Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published June 11, 2010, 12:00 AM

Collectors are rediscovering joys of majolica

The 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London included the introduction of many amazing new products, one of them the revival of majolica. In the 19th century, Italian pottery of the Renaissance era was being studied and collected by English museums.

By: By Terry Kovel, INFORUM

The 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London included the introduction of many amazing new products, one of them the revival of majolica. In the 19th century, Italian pottery of the Renaissance era was being studied and collected by English museums. England’s Minton factory made a copy of the old designs and glazed them in a similar way. The clay was covered with an opaque white glaze and then painted freehand with bright colors.

Minton’s majolica was displayed at the 1851 exhibition, and by the 1870s, the company was making original designs inspired by Italian majolica. Its work was copied by many English, European and American makers. Later, Minton made majolica using colored glazes painted directly on the clay body.

Designers made fanciful pieces like teapots with monkey handles; pitchers featuring birds, fish, shells and flowers; urns held by swans; tables held by monkeys; and jardinieres decorated with all types of flowers, birds and trees. Majolica went out of fashion in the 1940s, when the beige, uncluttered look was “in.” The colorful look did not come back until the 1990s. Today, majolica made by any manufacturer is popular with collectors. Prices continue to rise. The colors and shapes seem to fit into today’s styles.


Q: I have had a wooden table for more than 30 years and was about to give it to my daughter when she turned it over and found a mark. The marks says, “Sept. 29, 1896, 568397, Conrey – Birely Table Co.” Is my table older than I thought?

A: Your table is more than 100 years old. The patent was granted to Charles Birely for a method of attaching legs to furniture. Birely lived in Shelbyville, Ind., at the time he applied for the patent and had already been in the furniture business with Jacob A. Conrey for 10 years. The Conrey-Birely Table Co. had manufacturing facilities in Shelbyville and in Grand Rapids, Mich., until about 1909.


Q: I have an old bottle that has an embossed knight’s glove encircled by the words “E.R. Durkee & Co., New York.” It’s pale lavender glass and is 8½ inches tall. Embossed on the bottom of the bottle are the words, “Bottle Patented April 17, 1877.” Can you tell me something about this bottle?

A: The original color of your sauce bottle has changed through the years by exposure to sunlight. Clear glass made before 1910 sometimes turns purple when left in the sun for a long time. Glass made between 1910 and about 1930 turns amber, not purple, because the formula for making glass changed. More recently, artificial means have been used to turn clear glass deep purple. Durkee Spices was founded by Eugene R. Durkee in 1850. The company introduced Durkee Famous Sauce, the first bottled or packaged salad dressing, in 1857. In 1918 Durkee became the first company to package spices in tins instead of cardboard containers. The company has changed hands a couple of times and became part of Associated British Foods in 2005. Durkee has a manufacturing plant in Ankeny, Iowa. Your bottle is not rare and sells for about $15.


Q: I inherited a “gingerbread” clock from my grandmother, who must have bought it sometime between 1870 and 1930. The case looks like walnut, and the glass covering the front has an etched design. The only identification on it is a partial paper label on the back that says, “Emil Beyer, Watchmaker and Jeweler, Corner 16th and Peach streets, Erie, Pa.” The year 1914 is penciled on the back. Can you help me estimate age and value?

A: Gingerbread clocks, also called “kitchen clocks,” were introduced after the Civil War and remained popular until World War I. The clocks’ cases are pressed, not solid, wood and their designs were pressed into heat-bonded wood veneers or fibers. Emil Beyer, who immigrated to the United States from Germany in about 1880, was the sole proprietor of his family’s jewelry shop in Erie from 1900 until his death in 1919. It’s very likely that your clock dates from 1914, the year that’s penciled on the back. Beyer did not manufacture your clock. The label shows only that his shop sold it. The clock was probably made by one of the U.S. companies that produced countless gingerbread clocks: Ansonia, Gilbert, Ingraham, Seth Thomas or Waterbury. Gingerbread clocks in good condition sell for about $150 to $200.


Q: I have a copper skillet and lid that we grew up calling “Mama’s copper skillet.” We had Christmas dinner in the living room by the fire and Mama served scalloped oysters in the skillet, which is the only time I can remember its being used. I’m 87 years old, so at least I know it’s pretty old. The back is marked “Jos. Heinrichs, New York, pure copper, sterling silve” [no “r”]. Both the skillet and lid are completely lined with silver. I have been told it’s called a poacher.

A: Joseph Heinrichs founded the Joseph Heinrichs Corp. in New York City in 1897. The company made kitchen utensils for hotels, restaurants, railroads and steamship lines. After the company went bankrupt in 1937, it was bought out. In 1988 it became Legion Industries, which is headquartered in Waynesboro, Ga. A poacher is similar to a skillet but has a taller lid. It is worth about $400 to $500.


For more information about antiques and collectibles and free price information, visit Kovel’s Web site, www.kovels.com

Kovel answers as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use in the column or any Kovel forum. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovel, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

Tags: