NewslettersRuby Lane's newsletters are designed to celebrate the antiques and art, vintage collectibles and jewelry communities around the world. Our Past Times newsletter focuses on antiques and collectibles. Our Creative Hands newsletter celebrates fine art and handcrafted jewelry on Ruby Lane. Our shop owners are frequent article contributors, sharing their expertise and their passions for the items they collect and create. Enjoy!
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Ruby Lane's Past Times Newsletter for September 2008
In This Issue
- Ruby Lane Has Just Added More Lanes!
- Collecting English Enamel Boxes by Barbara Robbins of Robbins Roost
- My Doll Story by Frances Pelle of From Here To Victorian
- Celtic Revival Styles of Jewelry
- September Lane Sampler: Antique & Vintage Glass
RUBY LANE HAS JUST ADDED MORE LANES!
We are pleased to announce that along with the Lanes you currently know, Ruby Lane has just expanded some of the larger categories of items on the site to become their own Lanes! Now you can shop more of your favorite categories while remaining in the same Lane, ensuring a more targeted, effective and thus successful item Search.
Click here to see a special New Lanes video, or go to:
The following new Lanes have been added:
-Books (this will include new, Lane-related reference books)
-Vintage Clothing and Accessories
Now here are the answers to some questions you may have about the new Lanes:
Q: In what Lane will I find Antique Dolls and Antique Silver?
A: Similar to how all Jewelry goes into the Jewelry Lane today, all Dolls now go into the Doll Lane, and all Silver go into the Silver Lane, with the exclusion of silver jewelry items.
Q: For example, will I find Antique Dolls in the Antiques Lane?
A: When searching in the Antiques Lane, Ruby Lane's regular Search tools and other visual help are in place to automatically direct shoppers to the correct new Lane.
Q: What if I want to search for all Jewelry on Ruby Lane including Artisan Jewelry?
A: Just as before, the Ruby Lane Search allows for the option of searching either by all Jewelry, or by just Artisan Jewelry. However with these updates browsers now have the option of going directly to the Jewelry Lane of their choice should they so desire.
Of course, if you still have questions about these changes, we invite you to contact us at any time so that we may assist you.
We at Ruby Lane are extremely excited about these important updates as we continue to improve the buying and selling experience to further promote Ruby Lane as the premier online venue for Antiques & Art, Vintage Collectibles and Jewelry.
COLLECTING ENGLISH ENAMEL BOXES BY BARBARA ROBBINS OF ROBBINS ROOST
One of my favorite areas of collecting and selling antiques is that of the Georgian, English enamel box. I must admit that I have tried to resist the lure of collecting these precious little keepsakes, because I already have too many collections (mostly teapots, mourning items, and books), and I am rapidly running out of space! Still, I tell myself, these little boxes are small, and precious and they will be my next collection, so when I buy them to sell, I am actually a little sorry when they are sold. I always tell myself when I buy them that I will be quite happy to keep them if they don't sell, and of course, then, they always go!
These little boxes, mostly used for snuff and patches, (beauty spots) were a staple for the sophisticates of the eighteenth century. At first, though, most of these delightful pieces were French, and made by goldsmiths. They were far beyond the reach of the growing upper middle class in England, therefore, the need arose for the simpler, enameled box, sometimes using transfers, that were sometimes crude. Of course, these were not so expensive, and they made great little gifts for a loved one, and great keepsakes from one's vacation - much more durable and beautiful, I might add, than the tee shirts brought back from today's trips!
The best book on this subject is "English Enamel Boxes" by Susan Benjamin. I picked mine up in a used bookstore in London, but the 1991 version can be found on Amazon.com, from various book dealers. She tells us that "during the first half of the eighteenth century, the production of painted enamel on copper snuff boxes flourished on the Continent."(p.9). She further states that "the most important development which formed the basis for English enamels from circa 1750 to circa 1840 was the advent of transfer-printing." (p. 9).
Many of these boxes were produced in Battersea, and the fame of those was such that we still refer to these pieces as Battersea, boxes, but recent research has shown that Battersea produced only a "small, select minority" (Benjamin, p.9) and that other towns, such as London, Birmingham, Bilston, and other South Straffordshire areas were producing these enamel pieces.
These little works of art are quite varied. There are those with mirrors (usually for patches), those with elaborate scenes, those produced for souvenirs as "A trifle from Chiswick," those which teach with a profound moral or motto, and those which declare love or beg for remembrance, as "Forget Me Not," or "Esteem the Giver." Some, and these are the most expensive, are 3-D with, perhaps, the form of a dog on top, or something similar. Sometimes these boxes were designed for special occasions as the death of Princess Charlotte in 1817, or the illness of George III.
My personal favorites are those which have to do with mourning, or those with unusual mottos. I have kept two in my mourning collection; one is a simple transfer of a woman kneeling at a tomb. The other is a bright yellow (the yellow paint was often formed from cow urine!) which depicts two people rowing a boat, and passing a church and graveyard. The sentiment reads "All good things must come to an end." One of the most interesting motto boxes (for sale in my shop reads "He will never repent that he sowed tears, who shall bring home his sheaves of joy." A more common motto is "Remember the Giver", and another fascinating one is the blue "A Pledge of Love," with a white plow on the front! I tend to buy the boxes with mottos the most (guess that's my English teacher background), but I have added some nice ones with scenes, as the blue one decorated with the white bird's nests. Research has shown that these dark blue boxes, with thick, white, decorations, crafted around 1800, were produced in the English town of Wednesbury.
These wonderful little gems were made as trifles. They were never intended to be as fine as the French ones made by jewelers and, as such, there were imperfections in them. As in any hand made item, these imperfections are part of their charm. I remember the first one I bought in London, and it happens to be the memorial one with the lady at the tomb. Of course, the mourning scene is what attracted me to the box, because I already had quite a collection of mourning jewelry and mourning items. I did not know much, if anything, about these boxes. When I got back to my hotel and examined the work with a loupe, I first thought there was a fine crack in the design, and I was quite unhappy. I kept running my finger over it, though, and I could not feel anything. I finally decided the "crack" was under the glaze. Now I know this was a transfer piece, and the "crack" was merely a wrinkle in the transfer. It was not visible to the naked eye, and as someone reminded me, these pieces were never intended for viewing with a 10 power loupe! Of course, when an item which is manufactured by entirely predictable means, there is precision and rigidity in its appearance. In the production of these English enamel boxes accidents happened, hands slipped, fingers cramped, and these wonderful gems were often imperfect. Sometimes close inspection shows that a fly or another object was probably painted in to cover up a mistake. Again to quote Benjamin, "English enamels, at
their best, have a certain softness, a `sweet disorder', which renders them endearing" (p. 36).
Benjamin tells us that "by the 1830's, the English enameling industry had all but ceased" (p. 11). Apparently the enamelers could not compete with the profusion of ceramic, glass, and all sorts of metal goods which were flooding the market. This process, though, was revived in 1970 when a small antique shop in Mayfair combined resources with a small firm in Bilston and brought about a rebirth of these English enameling skills. Halcyon Days, established in London in 1950, later combined their expertise with a company called Copper Enamels, and they started producing these precious boxes again. These new boxes have quite a following, also, as collectibles, but there is no problem telling the old from the new. The old ones were never marked; the new ones are, and then of course, there is the patina of age that is present in the old pieces. While I appreciate the efforts to continue this art form, I much prefer the old boxes. Naturally they are more expensive, but they are also more valuable, and in my eyes, more beautiful.
These antique boxes are not easy to find, but it is not impossible. I have noticed many on ebay the past few years, but most of them were in horrible condition, and I do not advise anyone to purchase one that is all broken up, Of course, enamel is melted glass, and it breaks and cracks. A small chip on the bottom or side is acceptable to me, but I avoid purchasing those with large chips or cracks which mar the design, even though they are much cheaper than those pieces in good or pristine condition. I don't mind a broken mirror, and would prefer an old, dark, or broken mirror to a new one, but the most important factor in the condition of the piece is the enamel and the hinges on the box.
The advent of internet selling has certainly helped the collector to find these hard to find items. One could go to a hometown antique show, or visit all the shops in one's area and never find any of these precious pieces, but by using a computer, is it now possible to find these gems without wearing out one's shoes, or burning up all one's gas. When a collector holds one of these wonderful enamel boxes in his or her hand, he or she knows just how much work went into its production two hundred years ago. The modern collector will still marvel at the box's bright colors and clever design, and will cherish it, just as its first owner did.
We invite you to visit Robbins' Roost Antiques
MY DOLL STORY BY FRANCES PELLE OF FROM HERE TO VICTORIAN
My fascination with antiques started with a gown of velvet; I was five or six years old at the time and little did I know then what adventures would await me. I can still describe that Art Deco gown and the others in our attic in vivid detail. I loved the way the purple velvet changed color when I ran my hand over it and the rustling sound that the yellow taffeta made when it moved. To a child of the forties these were indeed treasures and the the sparkling rhinestone jewels that adorned them were priceless. I cannot remember a time when I was not enthralled with all the discards of the past. From the piles of old 78 records (that I played on an old wind-up Victrola), to a tiny china doll, these were the beloved items of my childhood. The passion for antiques had been kindled in me and a collector was born.
One day we moved from the old house, taking only the home essentials, and my much-loved items were gone. For the remainder of my childhood I contented myself with bare glimpses of things past, seen in movies or around town. How I enjoyed them! As I grew into a young woman, funds were few but I managed to buy a piece here and there. Riding the bus home with my latest acquisition (sometimes quite large), I was often met with many quizzical stares. I spent hours upon hours in antique shops; I didn't always leave with an item but I never went away without gaining knowledge. There was no school for what I wanted to learn and the act of collecting itself was my teacher. Every item had a past, some enticing secret of its former owner. A Civil War daguerreotype of a solider...had he survived? A book inscribed to a sick child in 1918...did she recover? Albums of generations of families; was their line still in existence? These questions were part of the allure for me Little by little my collecting grew until I finally discovered another love in antique dolls.
I was a bit late in starting my doll collection, as they had already begun to appreciate, but I was determined, and traveled to any and all places where I might find them. I saw these little `people', most who had out-lived their owners, as works of art. They were beautifully made and lovingly cared for by the little girls who cherished them. They had been through wars and traveled to places that I had only read of in books. Contrary to what one might believe, these dolls were not only for the children of wealthy parents. Many could be acquired for little money through mail-in premiums and they were available in a wide range of qualities. Occasionally I might come across a photo of a little girl with her doll, or in rarer instances, would be fortunate enough to meet the original owner and learn the story of a doll firsthand.
I once purchased a 38" bisque doll from a lady who, as a child, had been shocked by the giant box under her Christmas tree, containing a doll as large as she was. Because of its size, she was unable to play with it properly, but her doll was a friend and confidant all the same. Dolly simply sat in a chair while the shy little girl shared her thoughts and dreams. When the little girl grew up, her doll was relegated to a box until the day I happened upon this new found treasure.
There would be many other dolls and often I could only imagine what their history was. Some were in their original boxes, never opened, possibly bought in anticipation of a girl, but a son was born instead. An early China doll that I bought out west might have made the journey years ago in a Conestoga wagon. Had any of my dolls made the Atlantic crossing on the great steamships of the early 20th century? Did others witness bombings during WWI? With so many dramatic events happening throughout the world in their lifetimes, it's amazing how many dolls survived and what good condition they are in. It is mind boggling to me how accessible antique dolls still are, now in their second, third and even fourth generation of ownership.
The dolls I treasured most of all were those that arrived with their original clothing and accessories. From kid gloves and opera glasses, to tea sets, fans and fancy carriages, nearly any item that a living person could have was replicated in Lilliputian fashion for these remarkable dolls. The elegant French dolls, such as Brus and Jumeaus, were clothed in outfits from the finest couture shops in Paris. In cases such as this, often the clothing was more expensive than the doll. Some dolls had entire wardrobes that included functioning parasols, intricately beaded bags, vanity sets and several different outfits. The attention to detail given to even the tiniest accompaniment was a credit to the skill and imagination of their makers.
There was great variety in the materials used to make antique dolls; from earlier examples in rawhide, rag, wax and wood, to the beautiful bisque, china and felt of later years. There was a wide range of sizes as well. The unjointed, one piece, "Frozen Charlotte" could be under an inch, while the bisques might be life-size and posed realistically. Mechanical dolls could mimic real life motions such as walking, throwing kisses and even playing musical instruments. Other dolls could cry, laugh or smile with their clever, multi-faced design. In this age of incredible technology, it always amazes me to see these examples of the ingenuity of old.
Still, through all my years of doll collecting, I have never passed by other items of beauty and/or history. The opportunity to learn is ever present and the thrill of finding something unique never diminishes. There is always an adventure in the world of antiques and the chase is part of the enticement.
We invite you to visit From Here To Victorian
CELTIC REVIVAL STYLES OF JEWELRY
One of the great recurring influences on decorative arts and jewelry over the last 150 years is that of Celtic culture.
Celtic culture is most associated with Ireland and Scotland, although the culture is more widespread than that. Celt was a term first applied to various peoples of continental Europe. United by common language and some cultural traits, they were not a unified monolithic group of people, but a conglomeration of various tribes, often warring amongst themselves. Originally occupying central and western Europe, including modern day Austria, Switzerland, Spain, and portions of France, they spread out over Europe and into the British Isles during the Iron Age, with their arrival in Britain dated to around 500 B.C.E. Bringing Iron age implements, such as plows, with them, they did quite well as farmers, when not warring with others or amongst themselves. They were excellent metalsmiths, mastering the skills of working in bronze and iron. The term Celtic applies at least to the cultures of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany, and the Isle of Man, all of which share cultural traits and, to some extent, language.
Britain's culture has been influenced by other migrations and invasions, including the Roman occupations and invasions of Germanic tribes after the fall of Rome. All undoubtedly influenced the various groups considered to be Celtic, who never really developed a strong, unified identity, despite their shared areas in language, culture, and religion. The Picts of Scotland are considered to be related to Celtic culture, at least as a close cousin.
The metal work of the Iron Age Celts of the isles produced wonderfully decorated objects, including weapons, helmets, shields, and drinking vessels and other objects, as well as jewelry. Elements of Anglo-Saxon design merged with this, creating a unique form which flourished, often under the direction of the Church. The illuminated manuscripts and high crosses were the last great flourishes of the movement, from the 7th to 9th centuries C.E.
In the early 19th century, Ireland was looking for an artistic voice and a distinct style which it could call its own. The Irish Revival lasted from approximately 1830-1930. This movement, while creating new forms and expressions, drew quite heavily on Ireland's past.
At the start of this period, several artists dedicated themselves to preserving images of Ireland's archeological past. One of these artists and scholars, George Petrie, helped organize the museum collection for the Royal Irish Academy. They acquired two of the great treasures of 8th century work, the Tara Brooch and the Ardagh Chalice. These stone-set pieces are both decorated with the interwoven knot-work which typifies Celtic design. This heightened the renewed interest of the last several decades in Celtic jewelry reproductions. The Tara Brooch spent some time under the ownership of Waterhouse & Sons, a Dublin jeweler, before being acquired for the collection of the National Museum of Ireland. They made a number of reproductions, several of which were acquired by Queen Victoria in 1852. Waterhouse made reproductions of a number of older Celtic pieces, as well as new pieces which were adapted from the older styles.
Other Irish jewelers, some with connections to Waterhouse also made outstanding Celtic reproductions and pieces in the Celtic style. Hopkins & Hopkins, West & Sons, and Joseph and Edmund Johnson were some of the best known, and their 19th century work is highly prized today.
Other traditional Irish and Scottish motifs became popular during the 19th century. The round tower, shamrock, harp, and Irish wolfhound became popular elements. Agate set Scottish silver work, "pebble jewelry", became very popular and was favored by Queen Victoria.
The Arts & Crafts movement drew heavily on Celtic styles, and many artists and works can be considered part of the Irish Revival, Celtic revival, and Arts & Crafts movement. At the end of the century, two incredible families helped give voice to the Celtic soul in the arts: The Yeats family and the Ritchies.
William Butler Yeats, winner of the Noble Prize in Literature and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre, was best known. His father, John Butler Yeats, and his brother, Jack, were well known artists and painters. His sisters, Elizabeth and Susan, both had association with William Morris. Returning to Ireland, they were involved in the start of the Dun Emir Guild, the Dun Emir Press, and Cuala Press. Evelyn Gleeson was also involved in these ventures.
Husband and wife Alexander and Euphemia Ritchie met at the Glasgow School of Art. Moving to Iona in 1889, they set up shop and created designs inspired by the carvings of Celtic and Viking designs on Iona and the other islands. Alexander was made custodian of Iona in 1900. While best known perhaps for his silver jewelry, Ritchie worked in a variety of materials and also produced non-jewelry items. When they died in 1941, their work was carried on by Iian MacCormack. The tradition of Iona silver work is still being carried on today.
Others associated with the Glasgow School have been influenced by traditional Celtic styles and have influenced modern Celtic styles, including Archibald Knox and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Mackintosh, perhaps best known for his architectural work, incorporated some traditional Scottish motifs into his work, and is claimed by the Arts & Crafts movement, where he incorporated these traits along with elements of Art Nouveau and Asian influences. Knox, born on the Isle of Man, wrote about the inspiration he received from the old stone crosses of the island. Working with London's famed Liberty and Company, his designs for their Tudric pewter and Cymric silver draw heavily on ancient Celtic styles.
Knox worked in a great deal of mediums and his design work was used by Liberty & Company on items created by others. Compton Pottery produced Knox Celtic designs on garden pottery. Clutha Glass from James Couper & Sons used Knox designed pewter liners. H. C. Craythorn of W. H. Hasler, producer of the Cymric pieces, also contributed to the design of some pieces in the line. Rex Silver, of Silver Studio, and Jessie King also contributed to the Cymric designs, and Silver studios did much of the production of pewter and silver jewelry items for the line.
The popularity of Celtic styles has waxed and waned since the start of the revivals of the early 19th century. Sometimes it comes to us as a faithful reproduction of a historic style, and sometimes as a new design, inspired by past design. Many small smiths and studios produce quality pieces. Aosdana, under the direction of Mhairi Killin, continues the great tradition of Iona silverwork and crafts. Several larger contemporary firms such as Miracle and Kit Heath produce pieces today which draw on traditional Celtic, Irish, and Scottish styles. The last 20 years have seen the popularity of Celtic design reach a level where many lower quality mass produced pieces from sources far removed from the Ireland and the United Kingdom are on the market.
You may find everything from ancient pieces produced by the Celts to contemporary artisan designs inspired by the ancient masterpieces, on Ruby Lane.
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