Eye miniatures fashionable gifts between lovers

Kim and Terry Kovel
We don't know whose eye is depicted in this miniature, but it must have been someone well loved. Wearing a miniature painting of a loved one's eye was fashionable in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Popular fiction inspires fashions in real life. The period shows and royal romances on television today have renewed interest in antiques among their fans.

One piece that has captured attention is the eye miniature on a pendant worn by a character on the television show "Bridgerton," a romance set in Regency England, but with modern influences.

An eye miniature is a close-up of a single eye painted on ivory and set behind glass or crystal in a decorated frame. They were worn as pendants or pins. An eye miniature set in a goldtone frame as a pin sold at Brunk Auctions for $704.

These miniatures are sometimes known as "lover's eyes," a romantic name coined by a 20th-century antiques dealer. They are said to have originated in the 1870s, when Prince George of Wales (who would later serve as Prince Regent for his father, King George III, giving the Regency period its name) fell in love with Maria Anne Fitzherbert. They could not marry because he was Protestant and she was Catholic.

To keep their relationship secret, they exchanged miniature paintings of their eyes set in jeweled frames. This meant they could still look into each other's eyes when they were apart, and it was unlikely that anyone else could tell whose eyes they were. The prince wore his under his lapel. Eye miniatures became fashionable gifts between lovers. They were also worn as mourning jewelry in remembrance of loved ones.

Question: I have a 7-inch cylindrical glass vase that fits into a stand I think is made of copper that has turned green. The stand is about 5 ½ inches tall and has three legs, each topped with a bust of a winged figure. The triangular base is marked with an etched curled arm holding a hammer and the words "MADE BY HAND." Can you tell me the age and value?

Answer: This mark was used by Old Mission Kopper Kraft company and by its founder, Fred Brosi. Brosi went into business with Hans Jauchen in 1916 and founded Ye Olde Copper Shop in San Francisco. Jauchen left in 1917 and started Jauchen's Olde Copper Shop. Brosi changed the company name to Ye Olde Copper Shoppe. It continued until 1922 when Brosi started Old Mission Kopper Kraft.

It was in business until 1925. Brosi worked from his home from 1927 to 1933 and continued to use this mark. Some pieces made by Old Mission Kopper Kraft and Fred Brosi are marked with just the maker's mark. Some are made with the maker's mark and this arm and hammer mark. Others just have the arm and hammer mark. The style of your vase seems to fit the time Brosi worked. A similar copper stand and bud vase with this mark sold for $295.

Q: My father bought an angelfish pin for me when he was in Mexico in the early 1960s. It's made of striped metal. The back is marked "Los Castillo" and "Hecho in Mexico." Can you tell me something about the maker, the material and its worth?

A: Los Castillo is a silver workshop in Taxco, Mexico. It was founded by brothers Antonio, Jorge, Justo and Miguel Castillo in 1930. "Hecho in Mexico" is Spanish and means "Made in Mexico." Los Castillo is known for pieces made of mixed metals, combining silver with copper and brass. The angelfish pin sells for $100 to over $295, depending on size.

Q: I have a 19th-century antique china Haynes pitcher and bowl decorated with pink Hibiscus. The pitcher is 10 1/2 inches high. The bowl is 5 inches high and 15 inches wide. They are marked "Haynes, Balto, Toulon." Can you give me the value?

A: David F. Haynes started D.F. Haynes and Company in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1881. He bought Chesapeake Pottery in 1882. Ownership and company name changed a few times. It was D.F. Haynes and Son in 1896. The company made semi-porcelain toilet sets, jardinieres, dishes and novelty items.

Toulon is probably the name of the line or pattern. Wash sets like yours were common before homes had indoor plumbing. Water was poured from the pitcher into the bowl and used for "washing up." Complete sets included a chamber pot, waste bowl, soap dish and other pieces. The sets aren't very popular now. Price depends on maker, design and condition. Pitchers like yours sell for $40 to $50 and bowls for a little more. 

Q: When were Tinkertoy construction sets first made? 

A: Tinkertoys were invented by Charles Pajeau, a stonemason and cemetery monument maker. He developed a construction set of wooden rods and discs. It was first displayed at the American Toy Fair in 1913. Pajeau and Robert Petit, a grain trader at the Chicago Board of Trade, established The Toy Tinkers company in Evanston, Illinois, in 1914.

Sets with an electric motor were first sold in 1919. The name of the company was changed to Toy Tinkers, Inc. in 1924. Later it became Tinkertoy, Inc. The company was sold several times beginning in 1952. It became part of Hasbro, Inc. in 1986. Sets with plastic pieces were made beginning in 1992. Wooden sets were reintroduced in 2000. Tinkertoys have also been made by Basic Fun! since 2018.

TIP: Don't let metal jewelry touch chlorine bleach. It may pit or discolor. 

Current Prices

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.

Bohemian glass, bud vase, slender cornucopia shape, cranberry, heavy enamel and gold flowers in fan shaped medallions, clear applied decorated foot, 7 ¾ x 3 ¼ inches, $90.

Doorstop, Anne Hathaway cottage, cast iron, thatched texture roof, three chimneys, flowers growing on side, three piece casting, Hubley, 6 ½ x 8 ½ inches, $125.

Silver-American sauce server, cup form, pour spout, rolled rim, flared foot, arched ebony handle attached to side, marked "Sterling Hand Wrought At The Kalo Shop / SD1 / ¼ Pints," 3 ½ x 7 inches, $220.

Lamp, chandelier, nine-light, two tiers, brass fixtures, glass Ice Cube shades with internal bubbles, Gaetano Sciolari for Lightolier, 24 x 18 inches, $315.

Furniture, chair and ottoman, Bird, Harry Bertoia, shaped, thin and tall back, orange upholstery, label, Knoll, chair 39 ½ x 37 x 33 inches, ottoman 14 x 23 x 16 inches, $690.

Jewelry, ring, raised square, 25 round faceted synthetic emeralds, mixed sizes, each bezel set, 18K yellow gold, Modernist, size 7, $875.

Candy container, child on sled, Heubach bisque head and hands, red and white polka dot snowsuit and hat, red scarf with pompoms, wooden sled, 8 x 7 ½ inches, $925.

Clock, tall case, S. Hoadley, Plymouth, Mass., alligatored finish, brass finials, arched door, wood dial, Federal eagle and landscape in beaded oval, green plume spandrels, Roman numerals, two sub dials, gilt starbursts, dial marked, 88 x 18 inches, $1,080.

Toy, Popeye spinning Olive Oyl, Popeye's arms spin, Olive Oyl sits on chair and rotates balancing on Popeye's nose, lithographed tin, key wind, Linemar, 9 inches, $1,600.

Pottery trivet, nude about to bathe in small lake, puffy clouds, multicolor with black outlines, matte double vellum glaze, flame mark, artist's monogram for Jens Jensen, Rookwood Pottery, 1931, 5 ¾ x 5 ¾ inches, $1,750.