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Antiques Considered - July 15, 2009

altA writer from King George e-mailed this picture of a lorgnette, which is from the family of a friend who is in her 60s.  The friend thought her grandmother might have brought it from Europe when she immigrated.  The glasses are perfect, and the frame appears to be gold-washed, but the sterling silver is tarnished.  The hallmark reads “STERLING,” but otherwise it is unmarked.
This piece is a prime example of the American Art Nouveau period of the 1880s and 1890s.The hallmark “STERLING” gives it away as being American. Lorgnettes were indispensable accessories for ladies going to the theater or to concerts in the evening.  They allowed “grande dames” to sit in their boxes or orchestra seats and view performances without wearing glasses.  Originally, the lorgnette might have been part of a large dresser set.

This example shows excellent craftsmanship, but unfortunately the silver company that made it did not identify itself, thus we cannot ascribe origin.  The piece would have come with a nice chain, the absence of which affects its value. The situation could be remedied by purchasing a good sterling link chain.
The writer asked whether the handle had been gold-washed as well as the glasses’ frame, which might be the case, but more probably the discoloration comes from the extensive tarnish.  The handle needs polishing to retard further corrosion and pitting. I recommend taking it to a reputable jeweler to be cleaned professionally.
In such good condition, this lorgnette is worth $200.  The addition of an appropriate chain will add more to the value than the cost of the chain.  The expense of cleaning and adding the chain is well worth the effort.  As I noted above, this piece is a fine representative of a major period of American artistry, all with the potential of being even better once polished and reunited with a chain.
 Happy antiquing ...

 

narfe

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