Emyl Jenkins’ Algonquin Appraisals

Welcome to the December edition of Emyl Jenkins’ Algonquin Appraisals. We had some great entries from readers this time around, and we hope more of you will be inspired to submit your own treasures (interpret that as you will) for appraisal in January! Just contact me at brittany AT algonquin DOT com for guidelines.



Chuck: The colored portions of my metal vase are painted onto the metal and are in relief.  There aren’t any markings on the base, so I haven’t any idea of the age, but because the design is in the “Art Nouveau” style, I’d assume that it is from the early part of the last century.

Emyl: Your very attractive vase was made by applying colorful enamel between thin wire strips (usually brass) called “cloisons” attached to the metal form.   After many coats of enamel are applied, the cloisons become almost invisible.  This technique dates back to ancient times, but it became especially popular during the nineteenth and early twentieth century when it was used to make everything from decorative plates to lamps to jewelry.

Around the middle of the twentieth century, cloisonné fell out of fashion, but once again I’m beginning to see both vintage and reproduction cloisonné items in antique shops.  The absence of any mark on the bottom could mean that it is old, or it could be new and the label identifying its country of origin simply removed.  You didn’t mention the size of your vase, but if it is approximately 8 to 12 or 14 inches tall and in perfect condition, comparable vases are selling in the $150-$250 range.

Tip:  If considering buying a cloisonné vase or bowl, to be sure it isn’t damaged, run your fingers over both the outside and inside for dents that can be concealed by the design.


Neal: These two paintings are estimated to be from the 1850s.  There are no distinguishing marks on either.  The dimensions are 8” x 10” and 18” x 24”.  What can you tell me about these paintings and their possible value?

Emyl: Over the centuries literally thousands of paintings of the Madonna and Christ Child have been painted—and copied.  In fact, an age-old art studio exercise requires students to copy Old Master paintings.  As a result, untold numbers of copies of priceless original paintings that hang in museums, galleries, churches, and cathedrals exist.

I’m assuming that when you said the paintings “are estimated to be from the 1850s” that this information came either from someone who has examined these paintings, or from a family member or dealer.  It will take an art appraiser to give you a definitive value of the paintings, but when really fine quality 19th century copies come up at good auction galleries the prices can sometimes sell in the high four-figure range.

Chest of drawers

Algonquin: My tall chest of drawers has a label in it saying the exterior portions are all solid mahogany.  I know my grandparents bought it in 1938 when they were married and it is still in very good condition.  The drawers slide better than the ones on a newer chest I bought a few years ago.  What style is it and does it have any value today?

Emyl: Your grandparents bought a fine quality chest when they made this purchase.  Style-wise, today we would say your chest is in the “Colonial Revival” style, which refers to traditionally styled furniture made following the American centennial celebration (1876) until the mid-twentieth century.   Actually, the chest combines two eighteenth-century styles—the body copies the angular Chippendale style, and the curving cabriole-legs and padded feet of the base copy the Queen Anne style.  At auction such chests usually sell in the $150-300 range, but in antique shops they are more often priced around $400 to $600.


Duncan: This WWI Marine Corps recruiting poster is in mint condition.  It measures 4’ X 3’ and is mounted on a museum-quality mat behind UV protecting glass.  It came from the Baltimore, Maryland, recruiting district where I entered the Marines.  I’d love to have this item appraised.

Emyl: I’m always delighted to learn that some treasure from the past has been saved, protected for future generations, and has a personal attachment.  It’s the stories that make these pieces fun, as well as valuable.  As you can imagine, many recruiting posters were produced as the country went into the First World War, thus your poster isn’t really rare, but its mint condition and age make it worth around $500-750, and I’m sure its value will continue to increase through the years.

Emyl JenkinsEmyl Jenkins is a longtime antiques appraiser. She has worked at two auction houses and has written numerous books and articles on antiques and is the author of the Sterling Glass mysteries The Big Steal and Stealing with Style. She lives in Richmond, Virginia.

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