Treasures

Some majolica pieces can be highly prized

 
 
This majolica piece has a great deal of charm.
This majolica piece has a great deal of charm.
HANDOUT / MCT

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Q: Enclosed is a photo of a majolica jardiniere (I have two), which I [purchased approximately 25 years ago from a house auction in Michigan]. Someone working in my house broke off one of the lady’s tops. Luckily, I was able to have it restored. There are no markings and the piece is 16 wide by 18 inches tall. I need an appraisal for insurance purposes. I would like to know the value of both the pair and one alone.

D. G., Naples, Florida

A: Pairs are always more valuable than singles, so we think it is best to think of these two as being a pair — even though one has been damaged. We should also point out that no insurance company will take this as a formal appraisal. There needs to be an in-person inspection, which, of course, we cannot do.

To begin, what exactly is majolica? It actually can be several things. In the Renaissance, “majolica” or “maiolica” started being made as a type of tin glazed earthenware that was introduced to the world from Moorish Spain through the Island of Majorca — thus the name.

The “tin glaze” produced a white surface (think of the white tin oxide sometimes put on noses to prevent sunburn) that was intended to mimic the white porcelain wares coming to Europe from China. Europeans did not know how to make porcelain yet, so they had to cheat with the tin glaze on earthenware.

Many of these early majolica pieces are highly prized by collectors, but the majolica we are discussing today is a different variety altogether. It is called “Victorian majolica” and has colorful lead glazes on the pottery’s surface.

Many items have fanciful shapes. Umbrella stands, for example, might be shaped like a stork among bulrushes; or a pitcher might resemble a bunch of asparagus. Majolica-covered boxes might look like cauliflowers and a tea pot might be shaped like a monkey with coconuts.

In the current marketplace, the word “majolica” has been terribly misused and we see it applied to ceramic objects that have an opaque glaze but are just not Victorian majolica — not by a long shot. Unfortunately, we also see tons and tons of reproductions that can confuse new (and even some experienced) collectors into making unwise purchases.

Many pieces of old Victorian majolica are not signed but others are signed by English firms such as Wedgwood, George Jones and Mintons. Some French majolica pieces signed by Utzschneider and Company (located in Sarreguemines, France) also can be found, but is not as prized as American and British examples.

The fact that the two jardinieres in today’s question are not signed is not surprising, but we are suspicious of the age of these two pieces. Carefully examining better photos of another pair, we found a crudeness that surprised us more than a bit.

Some Victorian majolica can be rather crude, so without seeing better photos of the underside and the inside of the jardinieres we cannot pass judgment on the age of this particular pair. But we did find other pairs exactly like D. G.’s pieces that have sold in recent years at prices that suggest these have a retail value of around $800 to $1,000 for a perfect pair.

The value of a well-repaired set is probably not reduced by more than $100 or $200, but today’s market in majolica is very weak.

Write to Joe Rosson, P.O. Box 27419, Knoxville, TN 37927, or email treasures@knology.net. If you'd like your question to be considered for the column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus.

Read more Home & Garden stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Heirlooms: </span>Colorful tomatoes from local farms are sold at the Pinecrest Farmers Market..

    Market Guide

    Farm fresh: A guide to South Florida farmers markets

    Know your farmer, know your food: Where to find local produce from Fort Lauderdale to Homestead.

  • Condo line: Substantial surplus funds in operating budget not necessarily a good thing

    Q. I live in a homeowners association that has a yearly operating budget of over $200,000. Currently, we have surplus funds in the operating budget of close to $150,000. This is money that was budgeted for maintenance over the past six or seven years but not spent, and has just been piling up.

  • Fairchild’s tropical garden column

    Beating the bugs: marauding mosquitos

    I’ve never met anyone with any compassion for the mosquito. Besides serving as food (not often enough) for birds, bats and frogs, their only asset is their role as pollinators. Now more than ever, especially as gardeners, we need to be aware of the diseases mosquitos spread and how to avoid them while managing not to poison ourselves and allied insects.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category