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posted: 8/24/2012 5:24 AM

Green glass piece with gold trim likely 150 years old

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  • It may look like a vase, but we learn that it had another use in the mid-1800s.

    It may look like a vase, but we learn that it had another use in the mid-1800s.

By Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson

Q. Can you help me identify and value this family piece of glass? It is from my great-grandmother who lived in Harvard, Mass., and is a beautiful green color with gold painted trim. Any information would be appreciated.

A. This is indeed an interesting piece, but we believe that it may have belonged to your great-great-great-grandmother because this piece was probably made more than 150 years ago.

We wonder if the location of the great-grandmother in Harvard, Mass., is not a clue to the origins of this piece. Harvard is located in Worcester County and is perhaps best known for its Shaker community and "Fruitlands," where Amos Bronson Alcott (father of author Louisa May Alcott) attempted to establish a transcendentalist community in 1843.

Fruitlands lasted only seven months, but it is said that Alcott based her novel "Little Women" (in part, at least) on her experiences there as a young girl. Harvard is not all that far from Cape Cod, and it was there in Sandwich that Deming Jarves established his Boston and Sandwich Glass Co. in 1826.

Most of the glass was of the clear colorless variety, but the company did make some colored glass that is now prized by collectors of early American glass. One of the colors was a soft opaque green "jade" colored glass that closely resembles the hue of the example in today's question.

But was this piece made at the famous Boston and Sandwich factory? Unfortunately, we think that the answer is "no," because the top is wrong for this company as is the overall shape of the piece.

In the mid- to late 19th century, competition in the glass industry was fierce. The American factories were literally "Johnny-come-latelies," Davids facing Goliaths, and for the most part in this competition, Goliath won hands down and put many fledgling American enterprises out of business.

In these days before the Civil War, American makers of glass and ceramics had a tough time staying in business because their markets were flooded with European items that customers often found more appealing.

We believe that this opaque green glass piece was made in Bohemia, which was then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and is now part of the Czech Republic. We also believe that it was made circa 1850, with the distinct possibility it could be as early as 1840 because these pieces were commonly manufactured in the 1840s, '50s and '60s, and we have arbitrarily chosen a middle date for safety's sake.

One other thing -- this is not a vase. Instead, it is a dresser bottle that was used to hold perfume or cologne, and it is now missing its original ornamental stopper. That is a great pity, and you might look around to see if it might not turn up.

The incomplete nature of this piece will keep the monetary value down significantly, but we know its value as a family heirloom will always be much higher. For insurance purposes, this piece is worth between $75 and $100.

• Contact Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928.

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