Q: The vase in the photo belonged to my great-great-grandparents on my mother's side. I speculate that it was an 1850s or 1860s wedding gift. The thin glass has some swirl marks on the body, the white and gold are applied to the surface and the gold color is "pebbled." It appears there was a lip of gold that is totally worn away. The vase has no chips or cracks. I have also included photos of a chair that was brought to the U.S. by the same couple in hopes that its style might help identify the age of this vase.
A: The picture of the chair did help, but the vase's decoration and style were really all we needed to establish a time frame. Over the years, we have learned family history is a poor guide to an object's age, and we tend to discount this type of anecdotal evidence. Over a long period of time, cherished family heirlooms tend to get older and more monetarily precious than they actually are. Usually, an older relative endeavors to impress a younger person of how much he or she should treasure a beloved family memento, and stories with a kernel of truth at their center tend to grow and expand.
The vase is indeed an old one, and it is probably of Bohemian or German origin. But there are two things that make us believe the piece was manufactured closer to the 1880s or 1890s range.
First, the chair pictured is in the Eastlake style, which was based on the work of British architect, furniture designer and tastemaker Charles Locke Eastlake. Designs such as this one are loosely based on Eastlake's "Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery and Other Details," published in 1868.
Eastlake-style manufactured furniture was not really popular until the late 1870s and into the 1890s. The style persisted in the United States until around 1900.
Second, the vase's sensuously curved lines and naturalistic depiction of plant life is in the Art Nouveau style. Art Nouveau originated in France and is associated with the 1890s to about 1910. In Germany, the style would have been called "Jugendstil" or "Sezessionsstil."
In conclusion, we do not believe the vase could have been made any earlier than about 1890, and it was made to be mainly decorative. Unfortunately, we do not know the size, but if it is in the 9- to 12-inch range it should be valued somewhere between $100 and $125, partially because of the serious and unsightly wear to the gilding.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written several books on antiques. Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Av., Knoxville, TN 37917, or e-mail treasuresknology.net. If you'd like your question to be considered for the column, please include a high-resolution photo.