An online customer requested the appraisal of this object. She had inherited from her mother who told her it had been made by hand by a neighbour many years ago. Now, that’s the problem with memory. Even though someone tells you something about an object does not make it so. Many times, more than I care to remember, I would have people come into my antique store and argue what their great aunt Mildred, grandmother, father, (you fill in the blanks) told them was the truth. After all, why would they lie?
They weren’t lying, but they were repeating what they were told, or what their parent or great grandparent told them – and we all know how that turns out. Do you remember the kid’s game where one person would start with a sentence and pass (usually whisper) the information to the next person until the result was revealed by the person who was at the end of the line? Most often, the gist of the sentence was totally lost. This is what happened here.
I wasn’t sure what this was until I asked more questions: Height (approximately 5.5 inches), any characteristics that stood out, or maker’s marks (none). There was no doubt in my mind that this object was not made by hand.
The detailing in the fruit and the piercing of the base told me the piece had to be manufactured because I had seen such detailing in other objects. The bell housing is made of cast spelter, a type of porous metal, covered with a dark bronze finish. Note that the top piece, the bird figural, isn’t there which stumped me for a while. The client had no idea it was missing this important part of the object, however in spite of this I was able to find it in my research.
Can you guess what it is?
It’s a Victorian dinner bell. Imagine the lady of the house pressing down on the metal loop )just below the bird figural) to get her servants’ attention. The wire arm would pull the striker back and hit a small bell that is hidden behind the shell housing. It must have made a pretty sound.
I found two examples on the internet. Both were complete, however the Ebay seller mentioned that the pierced metal base was ‘slightly bent’ in some places. The accompanying images showed that the damage was very slight. It was priced at $420 in Canadian dollars. I found the next example on 1st Dibs, where the information did not identify any condition issues. It was priced at $1,306 Cdn. The client’s object had condition issues.
How much would you pay?
Are you an antique sleuth? Click here for more “What Am I?”