Saleroom Life

by Sheffield Auction Gallery

Month: March 2017

Wine Labels

During the Restoration (1660-1685 ) there developed a trend for decanting wine. This in turn created a need for labelling and thus wine Labels were born and by the 1770s they were considered commonplace.

The most popular design was to suspend the labels from the neck of the bottle or decanter using a chain, but rings were also used and some Labels were even fixed to the cork or stopper.

Most early Labels were made from sheet silver. However the finest ones were fashioned by the process of casting and were heavier and thicker than the simple sheet silver ones.

The titles (e.g. Madeira, Port, etc.) were also created in various ways from simple engravings or piercing to the rarest examples where the title was cast along with the body of the label. The value
of most Labels is often contained within the title, with popular beverages like Claret and Sherry being more common and thus less desirable and Champagne and Whiskey fetching more for their

Ceramic Wine and Spirits Labels

Ceramic Wine and Spirits Labels

It can generally be said that the style of the different Labels mirrors the prevailing style of the time in which they were produced. Hence there are more neo-classical examples of urns and scrolls in
the second half of the 18th century while the more common and simple designs in oblongs and ovals were produced in vast quantities in the 19th century.

By the middle of the 19th century a new law forced all vintners to stick Labels to their bottles before sale and so the fashion for wine Labels faded.

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

Goss China

William Henry Goss was chief designer at the Spode works in Stoke-on-Trent by the time he was twenty-five, but he was not happy and decided to branch out on his own.

In the 1880’s, Williams son, Adolphus, joined the company. He was no potter, but he was an ideas man with a flare for marketing. His father had been producing specially commissioned
commemorative pieces bearing heraldic emblems and he saw an opportunity to expand.

Adolphus realised that such wares would make great souvenirs for the mass market who, taking advantage of increased wages, were taking more holidays and day tripping on the growing railway
network. He worked his way round the country over the next 20 years making contacts until he had a network of more than 1000 local agents. Each agent was responsible for promoting their local
coats of arms which could be put on up to 600 small, mass produced named models. The local agents could ask for their symbols to be placed on just about anything.

Goss also produced a popular series of hand painted buildings, known as the Goss Cottages; examples included Shakespeare’s House and Robert Burns’ birthplace. However the heraldic crested wares still made up the bulk of the company’s sales. These wares became less popular after the First World War and in 1929 the Goss family sold out to a competitor Arcadian China.

Standards slowly fell and eventually the factory closed in 1944.

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

The Great Exhibition

The Great Exhibition of 1851 was one of the most successful things to happen in Victorian England and has influenced many styles and manufacturing processes since. It was housed in a 19 acre
glass structure, which occupied part of a 26 acre site in Hyde Park.

It took just four months to build and because of all the glass was christened “Crystal Palace” by Punch magazine. The doors opened on May 1st 1851 and closed on October 11th. There were
almost 14,000 exhibitors and more than six million people visited in the 141 days of opening.

(There was no Sunday trading in Victorian England) The Exhibition was more than just an elaborate trade fair, it was a very successful attempt to give a living picture of the point at which the world had reached in design and manufacturing. The use of the word world is very important as more than 6,500 of the 14,000 exhibitors were foreign.

Everyone who visited could see what life was like everywhere in the world and that was very important and incredibly exciting in 1851. The Exhibition also acted as a platform for the further
development of the 19th century style.

When the doors closed on the last day many debates took place about the future of the Crystal Palace. Eventually it was decided to dismantle and rebuild it at Sydenham where it was opened in
1854. Sadly it burned down in November 1936.

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

Hummel Figures

I have always thought that an ideal subject for a new collector would be the charming Hummel figures of children. These endearing figures were developed from drawings by a Franciscan nun Berta Hummel drawn for the Goebel Company in Bavaria. Introduced in 1935 Hummel’s figures were an instant success. By the time she died in 1946 she had drawn around 600 sketches, which was enough to keep the company producing Hummel figures for decades.

Hummels from the 1950s and 1960s are the cheapest on the market. Earlier pieces, groups and larger figures are more desired and so more expensive. The more recent or common a figure is,
the more vital the condition becomes in determining value.

Many of the figures are made in more than one version. For example, “Weary Wanderer” was first produced in 1949 but has been made regularly ever since. The rather rare version with blue eyes
is more valuable than all the others. Also “Puppy Love” which is one of the first models to be produced and therefore rare and valuable still has a rarer and even more collectable example which faces right instead of left.

Factory marks help in dating Hummels. During the 1930s the firm used a script “Goebel” mark under a crown. After 1950 a “V” mark with a small bee was used and from 1960 the bee became
further stylised as a simple dot with triangular wings.

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


Buttons have always been used for fastening and decoration. They have been discovered in Egyptian tombs and over 15,000 have been found on a Court costume belonging to Henry VIII. However button making took on a new dimension in the 18th century with Dandies sporting ornamental buttons up to 4cm in diameter and handmade buttons produced in anything even fine porcelain.

The 19th century saw the growth of mechanisation and Birmingham became the centre of the industry and exported buttons all over the globe. Metal buttons were popular for uniforms and
servants’ liveries while better buttons like silver and enamelled examples were enjoyed by the upper classes. These better buttons were often detachable for laundry purposes and some came
in handsome cases.

Victorian and Edwardian fashions stimulated button demand leading to special examples being made for boots, gloves and even underwear. Queen Victoria’s grief at the death of her beloved
Albert stimulated the demand for mourning dress and black buttons.

The development of colourful plastic buttons happened in the 20th century.Those produced were often large with strong colours and geometric shapes common in Art Deco design. Sadly for the
button producers the introduction of the zip and other boring but effective fasteners saw a decline in the demand for the button. Hold this space though as I am reliably informed by the large and
vocal female side of my family that once again the button is the height of fashion. What better time to start a collection.

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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