemble European designs and most were exported.
The quality of the work deteriorated during the next few centuries, and this type of enamel is rarely made today. Recognizing cloisonne and its metal lines is easy, but enamels closely resemble porcelain.
A 5-inch-high Peking enamel teapot that held a single cup of water for tea sold in 2012 for $660. It was painted with a Chinese landscape of clouds over a lake, but the painting style was European. No doubt it was made for export to Europe or the United States.
Q: My brother left me his “Brunswick Home Comfort Table” that dates from about 1908. It’s a combination billiards table and sofa. The tabletop folds over to form the back of the sofa, which has leather tufted upholstery on the seat and back. A metal label on the table says “Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co.” History and value?
Answer: John Moses Brunswick founded the J.M. Brunswick Manufacturing Co. in Cincinnati in 1845. After a couple of mergers, the company was renamed Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. in 1884. Today the company, still in business, is named Brunswick Corp. It manufactures a variety of products, including billiards tables and bowling equipment. Your convertible sofa-billiards table was patented in 1910 by Jacob N. McIntire of New York. He assigned the patent to Brunswick, which made your unusual piece of furniture. It’s advertised in a 1911 Brunswick catalog as “a very popular design especially adapted for use in a den.” It sold then for $150 to $175. If yours is in excellent shape, it could sell today for close to $10,000.
Q: I have two paddles my mother used to card the cotton she used in making quilts. I think she ordered them from Sears Roebuck in the early 1930s. On the back each one reads, “The only Genuine Old Whittemore Patent No. 10, cotton, L.S. Watson & Co., Leicester, Mass.” What are they worth today?
Answer: Carding untangles wool or cotton fibers so they can be woven into cloth. Amos Whittemore was granted a patent for a machine that made wool cards in 1797. Leicester, Mass., was a textile center in the 19th century. Several factories that made cards for textile machines, hand cards and wire for the cards were located there. L.S. Watson & Co. was the largest manufacturer of cards and also made heddle frames and shuttles. Watson was founded in 1842. After Lory Sprague Watson died in 1898, his son took over the business and it became L.S. Watson Manufacturing Co. It was still in business in the 20th century. Your paddles are worth less than $100 a pair.
Q: Is there any value to a Disney World 25th Anniversary cup still in its box?
Answer: Walt Disney World opened in Orlando in 1971. A variety of glass and plastic mugs and drinking glasses were sold to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 1996 — too many to make any one of them worth much today. The mugs and glasses, with or without an original box, sell online for $2.50 to $10.
Q: I inherited six place settings of Normandie pattern Depression glass in iridescent marigold color. While I have always loved them and display them often, I seldom use them. What about using them for my everyday dishes? I have put several pieces through multiple cycles in the dishwasher with no obvious bad effects. I haven’t tested them in the microwave yet and would appreciate any thoughts you have on the safety of that. I’m more concerned about health effects than damage to the luster.
Answer: Normandie was made from 1933 to 1940 by the Federal Glass Co. of Columbus, Ohio. The pattern was made in amber, pink and crystal, as well as Sunburst, which is the name of your iridescent color. Normandie was the only iridescent Depression glass made during the 1930s and is sometimes mistakenly listed as a Carnival glass pattern called “Bouquet & Lattice.” Iridescent glass is made by spraying a molded glass piece with metallic salts and then re-firing it. Since the first microwave ovens weren’t common until the late 1960s, your dishes weren’t made to be “microwave safe.” The metallic salts in the iridescent glaze might cause “sparking” in a microwave oven, and that could damage the dishes or the microwave even if it doesn’t affect your health. Washing the dishes in the dishwasher eventually will remove the luster. If you enjoy using the dishes regularly, wash by hand.
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