Q: We have a haberdashery case with all the original curved glass, all the original hardware and fixtures but it's missing its shelves. Can you tell me more about its history and what would be its value? If you could help me find some information about the shelves I would like to replace or refabricate them.
A: Old store items can be very popular with collectors.
We explored sales records for the past 10 years and found only one cabinet similar that had been sold at auction in 2007. It was a tad plainer than the one in question because the top of the one sold at auction was essentially undecorated, while your example appears to have a narrow fluted frieze across the top.
But the two cabinets are otherwise almost identical. The one that sold at auction did not have shelves behind the curved glass fronts, and we question whether yours had them, either. If the unit were designed for hats, a shelf dividing the compartments might have gotten in the way of the display if the hats were of a size typical for women's dress hats in the early 20th century. Men's dress hats would have been too large, as well. Our recommendation is to leave the piece as it is.
The cabinet we found was manufactured by Clatworthy & Son and had a patent date of March 31, 1903. The company made other store display items including a bustlike display stand with a black velvet surface that might showcase a piece of jewelry, a fur or perhaps a hat.
There is no doubt the wonderful cabinet was manufactured during the early years of the 20th century and was probably made before the beginning of World War I.
You should take great care not to damage the curved semi-cylinders of glass that form the front of the piece, which operates in much the same manner as a lawyer's bookcase, because glass replacement would be very expensive.
For insurance replacement purposes we would value this piece in the $2,500 to $3,000 range.
Q: Years ago, my mother gave us a vintage/antique glass vase. It is 5¼ inches tall, is a rosy-pink color and weighs about 2 pounds 5 ounces. It is decorated with small bubbles and nine decorative appliques that are roughly circular, yellow/gold in color with knobby balls on the surface. There are no markings but two labels, one reading "Made in Italy" and the other "Zell Bros. Portland, Oregon." Sentimental value aside, we want to know if we should treasure it and put it in our wills or sell it in a garage sale. What can you tell us about its value and history?
A: The paper labels on the vase tell us a lot, but they do not tell us everything.
The "Zell Bros, Portland Oregon" label signifies that the piece was originally sold at the Zell Brothers Jewelers in downtown Portland. The company was founded in 1912 by brothers Julius, Dan, Harry and Milton Zell and remained in business through various ownerships, including Zale's.
Reportedly they sold giftware along with their jewelry. We believe Zell's imported the piece from a maker who worked on the island of Murano, which is located in the Venetian lagoon. Glass has been made in Venice for significantly more than 1,000 years, but in 1291, authorities ordered all the glass-making factories to set up shop on the island of Murano because they were afraid the fires in the glassmaking furnaces might get out of control and burn down the very prosperous and powerful town.
The decorations you described, along with the photographs, tell us this is a controlled bubble piece that was made by placing a "gather" (a piece of molten glass at the end of a blowpipe) into a spiked mold and then expanding the material with soft breaths and smoothing the outside, leaving the bubble effect.
The "appliques" you mentioned are called "prunts," and when they were first placed on pieces of glass, they were designed to provide a raised surface for fingers to grip the item more securely. Drinking vessels were often fitted with these devices, but later these raised "blobs" of glass became largely decorative elements.
We feel it might have been made by Barovier & Toso. Some say Barovier was founded in 1295, others 1324, but the amalgamation with the Toso family did not begin until 1936.
The piece was made between World War I and World War II — we think circa 1925. If it can be established that it was made by Ercole Barovier, the value would be $500 to $650, but if it turns out to be more generic Murano glass, the insurance value would be half of that.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques.