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 2005
The monthly newsletter from Ruby Lane Antiques, Collectibles,
Fine Art and Jewelry
Welcome to Past Times! IN THIS ISSUE:
o The Mystique of Chinese Snuff Bottles by David Mathis of
o Getting Started Collecting Fire King by Richard Brown of
Abbas Past Collectibles
o Artisan - Studio - Art Jewelry by Carol Augustine of PMC
Studio Art Jewelry
o Share Past Times with A Friend
THE MYSTIQUE OF CHINESE SNUFF BOTTLES BY DAVID
MATHIS OF TRADEWINDS ANTIQUES Many collectors of Chinese art will tell you that no period in
China's history captured the genius and skill of the Chinese
artisan like the Qianlong reign of Qing dynasty. Chinese snuff
bottles, small wonders of workmanship in a myriad number of
materials, found their finest period of production during this
final dynasty. These wonderful little vessels, designed to hold
powdered tobacco snuff, were born out of the popularity of
tobacco brought to the Imperial court by early European
explorers. As the snuff craze grew outward from the imperial
courts to the common man, snuff bottles grew both in number and
in variety of design. Produced from the late 17th century, and
still being made today, snuff bottles can be found in bronze,
porcelain, ivory, coral, glass, wood, enameled metals, silver
and gold, gemstone, and other materials. They range from
impossibly complex works in gemstone with imperial provenance to
simple pottery shells of utilitarian form. One could expect to
pay a hundred dollars for a colorful old porcelain bottle from
the turn of the 20th century, or many thousands of dollars for a
fine black jade bottle of Suzhou school design. A bottle of
imperial gemstone quality jade, a translucent deep green
jadeite, recently sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There is something for everyone to collect, in every price
What would a person find in today's marketplace, searching for
these amazing little bottles? You might find a snuff bottle
carved of layered glass, with a scene of a fisherman netting
under cloudy skies, intricately carved in three or four layers
of colored glass! You might find a clear glass bottle with a
scene of incredible complexity, mysteriously painted on the
inside of the bottle, with such skill that it defies the
imagination. You might find a bottle of rich pink coral deeply
carved with Chinese symbols and religious objects. Or, you might
stumble upon a bottle of antique ivory that has been carved and
brightly colored, depicting the busy people and activities of a
provincial court. What you are certain to find is a wonderful
variety of materials and traditional subject matters applied to
the snuff bottle design.
If one were to concentrate on collecting only antique snuff
bottles, a wide variety can still be found in shows, in online
stores and auctions, estate sales, and from specialty dealers.
The question becomes, what shall I collect and what is my price
range? Porcelain bottles make up the largest segment of Chinese
snuff bottles; it stands to reason that these are most
plentiful. Also readily available are vintage and antique snuff
bottles of carved, or Peking glass, and inside painted glass.
Thankfully, in the antique snuff bottle market, there are still
plenty of affordable examples for the collector. But there is
reason to be cautious. Chinese antiques are notoriously hard to
date, as markings and methods of production that are centuries
old can be found on brand new pieces. It takes a trained eye to
know the difference between a well made reproduction, made to
look old, and one with genuine age. And with so many materials
used to fashion them, snuff bottles present a real challenge to
even seasoned collectors.
In looking at any antique Chinese snuff bottle with a critical
eye, signs of age can be found in the form of surface wear, pops
and glitches in glaze and finishes, irregularities in shape, and
genuinely hand made design work. Ivory and coral bottles will
have natural grain lines and fissures. The top and spoon of the
antique snuff bottles will have some typical characteristics to
look for, such as finely carved bone and ivory spoons of
delicate design, and tops that feature several materials
carefully combined to provide an interesting, contrasting color
schemes. The stopper of antique bottles will be made of wound
cork, wound paper, wrapped silk or thread, carved cork, natural
rubber, carved wood, and other materials. It is most likely that
these stoppers will be very worn and may be missing altogether -
indeed in many genuine antique snuff bottles the top is missing
There are a few common fakes to look out for. Common in the
online market place are snuff bottles made of composition resin,
a dense hard plastic. This composition material can be made to
resemble cinnabar, turquoise, ivory, coral, and other more
valuable materials. Many bottles are being made of dyed white
coral colored to look like more valuable pink or red coral.
Bottles are being carved from bone and being sold as ivory. As
always, if the price is too good to be true, then it probably
is! Buying from a trusted, established dealer is the best way
for beginning collectors to avoid problems. Buyers should also
be cautious when purchasing ivory bottles. It is legal to buy
antique ivory in the United States, as well as ancient dug
mammoth ivory. It is illegal in many other countries to import
or export elephant ivory in any form, regardless of the age of
Interested in collecting Chinese snuff bottles yourself? For
many it has become a lifelong passion. Examining genuine bottles
at shows and in antique shops will give you a feel for the real
antiques. Purchasing a few good reference books and auction
catalogs featuring snuff bottles is always well worth the money.
Membership in The International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society
will allow you to receive scholarly articles about collecting,
and give you the opportunity to attend their annual convention.
Brushing up on Chinese history and artwork can give you a
beginning grasp of the materials used in snuff bottle creation.
Finally, learning about Chinese culture, religion and symbolism
can open up a window of insight into the artistic subject matter
of these wonderful microcosms of Asian artistry.
We invite you to visit David's shop: Tradewinds Antiques .
BROWN OF ABBAS PAST COLLECTIBLES 1905 was the official beginning of the Hocking Glass Co., but
most marked Fire King started in the late 30's to early 40's.
The tidbits of information in this article are for all of you
who would want to start begin collecting Fire King dinnerware or
bake ware, also known as ovenware.
First of all, I would tell you to take the time to really
familiarize yourself with Fire King, as you would with anything
you plan to collect. While not all Fire King is marked, I
recommend that until you have really educated yourself, do not
buy an item unless is marked. Don't worry, it won't take you
long to get yourself up to par on what is genuine, and what is
not. Don't be fooled by the marking of an F on the bottom. This
is not fire king, but instead is Federal. Not all Jadeite is
made by Fire King, so be careful.
Start a library of collecting Fire King books. Books by Gene
Florence are a good place to start. For older books, be sure to
take into account that prices may no longer be accurate.
Research online and in brick and mortar venues, too.
You may want to start out small in quantity - Build up your
collection slowly as you you acquire more knowledge of the
items. Start with something you would like to use for yourself.
Most Fire King can be used in today's microwaves except for the
gold or silver-trim pieces. Only purchase pieces that are in
near perfect condition. If they are just stained, that usually
can be removed with a mild cleanser or, I have found that oven
cleaner removes stains without leaving scratches or dulling the
luster of a piece.
In my shop the hottest items are the White Restaurant ware and
the Jadeite, which was made from 1948 to 1967. The white is very
hard to find and Jadeite is getting harder all the time. It is
very heavy and thick so don't be fooled by the thinner pieces
that are not the restaurant ware, even though some try to sell
it as so. The turquoise blue in the home ware is the next
biggest seller for me, and is also getting harder and harder to
find. We started out with peach luster, as it was and still is
very inexpensive. We then graduated to the anniversary white
with gold trim, which looks much better in my kitchen.
In my own personal opinion I don't think you can go too far
astray in any of the Fire King pieces. Take your time and enjoy
the journey of your newfound collecting experience.
We invite you to visit Richard's shop, Abba's Past Collectibles .
OF PMC STUDIO ART JEWELRY Dona Z. Meilach, author, best describes art jewelry as "a
one-of-a-kind piece made in a studio by an artist who expresses
an idea through his original design."
The concept of art jewelry evolved over time, beginning around
7,000 B.C., when ancient civilizations discovered they could
manipulate and sculpt gold and copper to create beautiful
personal body adornments. With the gradual development of
sophisticated tools and methods, jewelry progressed from
primitive creations to objects of great luxury and refinement.
During the Middle Ages, artists guilds were formed. Guilds were
associations of master artisans that were granted charters by
the local sovereign authority. Production and distribution were
strictly controlled by the guilds, to ensure quality and to
prevent competition from outside markets. With the advent of the
Industrial Age, the artisan guilds became all but extinct.
Artisan jewelry was replaced by machine-made items, where the
focus was not on quality and original design but on quantity to
adorn the masses. Fortunately, the Arts and Crafts movement of
the 19th century fostered the return to quality in
craftsmanship, with a renewed emphasis on handcrafting and the
importance of the artist to the individuality of the piece.
Contemporary artists of today continue in the Arts and Crafts
tradition, placing emphasis on craftsmanship, quality and the
artist's intentions over the intrinsic value of materials.
Jewelry artisans seek out non-traditional methods of
construction, using innovative techniques and unusual materials
to construct and create their one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces.
They consider themselves as much an artist as a jewelry maker.
Their work may combine precious gemstones with cheaper irregular
gems, and even glass, shards of pottery, and fibers. They use a
range of materials from the traditional gold, copper, and silver
to titanium, niobium, metal clay, acrylic and resin. Their work
is influenced by organic materials, other cultures, political
movements and objects trouvés (found objects); and may invite
Studio jewelry makers are free to express individual ideas and
concepts through their designs because they are not bound by
conservative and formal traditions. They explore color,
contrasts, shape and dimension. If their metal-working skills
are self-taught, they are by no means less focused on quality of
craftsmanship. Their goal is to produce unique works, to be
inventive, and to challenge traditional views of what jewelry
should be. By joining unfettered experimentation with creativity
they are able to produce beautiful pieces of jewelry.
One-of-a-kind artisan jewelry, with its originality and
expressive designs, is an exciting and growing era for the
collector, in which the pieces of today will become the
collectibles of tomorrow.
We invite you to visit Carol's shop: PMC Studio Art Jewelry .
others who would enjoy receiving it? We invite you forward this
issue on to others. Happy reading!
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