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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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This Meissen porcelain chinoiserie head nodder sold for $13,000. Photo courtesy of Sloan's
When travelers returned from the east in the 17th and 18th century they brought exquisite Chinese porcelain with them. Europeans fell in love with the fragile, decorative objects. The royalty and nobles filled the rooms of their palaces with the delightful porcelain.

The secret to creating this unique hard paste porcelain remained a mystery until 1710. Augustus the Strong, the Elector of Saxony possessed the passion and money to uncover the secret.

Under his direction, a German porcelain factory was established at Meissen, near Dresden. The first breakfast sets resulted consisting of a tea and coffee pot, tea caddy, six cups and saucers, a slop bowl, sugar bowl and goblets for chocolate. The porcelain services were finely painted with birds, flowers, hunting scenes, figures, and landscapes with scroll or basketwork borders.

Over the years, Meissen has become synonymous with high quality, high style and flawless form. Some collectors maintain that Meissen was the best porcelain manufactured in the western world. (Others say the French Sevres factory holds that distinction.)

Meissen has been exported worldwide in the form of clock housings, wall tiles, mirror frames, figurines, candelabras, tables, fireplaces, consoles, chandeliers, and table service sets decorated in every style from Baroque and Rococo to Art Nouveau and Modern.

Since the 18th century, the factory has had its own in-house education and training facility to preserve the old craft of the modeler, turner, former, painter, etc. For almost three centuries these inherited manufacturing methods have been maintained.

Meissen’s crossed (blue) swords mark can almost always be found on the base of their objects. The Meissen mark copied by many German and French manufacturers was the Marcolini mark, showing a crossed sword with a star below the middle of the handle. Meissen figures, vases and groups will display incised numbers sometimes prefixed with letters to the base.

The dinnerware services are famous. But finding a complete dinner service from the 18th century is rare. Some popular lines today are “Swan Service,” “Yellow Tiger,” and “Red Dragon.” Collectors usually prefer the formal tureens, vases and figural groups to the modest dinner plates, and condition plays a major role in valuation. Damage can reduce value by as much as 50 percent or higher.

On Sept. 17-19, Sloan’s Auctioneers & Appraisers in Washington D.C., held an estate auction which included an assortment of Meissen pieces. A porcelain chinoiserie Head Nodder of a smiling figure with moving head, tongue and hands, 12 inches high, sold for $13,000. A two-tiered porcelain Epergne topped by a gentleman in 18th century costume, 17 inches high, brought $1,600. A porcelain Parrot on a Stump, 17 1/4 inches high, as is, sold for $850. A Rococo style Figural Porcelain Clock, 19 inches high, as is, fetched $1,700.

Q. I have a set of green and a set of apricot-colored Depression glass dishes. Can you help me determine values? Name withheld, Pittsburgh.

A. What determines value with Depression glass is the pattern, color and type of piece. The glassware came in more than 25 colors and 95 patterns. The more common colors are pink, green, and amber. Saucers usually sell for $5-10. Dinner plates fetch $15-50. Serving dishes are more valuable. A sandwich server, (plate with a handle in its center) could be worth hundreds, especially it it’s a Cameo pattern made in green.

Adam was a popular pattern made by Jeannette Glass in Jeannette, Pa., from 1932-1934. The glassware came in pink, green, crystal and yellow and had a squared pattern. Today it’s hard to find a complete set. Who designed the molds for Adam or other Depression glass pieces is a mystery.

A good resource on the subject is The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Depression Glass by Gene Florence. The book is published by Collector Books in Paducah, Ky. It’s filled with color illustrations of every pattern, shape and size you’d want to know about, plus pricing information.

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