JOHN MCPHEE EVALUATES READERS’ PRECIOUS OBJECTS.
THIS METAL NAPKIN
ring has been in my possession for many years. I hope you can give me some idea of age and value — sheer curiosity on my part. Laura Roberts, DENILIQUIN, NSW Your napkin ring reminds us of a more elegant era, when people had their own napkin rolled as part of the table setting. Family and long-staying guests might refold napkins and put them in the ring so they could be used at the next meal. This would have been frowned upon in some households where a clean napkin for each meal was expected. These rings were made in about 1900 when Federation and self-government made a wide variety of Australian motifs popular. Made from a base metal, such as Britannia metal, they would originally have been silver-plated. A good jeweller could help you locate a restorer to have it replated. In its current state, it’s valued at $10, but if you get it restored, expect to receive up to $75.
COULD YOU PLEASE tell me about these two bowls I bought in Vietnam some years ago? The round bowl with the two women on it has a brass rim around it — at least I think it’s brass. Someone suggested it was used as a face powder bowl. J. Smith, RESERVOIR, VICTORIA
It is almost impossible to be certain without seeing these bowls in the flflesh, but my guess is that they were made about the time you purchasedp them. They imitate, or are examples of, a style — in both shape and decoration — made in Japan in the mid-20th century for a western market. The painting depicts Japanese men and women, and if they are old, they were made in Japan, not Vietnam. However, they might also have been more recent copies made in Vietnam for sale in ‘antique’ shops. 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.