The 'onion' is a pomegranate Antiques: Chinese design was misidentified by Western porcelain makers, who used it on dinnerware of their own.

February 09, 1997|By Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel | Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel,KING FEATURES SYNDICATE

The best dinnerware designs seem to be used and copied for years. Some have been in use since the 18th century, when porcelain first became inexpensive enough to be made into sets of dishes.

The willow pattern showing a bridge, birds, trees and pagoda, and sometimes people, has been used on dishes made in Asia and in England since 1780. The blue-and-white Blue Flower pattern has been made by the Royal Copenhagen factory since 1780. But the pattern that seems to have been made and copied the most is now called Onion or Blue Onion.

The pattern, first made in 1732, was Chinese in origin. It pictured peaches and pomegranates. English and German potters saw the design and started making a similar pattern but with a slight difference in the fruit. That led to calling the fruit "onions." You can find the design from Germany, England, France, Japan, the United States, Hong Kong, Thailand and China.

There are still dinner sets made in the Onion pattern that are available at department stores.

Collectors date the pieces from the quality of the ware, the

marks and the design.

The earliest pieces had all the fruit facing into the center of the plate. Later examples had the fruit pointing alternately in or out.

If the plate is marked with a company or city name, not crossed lines or other symbols, it was made in the late 19th or early 20th century.

There are more clues in the words of the mark. If the name of the country where it was made is included, it suggests that the plate was made in the 20th century. Words such as "detergent-proof" indicate it was made after World War II.

Maybe you can help me with this "instrument" that came to me after my father died. It was owned by his father, and could be from his father's father. It's encased in a wooden box that measures 17 inches by 11 inches by 12 inches. Along the bottom, inscribed on what looks like ivory are the words "Revolving Photometer or Measurer of the Intensity and Colour of Light by W & S Jones, 30 Holborn, London." The device resembles a fishing reel. There are drawers that contain discs that fit into the instrument. What was it used for?

You've got a photometer. It was used in laboratory experiments to measure the intensity and color of light. It also might have been used by photographers. The part that spins generates an electromagnetic field that allows the measurement.

Your photometer was made by William and Samuel Jones, who worked from 1793 to 1831. It is worth $200 to $500.

I have two Red Wing stoneware jugs. I am wondering if they were made by the same people who made Red Wing pottery.

Yes, they were.

In 1868, David Hallems started a stoneware pottery in his home in Red Wing, Minn. It wasn't very successful. In 1878, a group of businessmen in the city bought the company and named it the Red Wing Stoneware Co. They began manufacturing stoneware jugs and crocks.

In the early 1900s, Red Wing Stoneware and Minnesota Stoneware merged and became the Red Wing Union Stoneware Co. The new company introduced art pottery into its manufacturing line.

In 1936, the company changed its name to Red Wing Potteries Inc. It stopped making stoneware in 1947 and concentrated on making art pottery and dinnerware until it closed in 1967.

My mother saved my favorite doll from my childhood. She has hair that "grows." You can rewind the hair with a key in the doll's back. Her name was Tressy. Does she have any value?

The American Character Doll Co. launched Tressy in 1963. At that time she cost $5. Tressy disappeared from catalogs and toy stores in 1966.

A mint-in-the-box Tressy now sells for $125. Since you played with yours, it would sell for less. Her clothing sells for $35 to $75 per outfit in excellent condition.

I have a small, light-brown plate with the raised decoration of a cow dressed as a cowboy cooking over a campfire. The back is marked with the raised words, "The Borden Co. RV." Can you tell me anything about my unusual plate?

The plate is part of a set of juvenile ware made for the Borden Co. by Roseville Pottery Co. of Ohio. Elsie the Cow and her calf Beauregard decorate the plates, mugs and cereal bowls. They were offered as a sales promotion during the early 1950s.

The plates are hard to find. They sell for as much as $275 for a single piece. The cost can go up to $650 for a matching plate, bowl and mug set.

The Kovels welcome letters and answer as many as possible through the column. Write to Kovels, The Sun, King Features Syndicate Inc., 235 E. 45th St., New York, N.Y. 10017.

Pub Date: 2/09/97

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