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Identifying antique glass isn't always easy. If you're lucky, a piece may be marked, like this Phanomen vase, which is signed "Loetz Austria" on its pontil (the spot on the base where the blown molten glass was attached to a pontil for shaping).

Proof of its maker, not to mention its complex shape and silvery iridescent sheen, brought its price to $4,940 at a Rago/Wright auction. But glass isn't always marked. While it can take an expert to authenticate glass, it's helpful to be able to recognize some of the characteristic shapes and colors made by particular glassmakers.

Loetz received patents for iridescent glass in 1895 and 1896, shortly after Tiffany launched the fashion with its famous Favrile glass. Loetz produced several lines of iridescent glass, and Phanomen was its triumph, winning a Grand Prix award at the Paris Universal Exposition in 1900. It combines the beauty of iridescence with the technical expertise required to create its organic shapes and silvery pulled threads.

Q: I picked up an antique set of furniture at an auction, and I have looked for years online to identify and see what it used to look like back in 1894. I got that date from the casters. I want to make it look like whatever it did when it was made. Can you please help me? All three pieces are gold-velvet upholstered, the chair has leaves carved, and the other chair is similar to a barrel style with no arms. It's just a high back like the settee.

A: A word of caution: 1894 may be the patent date for the casters, not the date the furniture was made. An appraiser or antique furniture dealer would have to see your furniture in person to be able to accurately date it. Remember that furniture styles have been revived, copied and reproduced for hundreds of years, and some reproductions are so well-done, even experts have a hard time telling them apart from originals!

Q: I inherited a pair of lamps and would like to know the value of them. I have attached some pictures. There is a signature on one of the lamps that I can't make out and painted numbers on the bottom of each of the lamps. There is nothing wrong with them. They work and have no chips, etc.

A: Your lamps look like banquet lamps, a type of lamp used in the late 19th century with a pedestal base and a glass globe shade. They originally burned kerosene, but many, like yours, have been electrified for modern use. Banquet lamps usually have a bronze base, or one made of decorated glass that matches the shade. Yours are unusual, with porcelain figures for the base.

There is a mark visible on the underside of the figure in one of your pictures with a crown over the letter "N" and the word "Capodimonte." Capodimonte porcelain (also spelled "Capo-di-monte") was first made in Naples, Italy, in 1743. It is still being made today, and still uses the crown over "N." Other factories are also making "Capodimonte-style" porcelain and marking them with a crown and an N. These pieces are usually less expensive than authentic Capodimonte. Your mark looks like it is a Capodimonte-style mark. Authentic Capodimonte marks are blue underglaze; yours looks stamped on. Early marks were very simple, with a stylized crown.

Pairs of lamps with porcelain figure bases tend to sell from about $50 to $200. Individual lamps with shades like yours, opaque art glass globes with painted flowers, can sell for similar prices. The shades alone can sell for between $50 and $100.

Q: I inherited some ivory from my grandmother. I know there are lots of restrictions and regulations on selling or trading ivory. I was pointed to you to see if you can help. I'm not looking to keep it.

A: Federal laws concerning ivory have been amended over time, and state laws can vary. Check with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ( and your state's department of fish and wildlife for the current laws. If you want to sell your ivory, you may need proof of what type of animal the ivory came from. An appraiser, an auction house that sells ivory, or an art or natural history museum in your area may be able to help. You may also need to know and be able to prove the item's age, or have documentation, like a dated photo, that shows when it was originally acquired or how long you have had it.

TIP: Be sure that any restorer, refinisher or upholsterer working on your antique is insured.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer readers' questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery) and what you know about the item. Include only two pictures, the object and a closeup of any marks or damage. Be sure your name and return address are included. By sending a question, you give full permission for use in any Kovel product. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We do not guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels Publications. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at


Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

Depression glass, Mayfair Open Rose, tumbler, footed, pink, Anchor Hocking, 5 1/4 inches, eight pieces, $60.

Pottery vase, squat, tapered base, side handles, three horizontal stripes of drip glaze, tan, blue, green, cream ground, miniature, Billy Ray Hussey, 2 1/2 inches, $70.

Toy bus, school, ride on, Belltown U.S.A., blue, yellow trim, driver and children in windows, red seat and handle, no. 124, Gong Bell Mfg. Co., 20 inches, $125.

Game, carnival, "Game of Fortune," bicycle wheel, red, yellow, blue, painted, 48 by 33 inches, $255.

Sampler, needlework, verse, red brick manor house, black feathered bird, plants, flowers, birds, animals, frame, Jane Adey, England, 1829, 20 by 17 inches, $295.

Table, serving, butterfly leaves, folding X-shaped base, Baker, mid-20th century, 27 by 31 by 21 inches, $330.

Medical cabinet, optical, four drawers, caster feet, Optical Cabinet Co., Babylon, N.Y., contains 80 pairs of eyeglasses, 32 by 23 1/2 by 17 inches, $360.

Pewter bowl, lid, figural, fish, scale texture, three red stones, oval interior, oval stand with side bail handles and round foot, marked, Chinese Export, 6 by 15 1/2 by 8 inches, $375.

Lalique perfume bottle, Papillon, allover molded butterflies, frosted, gourd shaped, triangular stopper, signed, R. Lalique, 4 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches, $610.

Rug, Persian, allover horseback riders, midnight blue field, brown and cream border, silk, hand tied, 7 feet by 4 feet 8 inches, $1,300.