Clues point the way for the savvy antiques detective

2014-04-13T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T12:20:27Z Clues point the way for the savvy antiques detectiveBy Danielle Arnet The Smart Collector Arizona Daily Star
April 13, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Q: While cleaning out a storage room, I found these two lamps. Both are dirty; they were sitting in there for years. One of the icicles is missing and another has the tip broken off. Do the lamps have any value?

A: I’m going to challenge readers to see how they might do in response to this query: See how great you are as an antique detective.

Clue: The “icicles” are cut drop prisms.

Clue: Raised letters on inside bases read Pairpoint, with a P in a diamond. Also raised are C6138, the number 14 and Quadruple Plate. All ID the maker, the model number and the composition.

Clue: Green glass tubes cover the base columns.

Did you recognize the Pairpoint link? Started in 1880 in Massachusetts, the Pairpoint Manufacturing Company specialized in metalwork. After a merger with the Mt. Washington glassworks, the company made metal lamp bases with fine glass shades.

From then up to the 1930s when it closed, the company was celebrated for fine lamps with blown and decorated glass shades. Today, collectors pay handsomely for their best-known lamps, called “puffies” for their blown-out and reverse-painted glass shades. Pairpoint puffie lamps sold at auction in November and December of 2013 for $225 (a boudoir lamp 10.5 in. high) to one for $6,000. The big bucks version had the largest shade they made, with a closed top and a rare yellow background. Painted with a floral garland, the shade was artist signed.

Did you recognize that Quadruple Plate indicated a high grade of silver plate? Good.

And did you pick up on the green glass stems? On this model, the green is Vaseline glass. Also known as uranium glass, the transparent yellow to green glass was popular in the 19th and early 20th Century. It fluoresces under ultraviolet light. Collectors (and they are legion) know that radiation is so low as to not be a problem.

On the reader’s lamps, the Vaseline glass is cut in a diamond pattern sometimes called Honeycomb. The combination of fancy cut and Vaseline glass is a big plus.

Up to this point, everything looks positive for a very high value, right? Well, not so fast.

In the 2-volume “Pairpoint Lamp Catalogue” ($95 each from Schiffer), we found an original catalog page for the reader’s lamps. Called electric candles, they originally sold with shield-shape parchment shades decorated with a bird-of-paradise pattern covered in glass beads.

The electric candles were part of a 3-piece set, along with a cut glass center bowl having the same squared metal base. Made from 1926 to 1930, the 14-inch-high lamps sold for $30-$32.50, depending on finish. The grouping, called a console set, was intended for a sideboard or other long flat surface of probably dark wood, as it was favored at the time.

But, readers, we have no info on condition. And that’s critical. The damaged/missing prism drop should not be a problem, as repros exist. What matters is if plating on the base is damaged or worn, ditto the glass tubes. I suspect that at this point, most surviving sets lack shades because they were the first to be lost or damaged.

The only record we found of a similar pair selling was on www.liveauctioneers.com . There we saw that a pair with heavy wear of the plate plus many missing drops or lusters sold for $200 at auction in 2004. Value could have gone up or down in the ensuing decade. If the reader’s bases are intact and in good condition, her result could be significantly higher.

Her major selling points are Pairpoint and Vaseline glass, both avidly collected. To sell, I’d try posting the set in an online auction at a price you can live with and see how it goes.

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send e-mail to smartcollector@comcast.net

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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