Q: I have an old plate that is iridescent ice green with peacocks on a fence. I know it is old because it came to me from my mother-in-law in the 1980s and she had had the plate for many years prior to that. How do I know if this plate is a fake, a reproduction or an original? There are no marks indicating Northwood.
A: This so-called “peacocks on a fence” pattern depicts two peacocks roosting on a latticework fence surrounded by a plethora of flowers and leaves. It was made by H. Northwood and Co. of Wheeling, W.Va., probably between 1908 and 1915.
This pattern was made in only two forms, bowls and plates. None are known to have been marked by the maker. The bowls are generally 8 to 9 inches in diameter, while the plates are around 9 inches. Signed pieces would be suspicious, as would plates that are significantly larger or smaller than 9 inches in diameter.
The “peacocks on a fence” plates may have plain, rayed or ribbed backs, and a few are found with basket-weave backs. These latter pieces are somewhat rare. Some have stippled backgrounds, and these are desirable to collectors. This example appears to have a rayed back, and we see no evidence of stippling. In other words, it looks like a typical “peacocks on a fence” plate.
The color is an important aspect of any carnival glass item. By way of example, a rare peach opalescent “peacocks on a fence” plate with stippled background reportedly sold on eBay in 2012 for $12,500. This piece is not worth nearly that much.
“Peacocks on a fence” plates are normally found in a variety of shades, including amethyst, white, lavender, marigold, smoke, a grayed amber shade called “horehound,” several shades of blue and a variety of shades of green including emerald green (very rare and valuable), lime green and ice green.
If we found this piece and did not know anything about its history of ownership, we would check the piece for wear (small shallow scratches that do not run parallel to each other). The vast majority of old glass pieces have at least some of these scratches, which are good indications of age.
Deep scratches and strong scratches that run parallel to each other are a danger sign and may be the result of “sidewalking,” or rubbing the bottom of a piece of glass on concrete or other rough surface to produce instant aging. Beware!
Ice green in carnival glass is usually a rare shade. But in this case it is available, and plates in this color usually sell in the $150 to $200 range. We find no record of a price higher than $350, which may be an aberration.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques.