This Old Thing: Risky lighter design based on mythology

Q This lighter is the most particular and mysterious example of my collection. It’s a devil on a pedestal above a smoking woman. My wife and I bought it on eBay for $68. The metal is silver in color and measures 23 centimeters high (9.25 inches) and weighs about one kilogram (2.2 pounds). We can’t find any marks. The devil’s head flips over to reveal a small cylindrical flint/wick type lighter. Any information on this would be greatly appreciated.

A. A wide variety of lighters were created from the 1920s and many were cast from base metal alloys, like yours. Based on mythology, this rare lighter depicts a lascivious bacchante (a devotee of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine) smoking a cigarette while gazing at the Greek god Pan. Pan, the god of rustic and wild music, was often represented in art on these herms or four-faced markers, and is distinguished here by his goat horns. It is probably a European manufacture. A risky item like this would have been used behind closed doors in an exclusive smoking room. In collector circles, racy items like this are highly sought after. Your lighter is worth at least $400.

Q Like many single women at the time, my mother’s cousin left New Brunswick to find work with rich people in Boston and ended up with these dishes. When I was four years old (68 years ago), she brought me this set, feeling that I would appreciate them and that my mother would take care of them. After many moves, I still have and love this set. There are chips on the sugar bowl and the flower on the teapot, which is 10 cm (4 inches) high. I will appreciate any information you can share regarding my dishes.

Tea service

A. Your very particular porcelain tableware seems to come from the famous Sèvres factory of 1781, according to the markings. Sèvres porcelain from this period is extremely fine, desirable and rare. This is actually a beautiful product from the Samson factory in Paris – a company that made beautiful copies of many famous companies in the second half of the 19th century. What you own is a partial lunch set with a “marbled rose” background. This set once had a matching tray. In each cartouche there is an image of a trophy-like object such as a flaming torch, a quiver with arrows, or a horn. You indicate that the rose-shaped teapot finial is damaged. The sugar bowl also lacks its lid. Either way, these lovely miniature dishes are worth around $450. As an original Sevres set, it would be a collector’s treasure worth $12,000.

Q A great-aunt gave this lion to my father in 1915. It has no markings, but I think it’s Staffordshire. It measures 15 by 15 cm (six by six inches). I heard that these animals usually come in pairs. I only have one. Please tell me about it.

staffordshire lion

A. Your lion was made in an English pottery in Staffordshire between 1815 and 1830. These mantel ornaments were often in pairs, but having even one of these rare performing lions comes at a price. It was fashioned after a famous bronze lion, made in the 1400s, which now resides in the Bargello National Museum in Florence, Italy. A few different basic shapes have been used and the colors vary, being hand painted. The production of these lions was very low because the molding of the open mouth and prominent teeth required extra care. These rustic terracotta ornaments are often used in country settings. Many serious collectors adore these charming naïve figurines. Your majestic heirloom is worth $900 today.

John Sewell is an appraiser of antiques and works of art. To submit an article to his column, go to the ‘Contact John’ page at Please measure your part, say when and how you got it, what you paid for, and list all identifying marks. A high resolution jpeg photo must also be included. (Only email submissions are accepted.) *Assessment values ​​are estimates only.*

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