Saleroom Life

by Sheffield Auction Gallery

Month: May 2016

Wristwatches

During the 1920s and 30s, wristwatches would replace the fashion for pocket watches. A wristwatch was a far more practical timekeeping method and was issued in the military during the First World War in reflection of this. Accurate timekeeping was now necessary and watches became everyday items instead of expensive possessions few could afford. Following the war, a new market emerged and by the end of the 1930s sales of the wristwatch were outnumbering the pocket watch.

The design of the earliest wristwatches was not that different from the pocket watch; the face was a smaller version and was attached to the straps with wire ‘lugs’. The earliest versions from the 1920s and 30s were usually simple rectangular or circular faces, reflecting the fashion of the period for geometric shapes and clean lines. During the 1940s and 50s, wristwatch design expanded to
include more extravagant creations and unusual shapes with many watches taking on more of the stylistic traits of jewellery from the period.

Part of a single-owner collection of vintage wristwatches recently sold at Sheffield Auction Gallery

Part of a single-owner collection of vintage wristwatches recently sold at Sheffield Auction Gallery

As a rule the very earliest wristwatches usually hold low monetary value to collectors unless they are unusual or of particularly fine quality. Value is found in many factors, including the maker, the materials, the style and date of the watch as well as the type and complexity of the movement.

Some of the makers to look out for include the more famous Rolex, Omega and Cartier as well as the lesser known Hamilton and Elgin. Rolex, the brand developed in 1905 at Wilsdorf & Davies in London, is particularly interesting as Hans Wildorf actually started his first wristwatch factory on the basis of his theory that the wristwatch would became more popular than the more dominant pocket watch; a gamble that definitely paid off.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Burleigh Ware

Burleigh Ware was founded in 1851 by Hulme and Booth in Burslem, Staffordshire, the heart of British ceramic manufacturing. Fine quality earthenware was what was originally made and continued to be made when in 1862 the business was taken over by William Leigh and Frederick Burgess and the name changed to ‘Burgess and Leigh’. In 1868 the operation moved to the larger premises of Hill Pottery but continued to make a range of utility, toilet and dinner ware. Slowly as the Pottery grew and production increased, new ranges of tableware began to be made with more complex patterns cementing its reputation for fine craftsmanship.

The period of the 1920s and 30s is generally known as the golden era of Burleigh Ware with the pottery being in its most productive period and employing over 500 workers with some of the most highly skilled potters and artists of the time working for them. They expanded into brightly coloured tableware during this time with probably their most recognisable pieces today being the yellow vases with sculptural handles in the form of animals and humans. The vases were all handpainted so each one was slightly different, with the most attractive generally being the most sought after.
Designers Charles Wilkes and Ernest Bailey are credited with much of the designs of these iconic vases. They made a huge variety of animals from parrots and kingfishers to butterflies and squirrels and even dragons. Most of the animals can be picked up for very reasonable prices at auction. The human characters tend to be more sought after with the examples such as the rare guardsmen and the sporting designs of the golfer and cricketer particularly popular.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Rookwood

Rookwood is considered by many one of the most powerful and influential potteries in America, but it actually started life as a mere ‘hobby business.’

American heiress, Maria Longworth Nicholas dabbled in the pottery business until, in 1883, she joined forces with a new production manager, William Watts Taylor, who transformed her hobby into a flying commercial success.

The first glaze to come out of the pottery was the ‘Standard’ glaze in 1884 developed by Laura Fry. It was a clear and glossy glaze with brown and beige tones. The vast majority of designs for this glaze were inspired by nature featuring flowers or leaves, although on rarer pieces portraits can be found. Their key to success was the focus on high quality from the very beginning; the company employed the most highly skilled artists, craftsmen and technicians.

Rookwood continued on the theme and success of the shiny ‘Standard’ glaze over the next two decades releasing variations of this glaze, notably ‘Sea Green’, ‘Iris’ and ‘Vellum’. ‘Sea Green’ (marked SG) as the name suggests was a clear glaze with a green tone while ‘Iris’ (marked W) was particularly striking as its clear colourless glaze allowed for incredibly sharp and realistic designs beneath. The ‘Vellum’ glaze (marked V) offered a misty appearance achieved by diffusing the painted pattern beneath the glaze.

In 1890, Rookwood won its first prize at an exhibition with a gold medal at the Exhibition of American Art Pottery in Philadelphia. It was to be the first of many prizes including gold medals at numerous International Exhibitions for both their artistic excellence and technical innovation. Their success at both American and International exhibitions is unrivalled and remains one of the key reasons that Rookwood is so highly regarded.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Marbles

Marbles of the antique glass variety are very popular with collectors particularly the German handmade ones produced from the 1860s until the outbreak of the First World War. The handmade marbles can be easily identified by their pontil mark; a slightly rough area where the marble was removed from the pontil rod.

The German swirls were the most common handmade marble but within this category there are five different types; the latticino core as the name suggests with a lattice core, the solid core which was either cylindrical or ridged, the divided core which had multiple strands in the middle, the ribbon core which was usually a single ribbon but could be two and finally the complex core so named
because it used more than one technique within a single marble.
What makes the area of marble collecting so interesting is that within these five types of swirls there lie other categories and sub-types. For example, there are mists which are created by overlaying colours near the surface of the marble, mica which denotes marbles with designs incorporating silver flakes, or onionskin where the marble typically has a white opaque layer covered with panels of colour. One very desirable subcategory is Lutz marbles, those with goldstone decoration; flecks of gold within their designs made from ground copper. Marbles using this
technique weren’t produced until the early 1900s.

Value often lies in complex, intricate and symmetrical designs as well as bright, multicoloured marbles, with certain colours such as blue and red more popular due to their rarity.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Gustav III

Louis XVI transitional furniture that bridged the shift from Rococo to Neoclassical style in France is familiar to many people but during this time these styles were also being imitated in Sweden; Gustavian furniture.  The French influence was taken back to Sweden by King Gustav III after an extended visit at the court of Versailles and Italy in 1771, just before he took the throne following his father’s sudden death.

The Gustavian style is more restrained that Louis XVI with lighter, simpler carvings particularly noticeable on the legs.  Initially produced for the royal palaces, it was soon in high demand amongst the aristocracy and beyond.  The gilded examples remained exclusive to royalty while more commonly produced examples were whitewashed or painted grey or cream often with a ‘distressed’ look and sometimes with gilt highlights.  The early examples were made from walnut but as demand grew, cheaper woods such as pine were introduced.  The Neoclassical style thrived in Sweden concentrating on symmetry, straight lines and Greco-Roman motifs and becoming a style all of its own, independent from its French origins.

Gustav III (1772-92) is considered one of Sweden’s most controversial kings being both loved and hated for his political decisions, however, his influence in Swedish culture was undeniably positive; Gustav wanted to turn Sweden into the ‘Paris of the North’ and that is exactly what he did. Besides his influence in furniture design he is also credited as the patron and founder of several national Swedish institutions, all of which still exist today; the Royal Opera (1773), the Swedish Academy (1786) and the Dramatic Theatre (1788).

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

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