John Mcphee evaluates readers’ precious objects.
would love some help with this piece (right) that was left to me by my grandmother. Helpfully, she attached a label telling me that it was bought as one of a pair by her mother from an antique shop, so I assume it was already an antique in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, the other one was broken. It appears to be made of crystal and you might think it is a vase, but it has holes all around the base of the upper part. Could it be a candle holder — though again, why the holes? Any ideas? Your painted glass object, the surviving one of a pair, was originally a lustre and would have been used as a candle holder. It was probably made in Bavaria where makers specialised in black glass, and elaborately painted and gilded examples. The holes originally had glass or crystal drops hanging from them. Lustres were placed on mantelpieces or sideboards to reflect and increase the amount of light in a candlelit room. They were used throughout the 19th century, but became superfluous after the advent of electric lighting. People still collect lustres, especially anyone wishing to authentically furnish an old house. An early 19th-century pair in original condition can bring as much as $1000 — but, alas, your remnant is not in this league. jar with tongs was a wedding present that my grandparents received in 1910. Could you please tell me something about it — and what value it may have? There was a time when almost every home had a cruet set and a pickle jar on the dining table. In a wealthy household, these would have been made from fine china, glass and silver. However, the majority of tables were set with electroplated silver, like your pickle jar. It was made in Connecticut by the Forbes Silver Company, which was absorbed by Meriden Britannia in 1894. It is probable that this wedding present was produced not long before it was purchased in 1910. It would have been a typical and much appreciated gift. That the jar still has its tongs adds to its value.