Smart Collector: Incomplete tea sets can still have significant value

2014-02-23T00:00:00Z Smart Collector: Incomplete tea sets can still have significant valueBy Danielle Arnet The Smart Collector Arizona Daily Star
February 23, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Q: Attached are images of pieces from two tea sets. One set, a wedding gift in the early 1930s, is Asian. Another is gold-plated from Italy and was a gift around the 1960s. Do either have any value other than sentimental?

A: The reader adds that while pieces from both sets are either missing, chipped, or cracked, seven cups and saucers plus coffee- and teapots from the Asian set remain. The decorative Italian set, a circa 1960s gift, has a damaged sugar bowl. Five cups and seven saucers remain. Teacups are usually the first items broken.

The Asian set is Japanese and was made for export to the West. Attractively hand-painted in the Nippon style with a dragon, it is embellished with moriage, a technique of raised and painted enamel much used in Nippon decorating.

The bottom mark is a Noritake-style stamp with a laurel wreath. Many potteries at the time copied or varied the mark in the same manner that fakers today copy designer labels. The difference is that some knockoffs then were of excellent quality like this tea set.

We tried, but the exact mark was impossible to trace. Our reader adds that pieces vary in intricacy and that only the most intricate bear a bottom stamp. I suspect that parts of the set were made by individual potteries, with specific pieces receiving more attention plus a stamp. The whole was probably exported for sale in finer stores. That’s how the set ended up as a wedding gift.

The set with a hand-painted “Italy” mark is notable for the lavish amount of liquid gold painted onto surfaces. Some pieces are almost 100 percent covered. This is not inexpensive to do. The look makes the pieces very attractive to buyers.

A professional restorer could repair the sugar bowl; the reader has the fractured fragments. Repair can be pricey, but when it is important to restore a family treasure, who’s counting?

With incomplete sets such as these, separate pieces can still be sold piecemeal. So yes, the individual pieces have value. I think your best bet for selling is online.

Q: Can you tell me if Ernest Sohn’s teapots are collectible or valuable? I have a rare, majestic-looking teapot in the shape of a pumpkin. I’ve searched everywhere but cannot find anything like it.

A: To clue readers, Ernest Sohn was a midcentury giftware designer who designed for Red Wing Pottery and Glidden. His Ernest Sohn Creations showroom in New York City opened in 1951. Working in ceramics, wood and metal, Sohn specialized in stylish midcentury design.

His ceramics, known and collected by fans of midcentury design, were made by Hall China. Today, he’s most celebrated for his very modernist ceramics, the more space age the better.

I’m wondering if the reader’s teapot is stamped Ernest Sohn Creations. If so, it is a showroom design, though I would never think of Sohn and “pumpkin” in the same context.

We found 226 listings for Sohn on eBay. A covered jar in the shape of a pepper was offered for $26. Items in completed sales were all around or under $20.

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send email 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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