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Treasures: Flower basket bookend is a charming piece

This charming basket of flowers may have been colored with tints from Charles Robinson & Co., London.
This charming basket of flowers may have been colored with tints from Charles Robinson & Co., London. TNS

Q: I purchased this ceramic piece at the Round Top Texas Antiques Fair for $160. What is its age and value? The dealer said she had purchased it in England at the Swinderby Antiques Fair. The label on the back reads, “C. Roberson and Co. Ltd. 99 Long Acre, 155-156 Piccadilly London” and possibly “colormarket.”

C. A.

A: This basket of flowers is charming, but it may not be ceramic. Looking at the photographs, we believe it is made from chalk or plaster of Paris. Plaster of Paris is usually made from gypsum, while chalk is calcium carbonate, the main ingredient of limestone. The term “ceramic” generally refers to items made from clay. This flower basket shows some wear that reveals a white material underneath, which looks more than a bit like chalk to us — but we could be mistaken.

The predecessors of Roberson & Co. Ltd began business in 1819 under the name Charles Roberson. Over time, the name evolved, and from 1907 to 1987 it was Charles Roberson and Co. Ltd.

Long Acre in central London was the firm’s address from 1828 to 1937, and because of its proximity to the Royal Academy and the artistic section of the city, it was a well-known supplier of artists’ “colourmen” (artist’s helpers, with “colour” being spelled in the British manner).

In addition, the firm sold art supplies across the British Empire and to a lesser degree in the United States. Sadly, the business went into decline during World War I and was sold to a Dutch firm in the 1970s. We sent an email to the firm and were informed they had no information regarding the production of such a piece.

We think the tag on the back of this single bookend or doorstop is there as an advertisement for the company that supplied the colors used to decorate it. This might explain the word “colormarket” on the tag. We feel the tag is circa-1930, and this is borne out by the overall style of the flowers and the flower basket.

This is a very fragile item, and it is a bit of surprise that it has survived the past 80 or 90 years as well as it has. The life of either a bookend or a doorstop is a hard one, and the piece shows only some wear to the color around the edge and maybe a few minor chips that are not unsightly.

Currently, the retail value is in the $50 to $75 range, and while C. A. paid more, it was worth it if she really likes the piece.

Write to Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email treasures@knology.net. Include a high-resolution, in-focus photo of the subject.

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