Garniture embellished mantels Antiques: A popular arrangement was a clock with two vases or candelabra.

March 29, 1998|By Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel | Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel,KING FEATURES SYNDICATE

A garniture is a decoration for the top of a fireplace mantel. Most antique garnitures are composed of a clock with two matching vases, candelabra or other pieces. Some sets have three or five vases and no clock.

The clock garniture was first used in 18th-century France to decorate the lower mantelpiece that had become fashionable. The early examples were made of gilded bronze, porcelain and marble.

By the 19th century, clock garnitures were widely used in England and the United States.

By the early 1900s, when mantels had become larger and often included a top section, the garniture went out of style.

The best garniture sets have clocks in metal cases with gilded bronze known as "ormolu." Less-expensive pieces were made of spelter, a soft, pewterlike form of zinc that often was lacquered to resemble bronze.

Expensive pieces were made with real marble. Less-expensive examples used slate or wood painted to look like marble.

If you're considering buying a clock garniture set, be sure that the clock is working, that there are no broken or missing parts and that the vases or candelabra are a matching pair.

My Arts and Crafts-style chair is marked "Quaint Furniture, Grand Rapids, Michigan." Who made it?

Albert and John George Stickley founded the Stickley Bros. Co. in 1891 and produced furniture inspired by the pieces made by their brother Gustav. They used the "Quaint Furniture" mark from 1891 to about 1932.

My china dish is a molded pair of hands with a decoration of grapes and leaves at the bottom of the palms. It is marked with a buffalo and the letters "KT&K." All I know is that it's more than 100 years old.

The buffalo mark on the back of your dish was used from 1878 to 1885 by Knowles, Taylor & Knowles, a ceramics company that worked in East Liverpool, Ohio, from 1870 to 1929.

Your dish is an ironstone copy of a well-known glass dish called "Double Hands With Grapes." It was made by Atterbury & Co. of Pittsburgh about 1880.

Knowles, Taylor & Knowles apparently made a mold of the glass dish to make its own ceramic version.

My two old Ken dolls are both marked "Mattel." They have brown, painted hair, but they don't look alike. One is slim, with a crew cut and no facial expression. The other has more hair, a smile and a thick, muscular body. What happened?

Collectors call Ken's late-'60s redesign his transformation "from geek to sleek."

Ken was introduced by Mattel in 1961 but marked "1960." He was marketed as Barbie's boyfriend. His hair went from flocked to painted the first year. His body stayed skinny until 1969, when he appeared with a more expressive face, bigger muscles, pinker skin and a 1968 copyright date.

Tip: "Lead rot" is a disease of lead soldiers and other lead toys. Gray dust forms on the toy, and eventually the toy will disintegrate. It is not contagious, but it often appears on a group of soldiers stored together, because it is caused by oxidation brought on by the environment.

Lead rot seems to appear when lead items are stored in new wooden cases, so use metal cases instead. Old wooden cases that are sealed with latex paint seem safe.

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: 3/29/98

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