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What's It Worth?

When Craze Was Majolica Glaze

September 09, 2000|KATHY BRYANT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

WHAT IS IT?

A 14-inch-high ewer, probably English. It is decorated on one side only and appears to be made with a lead glaze, which would make it majolica.

Majolica, a craze especially during the Victorian era (1837-1901), is a type of decorative earthenware pottery that has a semitransparent lead glaze with a color palette usually of blue, green, yellow, brown, black and orange.

Majolica wares include jardinieres and vases of every size and proportion, according to "Miller's Antiques Encyclopedia," (Reed Consumer Books Limited, 1998, $70).

WHAT'S THE LEGEND?

Laguna Beach resident Rona Martin received this ewer from her mother. "She told me it was my grandmother's and she came from England. I, in turn, have given it to my niece, who's now pregnant. She was very close to my mother, so this is perfect for her. The vase means a lot to both of us," Martin said.

WHAT'S ITS HISTORY?

To suit the high Victorian taste, factories vied with each other to fit ornament onto their wares, leading to objects that are both beautiful and bizarre.

Minton & Co, Wedgwood and George Jones & Sons were the main factories.

This piece does not appear to be from any of them. The markings on the bottom are difficult to read, which often happens with majolica because marks were usually impressed into the clay under the glaze and are hard to see.

France, Germany and the USA also made majolica.

WHY IS IT POPULAR TODAY?

Majolica fell out of fashion at the turn of the century, until there was an exhibition in London in 1982 that rekindled an interest in the pottery. Prices have escalated since, but it is still less expensive than fine porcelains.

These pieces work well with more casual decors and lifestyles.

Because the Victorians used majolica extensively, pieces can be found in the shapes of pineapples, oysters, asparagus and just about everything else. It is this great diversity that appeals to most collectors.

WHAT'S IT WORTH TODAY?

Gloria Loudon, owner of Grandma's Cottage Heirloom Antiques in Costa Mesa, said a ewer in good condition would be valued around $245. "It's hard to know exactly where this was from because the markings are hard to read. However, majolica was very popular in Victorian England, so I think this is an English piece," she said.

The auction Web site http://www.ebay.com has more than 100 pieces listed, ranging in price from $5 to $900 and more.

WHERE CAN I FIND IT?

In addition to "Miller's Antiques Encyclopedia," there is the Majolica Society's Web site: http://www.majolicasociety.com, which offers history, pictures of representative pieces and links to other sites.

* To have an item considered for this column, send information, a photograph of it and a phone number to: What's It Worth?, Home Design, The Times' Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.

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