Portrait miniatures, bronze and cloisonné candlesticks, glass china closet

Created date

October 24th, 2016
mini portraits, candlestick, china closet

Q: This pair of portrait miniatures was situated in my grandparents’ den as far back as I can remember. The portraits were passed on to me about ten years ago. I have always thought they were beautiful—both the artwork and the jeweled velvet frames. My grandparents did a fair amount of traveling and I imagine they purchased the miniatures on a trip to Europe. —Alexandra

A: These portraits are lovely early nineteenth-century Eastern-European, perhaps even Russian, portraits. The lovely polished stones are either amber or polished Burmese rubies, and the workmanship is that of an accomplished artisan such as Faberge. If it were Russian and an object of work by such a fine craftsman as Faberge, there would be government tax stamps in the metal as well as the signature of the artist. The value would be $1,500–$2,000; however, the inability to sell objects of ivory would apply here. The portraits are painted on sheets of ivory. Unless you have a sales slip from your grandparents or an appraisal by an expert appraiser showing that these were bought before 1982, they are not saleable in the United States. There are even tougher laws in many states. Therefore the piece has no value at this time. They are beautiful, and the sentimental value is much greater than any monetary value, right?

Q: I thought this piece might be worth emailing to you. I was wondering what the range of its worth might be. —Maryanne

A: Candlesticks of bronze and the enamel process “cloisonné” are very interesting. They could be Chinese or Mid-Eastern with the monkey face and reptile decoration. They are more of a mid-range quality that you see in the early twentieth century, and may even be a late twentieth-century reproduction. I would say, either way, the value is under $100. If you have some provenance [history of ownership] that could enhance the value, that would be nice.    

Q: My mom passed away, and I believe some of her items may have value. I am sending a sample and wonder how I get all of the items appraised. —Ron

A: You do have some interesting items. I could not review all of them, but the picture I am posting is of an oak curved glass china closet (circa 1900)—a favorite of the Victorians. In today’s weak antique market, it would sell for $150–$300 in an auction. The contents are even more interesting and a victim of today’s strange market. It looks like a large group of Chinese carved ivory figures. The answer I gave above to the hand-painted ivory portraits is the same for your pieces: no value unless the law in effect today is overturned.

Ask the expert

Carolyn Remmey is the principal appraiser of Remmey Antiques and Fine Art, an international appraisal, personal property consulting, and brokerage firm. She is a lecturer and writer as well as an expert on downsizing, estate sales, and auctioneering.  Remmey has been a participating appraiser on The Antiques Roadshow and the History Channel and is a member of the Appraisal Association of America.  

Do you have a family heirloom or special keepsake you think has value? Please send your inquiries with photos (photos cannot be returned due to the time limitations of the staff) to Carolyn Remmey Antiques and Fine Arts, P.O. Box 197, New Vernon, N.J. 07976, or email remmey@remmeyappraisers.com.  

Please note: Because of the high volume of inquiries, only a few will be selected for publication each month.