Saleroom Life

by Sheffield Auction Gallery

Month: December 2016

Snow Domes

Snow domes, or snow globes as we might know them, may conjure up images of cheap holiday souvenirs but they are in fact a popular collectable nowadays and date back further than you would think.

The first documented evidence of snow domes was by Charles Cole, American Deputy Secretary of the Commission of Glassworks, writing about the 1878 Paris Exhibition. Although it is believed that their origins lie with the development of solid glass paperweights in France in the mid-1800s, Cole makes no mention of this. The first ‘souvenir’ snow domes were made for the 1889 Paris Exposition, to commemorate the construction of the Eiffel Tower, with mini Eiffel Towers in them. After all, the real tower was originally supposed to be dismantled after the show. Unfortunately none survive today.

The 1940s saw a boom in popularity for this novelty when mass-produced plastic domes took over from the previously hand-made glass domes. Joseph Garaja patented the assembly of snow domes under water in 1927, aiding this boom.

The glass domes used various substances to achieve the ‘snow’, such as ground-up bone, ceramic dust, sand or ground rice. When the plastic dome came into production, the snow followed suit and was more often than not plastic too. The liquid in the both glass and plastic domes was water but often with an addictive such as glycol to encourage the ‘snow’ to fall more slowly and swirl around before settling.

Snow domes are not always circular with the oval becoming popular in the 1940s as it was found to be less likely to crack. Unusual shapes or examples with forms that surround the globe are popular as are those domes with internal moving or musical parts.

One of the joys of collecting snow domes is that you always have a white Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone.

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

Holmegaard Glass

The Holmegaard Glassworks was established in 1825 in Denmark by Countess Henriette Danneskiold-Samsøe, her husband Count Christian had initially sought permission from the King in 1823 to set up the Glassworks but unfortunately died before the decision to allow such a venture was received by his wife in 1825 and courageously acted upon.

Originally the Glassworks only produced green bottles but production quickly thrived and advanced and by the 1830s they were making clear and pressed glass bottles as well as tableware. Much of the Holmegaard’s early work is of little note, but the factory became a shining star in the 20th century. This transformation has much to do with the designers employed by the Glassworks
including Jacob E Bang in the 1920s and later his son, Michael in the 1980s as well as the great Per Lütken who was considered a pioneer designer and huge asset to Holmegaard Glass.

Per Lütken was a perfectionist and well known for making high demands on his glass blowers, never settling for second best. He began working for the company in 1941 and the quality of his designs became a benchmark for Holmegaard, securing their position as a leading Glassworks.

His early work in the 1940s and 50s focused on organic forms sometimes referred to as the plasticity of glass. The vases took inspiration from shapes like teardrops and flower buds and the majority of pieces were made in subtle colours like grey and pale blue known as smoke and aqua.

Later in the 1960s and 70s, he favoured the more robust, geometric designs, famously introducing the thicker, ‘lip-friendly’ everted or outward rims in his glasses in ranges such as No. 5 from 1970 and Ship’s Glass from 1971. Per Lütken worked for Holmegaard until his death in 1998.

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

Old Hall Stainless Steel

In 1913, Harry Brearley working in a research laboratory in Sheffield discovered ‘rustless’ steel and became credited as its inventor. Originally stainless steel was developed for use in the military, or for medical equipment and industrial tools but in 1934 it was first advertised for domestic use at the ‘Ideal Home Exhibition’ and it was Old Hall who had the biggest and best display stand.


William Wiggin, son of James the founder of Old Hall, had been experimenting with stainless steel tableware for some time, making the first stainless steel teapot in 1930. However, gaining support for the products from retailers was difficult and the Ideal Home Exhibition was the final stage in trying to get trade and the public onboard with his new venture.

The appointment of Robert Welch as Design Consultant in 1955 saw changing fortunes for Old Hall. Welch was not only a specialist in Stainless Steel production design trained at the Royal College of Art but had also qualified as a silversmith and his skills as such were evident in his designs. Welch’s work was seen as ‘British contemporary’ and earned him three Design Council awards. His notable designs included the hollow ware for P&O’s Oriana cruise liner as well as Old Hall candlesticks and the Alveston cutlery range which won him one of the awards in 1965.

The height of popularity for Old Hall was the 1960s when it was considered a shining example of first rate modern British craftsmanship. These golden years saw Old Hall found in most homes and possibly one of the most common wedding presents received by happy couples across Britain.

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

Half dolls

Half dolls were essentially that, half a doll. They typically stood waist high with head and arms and were used as a decorative item. The upper bodies were usually attached to cloth skirts that were either stuffed to be used as a pincushion or used to cover household items such as teapots or powder boxes. Some later versions had separate legs which were attached to a base under the fabric skirt.

There is reference made to these pincushion dolls in the mid-18th century, however, it wasn’t until later in the 19th century and early 20th century that the half dolls were in popular demand and it was short lived as by the 1940s production had dwindled and eventually ceased altogether.

The majority of half dolls were made from porcelain or bisque but examples made from wood and wax can also be found. Key factories include Dressel & Kister, Goebel and Heubach. Some designs were very simple, while others were highly stylized, particularly the later 1920s and 30s examples when the half dolls were extremely popular and followed the clothing and hair fashions of the period. Some half dolls were even left completely naked and bald and clothes and wigs were fitted after.

Half Doll

Half Doll

The value of the half doll is placed principally in the form of the doll. If the piece is made all in one mould, with arms tucked close into the main body then these tend to hold the least value. More desirable examples will have gaps between the arms and bodies showing several moulds were used with the best having outstretched arms or even added accessories like handheld flowers. Large
examples and those still retaining original skirts are also desirable to collectors.

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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