I FOUND THIS badge on the ground a while back, when visiting my parents’ farm just outside of Pyramid Hill in Victoria. We have always wondered what it was and how old it is, and whether the ‘Reg 86’ marking refers to 1886. We do know the shire was Gordon at one stage. The little hook on the back fell offff only recently (trying to straighten it out!). We hope you can give us some information about this little family treasure. Fiona Anderson, EDMONTON, QUEENSLAND The Shire of Gordon, near the northern border of Victoria existed from 1885 to 1995. This tag or badge is a registration for an animal, a dog perhaps. It might have been fifixed to a collar, but tags were also fifixed to cows’ ears. The number might relate to the year of registration, but I can’t be certain of that. Determining more about the object might be diffifficult. I suggest that you contact the largest library in the area GETTING STARTED Assessing the age of an item is not always easy — just because granny owned it, does not automatically make something old. Granny may have bought it recently. Therefore the item might be new, or old, so we need to look for other indications of age. Establishing the age of silver and ceramics is usually the easiest. British silver has marks that determine an exact year and place of manufacture, as well as a silversmith. Manufacturers usually mark European and Australian silver. Ceramics are similarly marked, although some European potteries muddy the waters by making use of a mark similar to that of a famous, earlier factory. Jewellery is more diffifficult because it is less often marked. Knowledge of style can help date it, but because there have been reproductions and ask about the existence of a local history group. There may be someone with local knowledge who can help. I HAVE HAD this blue and white jar in my possession for a number of years. It stands about 3.5cm tall and, according to details on the base, it is made in Holland. Also noted are the numbers ‘169B’, the word ‘Delfts’ and another I can’t quite make out. There is an image of a ram’s head and the word ‘ram’. Laura Roberts, DENILIQUIN, NSW Between 1935 and 1945 the Ram factory at Arnhem in The Netherlands used the ram head mark on their ‘Delfts blauw’ pottery. With its silvered lid this is a fifine example of the continuing tradition of Dutch blue and white ceramics. The flfloral design dates back to when delft ceramics were fifirst made in imitation of Chinese blue and white porcelain in the 16th century. However, you can see how the original of popular styles, such as Art Nouveau and Art Deco, caution is advised. When dating furniture, style is of the greatest importance, but the cautious collector looks at the surface for evidence of daily usage. Sanding back and repolishing can confuse the issue.look for evidence of repairs, old and new, and dust and wear in less obvious areas. These too can be faked to make something look older. When buying anything old, think about the style and any marks that might assist in determining use, age and a manufacturer. Then look for evidence of wear and tear. If an item looks new, it probably isn’t an antique — it could be a reproduction or it may have been restored so much that its worth as an antique object has been destroyed. Chinese design has been made to resemble typical European ceramic decoration. The bottle was probably originally part of a set from a dressing table and would have included several difffferent shapes to accommodate things such as make-up and jewellery. John Mcphee is an art historian who worked in art museums for 30 years and was curator of Australian Decorative Arts at the National Gallery of Australia.