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What's It Worth?

Old Bristol Glass Still in Demand

April 14, 2001|KATHY BRYANT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

WHAT IS IT?

Two 10 3/4-inch-tall, identical pink glass vases with hand-painted flowers from Bristol, England. There are no makers' marks on them.

WHAT'S ITS LEGEND?

"These vases were received as a wedding gift by my grandparents, Jessie Davey and Thomas Brimley, in Salt Lake City in November 1888. The vases now belong to me, and I'm curious about them," says Ruth Wilson of Costa Mesa, who remembers seeing them on her grandparents' mantel when she was a child. She rescued them from the granary behind her grandparents' house when they moved to California.

WHAT'S ITS HISTORY?

Bristol glasshouses were established in the 1740s. They specialized in decanters, goblets and vases, usually in a cobalt-like blue color decorated with gilding or in opaque white with painted flowers.

From this beginning, most colored glass made in Britain became known by the generic term of "Bristol" glass, although not all of it was actually made in Bristol. Of these glasses, the Bristol blue is the most famous.

As time went on, a type of semi-opaque opaline glass was made around Bristol. Wilson's vases are from that period. So much Bristol glass was made during the 18th and 19th centuries and it was so inexpensive that it contributed to the end of many glasshouses in America.

It is very difficult to distinguish the English Bristol from other opaline types. Style, design and decoration are clues for the knowledgeable, but few makers' marks remain.

WHY IS IT POPULAR TODAY?

"These two vases are a pair, which was quite common at the time," says Nina Khodorovsky, owner of Newport Beach's Antiques 4 U. "They came in white, pink and blue with hand-painted flowers. Of the types of Bristol glass available, biscuit jars are the most collectible."

Khodorovsky has several examples of Bristol glass in her store. These vases make cheerful receptacles for flowers.

WHAT'S IT WORTH TODAY?

"These vases would be worth about $120 each," Khodorovsky says.

Biscuit jars, which are rarer, would be worth about twice that amount.

In early April, http://www.ebay.com had a circa 1890 white Bristol glass vase on sale for $65.

WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE?

Bristol vases are fairly common, so most antique dealers are knowledgeable on the subject.

Recommended books include "Antique Trader American & European Decorative Glass Price Guide" by Kyla Husfloen, Louis St. Aubin Jr. and Louis St. Aubin (Krause Publications, November 2000, $19.95) and "Antique Glass" by John Sandon (Antique Collectors Club, 1999, $25).

The Glass Encyclopedia on the Internet has many interesting articles and information about antique glass: http://www.

encyclopedia.netnz.com.

* 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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