This Old Thing: Tea service popular in present silver marketplace –

By Special to Waterloo Region Record

Sat., Feb. 26, 20223 min. read

Q. My grandfather acquired this set when he was a Colonel with the British army in India around 1895. I have no idea what he paid for it but I inherited it from my mother about 20 years ago. The teapot is 14cm high (5.5 inches) with no observable markings. Family lore says it was made from beaten rupees. I would love to know what the insurance value is for the set. Thank you for considering this. Yours,

A. You have a wonderful Anglo-Indian three-piece tea service reflecting both Indian and Western cultures. The basic form of the three pieces is British. The elephant heads making up handles and the teapot spout, along with relief medallions portraying deities, reflect Indian cultural art. These sets are often unmarked but yours is very likely silver content and, at the time many of these sets were made, circa 1900 silver rupees could have been used since silver was not standardized well in India. These sets are very popular in the present silver marketplace. Your set value is solidly smithed at $1,750.

Q. This very unusual item was found in a family home I inherited. In the late 1800s, my family members made their living on the Bay of Fundy and some were lightkeepers. The piece is about 14 cm long (5.5 inches), is stamped ‘Fyfe’s Patent’ and appears to be made of brass decorated with a laurel wreath draped over an anchor. The centre part with the wreath and anchor slides up and down, which opens and closes the jaws at the bottom. No one has any idea what it could have been used for. Do you?

A. I don’t, but I found expert, Cynthia Cooper — Head of Collections and Research and Curator of Dress, Fashion and Textiles at Montreal’s McCord Museum, where she oversees the largest museum collection of Canadian dress — more than 20,000 items. She identified your piece as a dress holder (or skirt lifter) which was used by women in the 1800s to hoist up their long skirts to avoid contact with mud or dirt. They were most popular in the mid-1870s and a similar one in the museum’s collection is marked ‘Fyfe’s Patent, registered Sept. 21 1876.’ To use the device a cord was threaded through the loop at the top then the device was fastened at the waistline, perhaps to a belt. When the medallion was slid downwards, the holder would open up like tongs to grasp the skirt fabric. The cord could then be hoisted up and the skirt tied at the appropriate length. (Yours is missing two metal disks which sandwiched the fabric to avoid piercing it.) As for value, I think your fascinating and functional rare fashion device is worth about $250.

Q. Last summer, a neighbour of mine was moving and while clearing out gave me this glass crucifix by R. Lalique, France. The cross is 23 wide by 16.5 cm high (9 x 6.5 inches) and on a wooden base. It has an inscription on the base ‘R. Lalique, France.’ Can you give it the scarcity and value. Thanks for your consideration. Sincerely,

A. Based in Paris, René Lalique was a glass designing pioneer in the art world. His fabulous work included jewelry, vases and figurines. It is suggested that most of his religious-themed items were designed in the 1930s — inspired when Lalique was commissioned to do work for a church — and discontinued as of his death in 1945. Your rare piece, listed in a catalogue raisonné as #1212 is very realistically detailed and could date to 1932. Lalique continues its century old business — a testament to its popular reputation. Your example is worth $500 today.

John Sewell is an antiques and fine art appraiser. To submit an item to his column, go to the ‘Contact John’ page at Please measure your piece, say when and how you got it, what you paid and list any identifying marks. A high-resolution jpeg photo must also be included. (Only email submissions accepted.) *Appraisal values are estimates only.*