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A bench made for babies

Rocking a baby to sleep is universal. A clever American mother in the 1820s calmed her restless baby with an innovative furniture design, known as a nursing bench. A long rocking bench was altered with a flat board positioned like a small fence at one end of the seat. An infant could be wrapped in blankets and placed behind the board, and the mother or nursemaid could sit at the other end and rock the bench and baby. The board could be easily removed. Old written descriptions describe a nurse rocking the baby as she sat and sewed. These benches were first made in the 1820s. Some nursing benches were made on Windsor settees with spindle backs. Later versions had arrow or slat backs.

Cat carving

Question: I have a small round glass pin with a cat's face. It looks like the face is inside the glass. My grandmother had this pin, and she says it was made in the 1880s. Do you know how it could have been made?

Answer: If the pin is over 100 years old, it is probably a reverse crystal intaglio. Victorians were very fond of this type of jewelry. The process originated in Belgium about 1860.

The cat's face or other image was carved in reverse into real rock crystal. Then the carving was painted in exact detail. The process is very difficult and is not being done today. A similar but far less detailed type of jewelry was popular in the 1950s. Clear plastic was carved in reverse, then colored but not in perfect detail.

French shaving mug

Question: I have an old shaving mug marked "T&V, Limoges, France" on the bottom. The mug is decorated with gold, and a brass telegraph key with gold initials on it is shown on the side. How old is it?

Answer: Collectors of shaving mugs prefer those that picture an occupation in the decoration. Your mug must have belonged to a telegraph operator.

The mark indicates that it was made by Tressemanes and Vogt, a French firm that is still operating. They made many shaving mugs in the 1890-1920 period.

The nutcracker story

Question: I saw dozens of new painted wooden nutcrackers this Christmas made to resemble soldiers and other 19th-century figures. When were these first made?

Answer: Figural nutcrackers were known in Germany as early as the 16th century. A nut placed in the wooden figure's mouth was cracked by the force of a lever. Nineteenth-century nutcrackers shaped like soldiers, monks, servants, police, kings and even caricatures were made. The famous ballet Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky featured a nutcracker that was an enchanted prince.

Candlewick glass

Question: When was Candlewick pattern glass made?

Answer: Candlewick is a pattern of glass introduced by the Imperial Glass Corp. in 1936. It was made until October 1982, when the firm went into bankruptcy. The old molds were sold, so there is no doubt that new pieces are being made.

Candlewick is a pattern with clear beading on the edges of the stems on glasses, bottoms of tumblers, handles of ladles, and other places. There are more than 650 different pieces known and they were made in clear (crystal), pale blue, cobalt blue, red, amber, black, green, pink, yellow and lavender glass. Pieces were sometimes decorated with silver overlay, gold, painted designs or etching or cutting. Sometimes the beading was colored. It was at the height of its popularity from 1940 to the early 1950s.

Roller skates, Batman, Larami, box, 1979 $20

Box, Pop's Corn Starch, girl with baked goods, cardboard, full: 25

Brooch, cherry, Bakelite: 45

Sterling silver yo-yo, Gorham, scrollwork: 125

Wedgwood caneware game pie dish, cover, duck

Slot machine, Mill F.O.K., front vendor, stand, 5 cents: 1,500

Prices may vary in different locations because of the conditions of the economy.

Send questions to: Antiques, Ralph and Terry Kovel, P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, Ohio 44122.