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 2007
IN THIS ISSUE:
- Ruby Lane Has A New Look!
- Porcelain & Art Glass & Bronze, Oh My! By Barbara Bureker of Artful Toys and Antiques
- September's Birthstone: The Sapphire
- September Editor's Pick: Four Crowns
- Link To Take Our Survey
RUBY LANE HAS A NEW LOOK!
Ruby Lane has just completed an update to our Home, Lane and Shop pages. If you haven't stopped by yet to see them, we cordially invite you to visit us to check them out! The updates include a cleaner look with a new Shop Showcase, and dynamic new shop home and item pages for a more exciting shopping experience. We have also streamlined and added some new tools.
We look forward to seeing you soon!
PORCELAIN & ART GLASS & BRONZE, OH MY! BY BARBARA BUREKER OF ARTFUL TOYS AND ANTIQUES
How many collectibles can generate a collection that combines colored cut glass, cast iron, hammered copper, silver, Bohemian Art glass, carved wood, Bakelite, porcelain, papier maché and mother of pearl? That includes pieces made by Tiffany, Sevres, Bradley and Hubbard, Mt. Washington, Moorcroft, Austrian bronze foundries, Swiss bear carvers and Noritake? That combines Rococo, Neo-classicism, Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts and Art Deco? That includes mechanical pieces, ornate figural pieces and simple, purely functional pieces – all in the same collection? Only one comes to my mind: the amazing inkwell!
My venture into the world of inkwells began on two fronts. My parents gave me several ink bottles and desk inserts commemorating my childhood experience using ink and dip pen in a British primary school. I enjoyed both the memories and the history of these humble pieces, but they didn't quite prepare me for the real adventure that lay ahead. After visiting a local antique show, where I fawned over a Phrenology head inkwell, my husband surprised me with the same inkwell as a Christmas gift. Although it was a reproduction, it opened my eyes to the possibility of ink vessels being more than a bottle or ink ‘cup.' Intrigued, I bought books and was astounded by the variety. I became the wag on the end of the dog's tail! The adventure of finding, researching, identifying and sharing has not slowed down since.
The inkwell as a functional item has a long history; inkwells made of glass, pottery and even silver have been discovered dating back to Roman times. For the most part those early pieces were simple vessels to hold ink.
The Industrial Revolution and the beginnings of public schooling changed that. During the eighteenth century, literacy spread throughout the populations of the Western World, creating a growing demand for writing utensils. With men and women of all ages and social classes reading and writing, inkwells were made to appeal to many tastes and budgets. The eighteenth, and especially the nineteenth centuries, were boom years for inkwell manufacturers, and these are the years that have given us so many rich and varied choices.
These choices offer all kinds of opportunities for a collector. Those with eclectic tastes, myself included, don't focus on a particular kind of inkwell. My own collection includes Bohemian glass, Nippon and Noritake porcelain, Austrian bronze figurals, "Black Forest" carvings, little pot metal animals, pieces by Moorcroft, Longwy, Aladin, and others, and numerous traveling inkwells. It ranges from simple pressed and cut glass inkwells to very decorative figural porcelain inkstands. It includes well marked pieces and unmarked ‘research projects.' I have inkwells dating back to the early 1800's and a few as new as the 1930's and 40's.
A lot of collectors like more focus, and the inkwell world allows for that as well. There are collectors who collect only cut glass, porcelain, or cast iron; others look only for specific manufacturers like Nippon, Gouda or Tiffany.
One fun type inkwell was designed for the mobile populace. Traveling inkwells were carried around in pockets and handbags, and were often jostled around on horseback and in carriages. They had to be spill proof. Manufacturers achieved this in a variety of ways. Some have spring loaded mechanisms that opened with the push of a button. Others have screw tops. Still others have interesting sliding mechanisms. The most common travelers are metal, or leather covered and are either round, square or ‘Zippo lighter' shaped. More complex ones may include two inkwells, or other accessories such as small telescoping pens, pen cleaners and blotters. They were made of various metals, including silver (Gorham made a few), as well as wood and early plastics. The most fun are the "novelty" traveling inkwells. Ingeniously made, they can be found in the shape of hats, bottles, suitcases, pipes, pistols, musical instruments, and books, to name just a few!
Another type, the mechanical inkwell, fascinates many collectors. This group includes snail or revolving inkwells, pump inkwells and inkwells with various types of mechanical lids. Most of these had patents, which can be researched in both Europe and the United States. As with travelers, this group of inkwells includes both very utilitarian pieces – in particular some of the American cast iron inkwells with mechanical lids – and quite ornate snail and pump inkwells. With a lot of luck, a collector may even run across a rare automaton type inkwell that includes multiple moving parts.
A couple of other interesting types include souvenirs and advertising promotions. During Victorian times more people had leisure time and the money to travel. And of course they took home mementos of their trips, and gifts for the people left behind. Souvenir inkwells are quite easy to find now. They range from simple motto ware pottery made in Torquay, England, to metal inkstands made in the shape of famous buildings such as Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomph, to very fine Palais Royal pieces made for wealthier travelers of the Grand Tour.
Advertising promotions are fun because they were often made in the shape of the item being advertised. Unlike souvenirs, these are rather more difficult to find. Miniature stoves, valves, liquor bottles, anvils, motors, various building materials – and even toilets – were made with inkwells inside. They could have been given to special customers or to valued and successful salesmen. The possible stories surrounding such inkwells – in fact, all inkwells – and their original owners add to the pleasure of collecting them.
With all this variety out there, how can you not be tempted to take a look! When you do, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, as with anything, do your research. There are reproductions and fakes (things that were never meant to hold ink) being sold as antique inkwells. Every collector has one or two of these. Better few than many, so take the time to learn! There are a few books on inkwells out there, but probably the most valuable resource is the Society of Inkwell Collectors (www.soic.com). This nonprofit society's mission is to research and educate about inkwells; anyone who really wants to collect them should consider becoming a member.
When you find an inkwell you like, look at it carefully. As with any antique, condition is important. But because inkwells were designed to be used on a regular basis, and because most are 80 to 150 years old or older, condition is a little subjective. Some people like ink stains and a few scratches; they show the inkwell was actually used by someone. I myself love to know someone wrote their letters and diaries with my inkwells. Others don't like any signs of use. The important thing is to know any damage or age related issues and to make your decision to buy based on that knowledge.
Make sure that all parts are intact. Two important parts are lids and inserts. Most inkwells made in the nineteenth and early twentieth century had lids to keep the ink clean and slow down evaporation. Lids are almost impossible to replace; most collectors will not buy a lid-less inkwell unless it is something really special.
Some inkwells were made to have ink poured directly into them. Most, however, were made to be used with an insert. The insert is a small "cup," usually made of glass, china or porcelain, which fits into the inkwell and holds the ink. Inserts help keep ink from staining the inkwell itself, and also protect the top edges of the inkwell from an eager writer's pen. Inserts were generally made to be replaced, as they often were chipped, cracked, or, if not cleaned regularly, permanently stained or even caked with ink. While it is always desirable to find an inkwell with its original insert, replacement inserts are better than none. Most collectors will try to purchase replacement inserts - even new ones (which are still being made) - rather than let their inkwells remain without.
Has your interest been piqued? Most collectors say their first inkwell was not purchased to be the start of a collection. They may have bought it to place on an antique desk, or to add to another type of collection, or simply because they thought it was pretty. But invariably that one led to another, and then another. So why not take the plunge and add an inkwell to your home. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure!
Come visit us at Artful Toys and Antiques and click on the Writing Utensils category to see our selection of inkwells and related items.
SEPTEMBER'S BIRTHSTONE: THE SAPPHIRE
Sapphire, the traditional birthstone for September, is one of the most versatile and popular stones used in jewelry. It is available in a wide range of colors and some special effects are available, such as color change sapphire and star sapphire. Whatever your taste in gemstones and jewelry, you will be able to find a sapphire to suit your desires.
In ancient times, the term saphir, used in the Bible, and sapphiros, used by the Greeks of the time, may have referred to any blue stones. Today the term sapphire is used to refer to any gem with the proper aluminum oxide composition, known by the mineral name corundum, which is not red. Red stones with this composition are considered rubies; any other color, a sapphire. Colors other than blue are considered fancy sapphires.
Sri Lanka (Ceylon) is probably the oldest source of sapphire, and produces some of the world's finest sapphires. The stones from Kashmir and Burma (Myanmar) are the most prized in the world. The "cornflower" blues of Kashmir set the standard for fine sapphires, and were only available in any quantity for a very brief period, from about 1880-1890. A landslide triggered a large discovery of the stones at this time.
Australia is probably the world's largest producer of stones, and many of the darker commercial stones and those with a bit of a greenish tint come from here. Thailand also is a large producer. Madagascar, Pakistan, and India are also traditional sources, and Tanzania, Kenya, and Brazil have recently developed as new sources. Montana and North Carolina also produce sapphires, which we will discuss later in the article.
Little trace elements of other minerals create the greens, yellows, oranges, pinks and purples seen in fancy sapphires. The most expensive and exotic of these is the padparadscha sapphire. The name means "lotus flower" in the Sinhalese language of Sri Lanka. It has an orange color, modified by pink, often creating a salmon color. Natural padparadscha sapphire is rare. Large quantities of diffusion treated sapphire have recently come on the market that mimic the appearance of this rare beauty.
Some sapphires exhibit phenomenal properties. The star sapphire is the most well known of these. Inclusions of another material, usually rutile, create a 6-rayed star in the stone. These stones are imitated by synthetic star sapphire and, to a lesser extent, by simulated star sapphires. Some of these were marketed as Genuine Linde Stars. This name indicated that they were synthetic star sapphires marketed by Linde Air Products, but many consumers got confused and thought the Linde Stars were genuine star sapphires, which is not the case. These stones were first produced in 1947 and while Linde quit making them in the early 1970's, some unused and unset ones still surface from time to time, identifiable as Linde products from the etched "L" on the back of the stone. Some sapphires will actually change color, from a blue in outdoor lighting, to a purple or purplish blue in indoor lighting. Color changes from pink to green also occur, but much less frequently.
Montana Sapphire deserves a special place of its own in sapphire lore. Discovered at first by a gold miner on the Missouri River in western Montana, the stones did not have the strong blue colors traditionally associated with sapphire. Later finds on Yogo Creek, in the more central areas of Montana, have a stronger color. The initial finds from Yogo Gulch were sent to Tiffany and Company, where George Kunz, father of American gemology, identified and purchased the stones in 1894. It is said that L. C. Tiffany favored the stones and used them in some of his jewelry creations. Larger commercial attempts at mining and marketing the stones were never too successful, although they have a loyal following. At times, marketers touted the natural color of these stones. This was not due to any great honesty on the part of the sellers. It has only been recently that methods of enhancing the color of Montana sapphire have been mastered.
One of the best known sapphires of modern times is rumored to be a Yogo sapphire, probably incorrectly. When Charles, Price of Wales, became engaged to Diana Spencer, he presented her with a sapphire and diamond engagement ring. Pictures of Diana and the ring appeared in advertisements for Royal American sapphire, the company marketing many of the Yogo stones. This led to many claims that the stone was a Yogo. This is rather unlikely due to the nature of Yogo stones. The 9 carat stone has been given a Sri Lanka (Ceylon) origin by some British jewelers who have actually worked with the piece.
Yogo sapphire crystals tend to be rather flat and seldom are capable of producing a cut stone of the dimensions in Diana's ring. The largest known specimen is a flat 10 carat crystal in the Smithsonian.
One of the largest known sapphires is the Logan, a 423 carat stone, which is said to have originated in Ceylon. The priciest one on record is the 62 carat Rockefeller Sapphire, which sold for over $48,000 per carat. The largest cut star sapphire is the Star of India, a 543 carat stone in the American Museum of Natural History.
Most sapphires are heat treated to improve color and to make the color more uniform. This can sometimes be detected by examining the stones under magnification. Most sapphire contains "silk", actually small inclusions of rutile. These inclusions usually partially or completely disappear during heating, depending on the time and temperature involved in the heating process. This type of treatment is permanent and irreversible, and may be undetectable if some "silk" is left. "Gueda", an unattractive brownish grey variety of corundum, contains a much higher level of impurities and inclusions, and is subject to multiple heat treatments to improve its appearance, often ending with a material that resembles traditional Ceylon sapphire.
Newer diffusion treatments are also being used, and are far more questionable in gemological terms. Elements such as beryllium and titanium are added to the sapphire during the heating process. These elements actually penetrate the surface of the sapphire, creating the appearance of color. This beauty is only skin deep, however. Damage, recutting, and even repolishing can remove this layer, or reveal what is hiding underneath in some areas. The beryllium treatment penetrates the stone to a greater depth then the titanium treatment. It is primarily used to produce fancy colors. The titanium treatment is used widely for creating a blue surface color.
There is some evidence that newer beryllium treatments may penetrate the entire stone. While some surface diffusion treatments may be detected with limited equipment, some of the newer treatments require specialized and expensive testing to be detected.
Any treatments which lack permanence or affect the durability or value of a gemstone should be revealed. In the case of sapphire, it is safest to assume any newer stone is treated.
True synthetic sapphire has been on the market since the 1920's, and at least five different methods are now used to produce it. This was a new "high tech" gem during the heyday of Art Deco jewelry, and many high end jewelry pieces featured it, especially where a number of matching smaller side stones were needed. Do not assume that the sapphires are genuine, just because they are in a fine piece of 1920's platinum jewelry. During the 1960's, synthetic sapphire started to see use as a scratch resistant material for watch crystals.
In addition to its widespread acceptance as a birthstone for September, sapphire also sees use as an engagement stone. Its hardness makes it a good choice for daily wear, and the blue color is widely associated with loyalty and friendship, both admirable traits in a life partner. It is associated with the sign of Taurus and also used as a 45th Anniversary gift.
SEPTEMBER EDITOR'S PICK: FOUR CROWNS
By virtue of noble birth and royal marriage, Mary Stuart for a time could claim the crowns of Scotland, France, England and Ireland. Born in 1542, she was only six days old when her father, James V, King of Scotland, died. As there were no male heirs, she became Queen of Scotland.
Her coronation took place 9 months later, on September 9, 1543. The ceremony was complete with robes of state in miniature, as Mary was not yet even old enough to walk. In satin, crimson, ermine and jewels, held unsteadily on the throne, Scotland's new ruling monarch, baby Mary, was solemnly presented with Scepter and Sword.
In the year 1558 Mary joined in matrimony with the Dauphin Francis, son of the French King Henry II. When King Henry died the following year, it would be in September, again, that by virtue of her marriage, she became Queen of France, as well.
As a child it was said Mary Stuart had an affinity for animals and a great fondness for dogs. Later in her life, while imprisoned for nearly 19 years by her cousin Elizabeth I, Mary's Skye terrier, Geddon, would help to ease the depression and illness brought about by the sad state of her royal affairs. Eventually, Geddon would accompany Mary, Queen of Scots, to the executioner's block, hidden beneath her robes. No doubt in his own small way he was able to offer the gentle comfort that only the unwavering loyalty of a true friend can provide.
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