Following a tradition of table decoration Antiques: Using a centerpiece with flowers or pretty food is a centuries-old practice.

January 11, 1998|By Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel | Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel,KING FEATURES SYNDICATE

Dinner-party decorations have been relatively unchanged for centuries. Many a hostess has faced a large, long table that had nothing in the center. The void has been filled with attractive vases, epergnes, figurines and seasonal fruit and flowers.

The 17th-century table featured large and small platters of food. The platters, often made of silver or gold, helped to declare the wealth and importance of the host.

The food on the platters was prepared to be decorative. A cooked peacock was served with its colorful feathers adorning the platter, for instance. Some cooked animals were presented using their head and feet as decorations.

Fresh flowers were not used until the 19th century, but flowers of porcelain or silk often were part of the decoration in the 18th century. Since the decorations were meant to show one's status, the rare, make-believe decorations were preferred.

Large epergnes often were filled with fruit or dessert sweets in the center of the table.

The 19th-century hostess preferred fresh fruit, foliage and flower centerpieces. One writer suggested using a board with a hole in the center for the table. The hostess would place a tall plant beneath the hole so the leaves would form a large centerpiece.

Other hostesses used high stands decorated with greenery and flowers.

Tables continued to have large centerpieces in the early 20th century. Etiquette suggested that the arrangements should be low so the dinner guests could talk across the table. The wealthy arranged fruit or low flowers in silver bowls with decorations of three-dimensional cherubs or animals. Those with less money used simple bowls.

When I was a boy, I sent in a Wheaties box top and got a Jack Armstrong ring with a stone set in it. What is the ring worth?

Jack Armstrong, the fictional "All-American Boy," starred in a radio adventure serial that ran from 1933 to 1951.

A few different Jack Armstrong premium rings were issued. Yours is the Dragon's Eye ring offered on the back of Wheaties boxes about 1940. The ring -- white-glow plastic with a dark green stone -- was redeemed for one box top and 10 cents.

Today it is worth from $300 to $1,000, depending on condition.

I saw a beaded purse at a flea market that had a double-hinged frame. It was flat when closed. When opened, the metal frame formed a square opening, and the purse hung down. The purse had a geometric, almost Indian design. The dealer said it was at least 80 years old. Do you know anything about it?

The double-hinged folding purse frame became popular in Paris about 1910. American makers immediately started using the newly fashionable frames.

Beaded bags were made by American Indians in the early part of this century. They usually were made of chamois and colorful beads that were a bit larger than those made by the purse-making companies. Traditional Indian patterns were used and soon copied by others.

Transfer patterns were available that could be used on homemade beaded bags.

The purses made by the Indians usually did not have a commercial metal frame.

My sister rescued my 1950s 8-inch little-girl doll from our mother's attic. It looks like a Ginny doll, but it's not marked "Ginny" or "Vogue." It has no mark at all. Can you tell me anything?

The Ginny dolls were introduced in 1951 by Vogue Dolls Inc. of Medford, Mass.

The doll started a trend. Other companies across the country began making 8-inch toddler dolls with dozens of interchangeable outfits. The knockoff dolls were less expensive than Ginny, and most of them were unmarked.

Today, collectors like the knockoffs because many of them are well-made, attractive dolls and less expensive than Ginny. Your doll -- clean, dressed and in excellent condition -- would sell for $20 to $50. A Ginny doll from the mid-'50s is worth more than $100.

I have a Rose Leaves pattern pressed-glass goblet. It's clear glass with a plain stem and rim and a pattern of small rose leaves around the bottom two-thirds of the goblet. What else was made in this pattern?

Your goblet, made by an unknown manufacturer, dates from about the 1880s. It is worth about $25. The Rose Leaves pattern has been seen only on goblets.

Tip: To remove a stubborn stain from the outside of a bottle, try filling a bucket with soft sand and then moving the bottle in and out of the sand. Rotate it also. Then wash and rinse with clean water. To remove a stain inside a bottle, put a handful of gravel in the bottle, cover it and shake vigorously.

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: 1/11/98

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