Monday, April 25, 2011

Shadows of the Past

Once you’ve seen one, you will always recognize it. The item I’m referring to is a piece of “Mary Gregory” glass. These pieces of Victoriana have been produced since in the late 19th century and it is believed that the Mary Gregory designs originated in Europe, most likely in Bohemia (modern day Czech Republic) and Germany. This “old” Mary Gregory glass is mostly mouth blown and was made between 1879 and 1939.

The glass is distinguished by the white enamel painting of children in silhouette dressed in typical Victorian “Sunday best” clothes in some sort of outdoor setting. They are usually playing some type of game like flying kites, bowling hoops or blowing bubbles. They are usually surrounded by some form of foliage such as grass, trees or ferns. The glass can come in a variety of colors from clear (the least valuable), amethyst, dark green, amber, blues and finally cranberry, which is the most valuable.

There is a myth that original Mary Gregory glass was painted by an older lady who longed to have children of her own. Because she couldn’t, she decorated glassware with images of children playing that she could never have. There is no history to support this story. There was, however, a real Mary Gregory who worked for the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company until the late 1880’s, but Mary Gregory glass was never manufactured by that company. The true origin of the name of Mary Gregory glass may never be known.

New Mary Gregory glass is still being made and the collector should be aware that there are many reproductions available on the market today. When looking for an original piece, make sure that it has a pontil scar on the base where it was mouth blown. The quality of glass will usually show other signs of being mouth blown and may have tiny bubbles. The glass will have a heavier weight to it than most contemporary glass. There have been instances where older Victorian glass has been painted over with Mary Gregory-like d├ęcor so you should look closely at the painting to make sure it doesn’t appear to be slap-dash or weak.

The value of original Mary Gregory glass can be anywhere from $40-50 to upwards of more the $700. If you are buying on the upper end, you should try to determine the provenance of the piece to ensure its authenticity.

(Inquire for availability. Pitcher priced at $125.50. Green Vase priced at $89.95. Free shipping in Continental US)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pass the Milk Please

Growing up as a child in the 1950's through 1970's, it wasn't uncommon in our home to find food items on the dinner table in their original containers. Whether it was jelly in the jar it was canned in or the peanut butter in the grocery store can... it would simply be set on the table. For the Victorians, this type of behavior would not have been tolerated.

One of the food items that was not uncommon on the dinner table during Victorian times was consdensed milk. And since the milk was purchased in a can, they had to find a decorative and practical serving dish for the food. Often the milk would not be consumed during a single meal so it would need to remain in the original container for storage. Hence, the condensed milk can holder was developed.

This serving piece was usually found in five pieces as a complete underplate/saucer, the outer container, the liner, a dipping spoon and a lid. Like most of the Victorian items, they were richly decorated and designed in a practical manner. In the case of the can holder itself, there was usually a small hold in the bottom of the holder so the liner could easily be pushed back out when the meal was over. The underplate was used to set the spoon on after the milk was scooped out. Most often, these items can be found in three pieces with the spoon and lining not included.

The condensed milk holder was usually made of porcelain (although I have seen a few of them made of silver) and manufactured by companies like Nippon and Limoges to name a few. The pieces were often exquisitely decorated with flowers or fruit. Prices can range from $40 to upward of $250 or more for complete five piece sets.

Pictured are a 5 piece set of Nippon and a 3 piece Victoria Austria Set (items not available for sale)