Jasper52 to host No Reserve Fine Jewelry Auction July 1

Affordable fine jewelry is offered in a no-reserve auction that will be conduced by Jasper52 on Wednesday, July 1. Each of the 127 lots will be sold to the highest bidder without reserve.

14K gold and diamond ring, 0.62 carats. Estimate: $225-$275. Jasper 52 image

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Couture auction June 30 implores ‘put on your party dress’

Jasper52 will conduct a colorful auction of vintage couture on Tuesday, June 30. The sale consists of more than 100 lots of mostly dresses and gowns complemented by a few lots of jewelry and handbags.

Vintage circle dress with tulle and lace on a tan Illusion backing. Estimate: $100-$120. Jasper52 image

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G.I. Joe sired generations of action figures

NEW YORK – The legacy of action figures today owes much to the G.I. Joe figures that Hasbro first released in 1964. These vintage toys had it all, from the original series of 12-inch-tall figures to the now-standard 3¾-inch tall figures Most were articulated and they came with weapons, foot lockers, myriad accessories and vehicles, of course.

Pull GI Joe’s dog tags and hear him talk. In excellent condition with the original box, this 1967 Action Pilot sold for $1,700 + buyer’s premium in 2012. Photo courtesy of Morphy Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

For decades, G.I. Joe has had a firm foothold in pop culture. Besides toys, G.I. Joe figures were also pictured in comic books, games, puzzles and lunch boxes. They also spawned an animated series and several movies (1987 and 2002). Vintage G.I. Joe toys and figures remain highly popular.

Two Hasbro G.I. Joe 12-inch-tall ‘Adventurer’ figures from 1969 made $4,000 + buyer’s premium in August 2019 at Tom Harris Auctions. Photo courtesy of Tom Harris Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

“Vintage is generational. G.I. Joe was the first action figure made for boys. So if you’re in your 50s to 60s, the 1964-1969 12-inch G.I. Joe is what you remember – ‘America’s Movable Fighting Man,’” said Todd Sheffer, production manager at Hake’s Auctions in York, Pa. “That line evolved into the ’70s and when war toys were unpopular because of Vietnam, he became a member of  ‘Adventure Team,’ 1970-1976. Hasbro made accessory sets that were more like exploration or hunting, things not military. There was a brief stint that they did ‘Super Joe’ 1977-1978 and he shrunk to an 8-inch size. These weren’t too popular.”

Action figures need gadgets and vehicles and G.I. Joe has a rich history with all manner of vehicles. “One year after the debut of the 12-inch G.I. Joe, Hasbro presented a ‘5 Star’ Jeep for him to ride in 1965,” according to the Yo Joe website, adding that vehicles have been part of the G.I. Joe line ever since.

An early 1980s G.I. Joe Cobra Missile Command Headquarters set realized $3,872 + buyer’s premium in March 2018 at Hake’s Auctions. Photo courtesy of Hake’s Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

The 3¾-inch figures debuted in 1982 and ran consecutively for 12 years until 1994. “Sized to compete with Star Wars figures but this time backed by a TV cartoon and comic book series by Marvel, this is the G.I. Joe of the 30s to 40s age group generation,” Sheffer said, calling this an extremely diverse collection of elaborate vehicles and tons of different characters. “It would be a monumental undertaking to collect them all. This line was resurrected in different forms from 2000 until 2016.”

Sheffer also noted there was also a foreign line in England licensed under “Palitoy,” called Action Man in the 12-inch size and Action Force for 3¾ inches. The smaller figures had less articulation than their U.S. counterparts.

This painted hard resin cast G.I. Joe prototype ‘Snow Serpent’ nonarticulated figure, 7½ inches tall, 1991, went out at $2,794 + buyer’s premium in March 2018. Photo courtesy of Hake’s Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.

Unlike some other action figures, what set G.I. Joe figures apart (whether the foot high or the small size) is their articulation, making them highly posable. There were four original 12-inch 1964 G.I. Joes: Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine and the 3¾-inch line had about 163 different figures, all with code names, he said.

The bigger the accessory, the more desirable. “The footlocker was a big deal in the ’60s. It was actual wood with a plastic tray to hold loose accessories (guns, grenades, boots) and even a figure could fit in the bottom,” Sheffer said.
Even for the small figures, big accessories tend to bring big money. “The one thing 3¾-inch G.I. Joe had going for it was the vehicles. First is the Defiant Space Shuttle Complex, which is just what it sounds like: a huge scaled Space Shuttle with launching gantry crawler,” Sheffer said. Next is the Cobra Terror Drome — a huge battle fortress playset. “The holy grail for most collectors with a lot of space and a big wallet is the USS Flagg: a 7-foot-long aircraft carrier. “Obviously at a big price point when offered, not too many kids that weren’t Richie Rich got this under the tree. Actually, it wouldn’t fit under a tree,” he said. “This now can bring well over $1,000 loose with graded examples bringing thousands of dollars.” Another large vehicle was the hovercraft called the Killer Whale. “There were about 250 different vehicles in the whole line from palm size to as long as a kid’s bed,” he said.

A 1985 Hasbro G.I. Joe U.S.S. Flagg aircraft carrier, factory sealed, brought $2,500 + buyer’s premium at Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers in March 2016. Photo courtesy of Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers.

Among the myriad characters in the G.I. universe, Snake-Eyes remains the most popular and valuable of the 3¾-inch figures. “He was a Ninja all in black so kids loved that. Next would be Cobra Commander, Scarlett, Duke and all of these were in the first rounds of figures. Larry Hama, the artist for the comic book, was responsible for creating most of the characters that then became toys,” he said.

The original figures were stamped with a date on the butt, indicating what year the figure was made. To deter copying, the company also added other copyright configurations over the years such as a thumbnail on the inside of a thumb or a scar on the cheek.

A rare Hasbro 1967 G.I. Joe Action Marine rifle-rack set (right), circa 1967, made $2,250 + buyer’s premium at Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers in October 2017. Photo courtesy of Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers.

Collectors often seek out carded and boxed items as these usually have the most value but people collect what they can afford or what they like, usually based on nostalgia. Based on when you were born, the 1960s or the 1980 series may be of higher interest, but there is no denying that G.I. Joes have a storied place in toy history.

Kyser & Rex produced mechanical banks fit for a king

NEW YORK – Considering it was only in existence for 20 years – from 1879 to 1899 – the Kyser & Rex Co. left behind a treasure trove of mechanical and still toy banks that collectors clamored for during their years of production and still clamor for today. Kyser & Rex mechanical banks have fetched over $100,000 at auction, but common examples in well-worn condition can be found for $100 or less. As with most collectibles, condition and rarity dictate the price points.

Kaiser & Rex was formed in 1879 in Frankford, Pennsylvania, a neighborhood of Philadelphia, by inventors Louis Kyser and Alfred C. Rex. The company manufactured patented hardware, specialty items and novelties of all kinds, which they made from iron, brass and bronze. These included mechanical banks, still banks and bell-ringer toys. But it was the mechanical banks that really captured the imagination of the buying public in America.

Kyser & Rex roller skating cast-iron mechanical bank. Place a coin in the slot on the roof and press the lever. The skaters glide to the rear of the rink as the coin falls into the bank, and the man turns as if to present a wreath to the little girl. To reset, slide the figures back to their original position. In near-mint condition, it sold within estimate for $107,520 at an auction held Sept. 24, 2019 by Morphy Auctions. Image courtesy of Morphy Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

The company got a boost with the hiring of Randolph Hunter, whose background as a mechanical engineer led to some ingenious toy bank designs, and who also happened to be an attorney, who helped Messrs. Kyser and Rex apply for and secure patents. By the early 1880s, Kyser & Rex had around 125 employees and four branch locations: in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Sales were around $150,000 a year, much of that attributable to mechanical banks.

The line included the Bowling Alley, Uncle Tom, Organ Banks, the Baby Mine Bank (Feeding the Child), Chimpanzee Bank, Confectionery Bank, Motor Bank, Dog Tray and Lion and Monkeys. In 1884 Louis Kyser left the firm and the company became the Alfred C. Rex & Co. (also known as Variety Iron Works). Rex later licensed production of his patented banks (such as Bucking Buffalo, which he invented) to other makers when he shut the business down in 1899.

Only a few examples of the Kyser & Rex bowling alley mechanical bank are known. This one has been masterfully repaired and was repainted a long time ago. It was offered with three sets of bowling pins as well as several pages of literature about the bank. It sold for $20,000 at Bertoia Auctions on May 23, 2019. Image courtesy of Bertoia Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Michael Bertoia of Bertoia Auctions in Vineland, New Jersey, said several factors play into why Kyser & Rex banks are popular with collectors. “The first is rarity, since they were not in business as long as some of their competition. Second, they were beautifully manufactured, very colorful toys with interesting themes and actions. And third, many of their banks have multiple functions with movement and deposits, as well as bell chimes or mechanically motorized parts.”

Bertoia pointed out that a common trend has applied to all bank collecting for years, to include Kyser & Rex examples – that “condition is king.” He said, “It is a double whammy when you have a rare Kyser & Rex bank in great, all original condition. Authenticity is important as well in driving demand. While it is acceptable to have a repair or a replacement piece on your 125-year-old bank, it is always preferable to have an all original piece, even in a lower condition grade.”

Cast-iron mammy and child mechanical bank made by Kyser & Rex, circa 1880s. Place a coin in the slot of the woman’s apron. When the lever is pressed, she will spoon-feed the child, nod her head and the baby’s feet will lift up, while the coin drops into the bank. The bank has been professionally restored and has a replaced spoon. Estimated at $800-$1,200, it sold for $2,432 at an auction held March 3, 2019 by Cyber Toy Auctions. Image courtesy of Cyber Toy Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

In his 1947 booklet on mechanical toy banks, the collector/dealer Louis H. Herz wrote, “The mechanical toy bank is a peculiarly American phenomenon. Indeed, not until the United States had developed was there a nation where enough children had coins for banks to warrant their commercial production. The still, or inanimate, toy bank, was made in a wide variety of forms and materials, including glass, porcelain, pottery, tin and wood, beginning around the 1840s.”

But still banks soon had a more elaborate competitor in the mechanical banks, in which action was necessary to deposit the coin, or, the insertion of the coin precipitated or was accompanied by some movement, often of an amusing nature. Such banks, in regard both to their creation and their manufacture, were a natural development of American life, and were made possible by the skill and ingenuity of American craftsmen.

Kyser & Rex mechanical organ bank, patented 1882, cast iron, bell rings, all characters work, excellent condition with original paint. Sold for $1,800 at an auction held Nov. 5, 2016 by Rich Penn Auctions. Image courtesy of Rich Penn Auctions and LiveAuctioneeers

The first mechanical banks appeared soon after the close of the Civil War. The manufacture of these banks on a mass-production basis, and at low cost, was made possible by advances in the industrial revolution. Many of these American banks were destined to be copied later in Europe, especially in England. Mechanical banks, however, were not toys for Continental Europe. The German toy industry was unable to compete with the American makers in this category of toy.

Very scarce coin registering mechanical bank made by Kyser & Rex, circa 1890, in excellent condition, est. $9,000-$12,000, sold for $10,370 at an auction held June 2, 2007 by RSL Auction Co. Image courtesy of RSL Auction Co. and LiveAuctioneers.

The types of mechanical banks manufactured seemed almost endless in their variety of designs. There were boys who swallowed the coin and rolled their eyes, William Tell shooting the famous apple off his son’s head with a coin, a horserace started by inserting a penny, and hundreds of other varieties. The mechanical bank was actually a dual-purpose toy – as an object designed to provoke an interest in savings, and a toy to play with. Children enthusiastically indulged in both.

“The mechanical banks are, of course, simply toys, and it is only when they are considered as toys that a proper valuation of their place in the general scene can be had,” Hertz wrote. “They were not a special class of merchandise; neither were they produced or sold as objects of art, a position to which some have tried to elevate them, by way of compensation for the fact that they are actually of much later origin than had originally been thought.”

Late 19th century Kyser & Rex cast-iron mechanical bank, marked with the title ‘Presto Bank’ on front, ‘PAT APD’ on the back and ‘485’ on the underside. Press the lever to pop out a tray; place a coin on the tray and push it back into the bank. Estimated at $100-$200, this 4½-inch-high bank sold for $123 on July 20, 2018 at Cowan’s Auctions. Image courtesy of Cowan’s Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.

However, he added, “The actual production of the banks, the molding, finishing, assembling, painting and other operations, was manifestly a craft, and the original creation of the bank design or mechanism was quite definitely a form of art, of all the more importance and interest because it was the active, creative kind of real American minor commercial art which was transmitted into manufactured products for the use or amusement of the millions.”

Jasper52 online auction June 19 features ancient treasures

Antiquities and ancient art from the Mediterranean, namely Egypt, the Near East and Europe, comprise a Jasper52 online auction that will be conducted on Friday, June 19, at noon Eastern time. The selections consist of sculptures, amulets, figures, idols and jewelry reflecting the art and cultures of the ancient world.

Bamiyan glazed terra-cotta bowl, circa 12th century A.D., 5 1/8in diameter. Estimate: $1100-$1,500. Jasper52 image

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Lives of saints illustrated in online auction June 16

Arising from Eastern Orthodoxy are icons that carry rich histories and intricate religious symbolism. Depicting gospel scenes and the lives of saints, these ornate paintings remain faithful to the stories of Christ, the Virgin Mary and countless more. Jasper52 will conduct an online auction of nearly 200 painted icons as well as dozens of crucifixes and other Christian figures on Tuesday, June 16.

Greek icon depicting Saints Simon, Guriy and Aviv. The three were burned alive in the fourth century for spreading the gospel, 13.6in x 11.2in. Estimate: $700-$800. Jasper52 image

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Mapmaking turned globular in 15th century

NEW YORK – “Globes have something mystical about them,” enthuses Vienna’s Globe Museum website, “… echoes of long-gone days when ‘here be dragons’ was a plausible entry on maps. Most of us spent at least some time as a child poking at a globe with a finger and discovering just how little geography we know.”

Globes are spherical orbs overlain with terrestrial (earthly) or celestial (heavenly) maps. Though their images are downscaled, they depict vast areas accurately, without distortion. All feature a set of lines: longitude and latitude, the equator, the path of the sun, circles of the Tropics, and the Antarctic and Arctic Circles.

Terrestrial globe, Willem Jansz Blaeu, Amsterdam, 1602. Height (in stand) 21in x 13in diameter. Realized $80,000 + buyer’s premium in 2015. Image courtesy of Arader Galleries
and LiveAuctioneers

Traditionally, globes are formed by positioning two half-hemisphere, papier mâché shells on their axis, then securing them at holes at their poles, and uniting them. Next, gores, strips of segmented maps narrowing to points, are glued in place. Though strides in printing eventually allowed quicker, cheaper production, this manufacturing method has barely changed through the years.

Original hand-colored lithographed gores for 10.2in globe, japan tissue. L.C. Hasselgren, Stockholm, 1864. Realized £60 + buyer’s premium in 2014. Image courtesy of Bloomsbury Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Because the ancients saw the sun rise and set at the horizon, many believed that the earth is flat. Controversy arose in the fifth century B.C., when Greek philosopher Pythagoras introduced the concept of a spherical earth. The following century, Aristotle, through observation, confirmed this. Yet according to scholars, the earliest known terrestrial globe, depicting the inhabited world and three imagined continents bound by belts of water, appeared hundreds of years later.

Though terrestrial globes apparently existed in ancient Rome and the Islamic world, the oldest surviving one, named Erdapfel (earth-apple in German), dates from 1492. Since Christopher Columbus had not YET completed his first expedition, it does not depict the Americas.

Joslin terrestrial/lunar globes on a cast-iron base with revolving mechanism, 6in diameter. Realized $3,750 + buyer’s premium in 2013. Image courtesy of Grogan & Co. and LiveAuctioneers

As man’s knowledge of the world grew, demand for updated, accurately mapped globes rose. Between 1597 through the early 1600s, the golden age of Dutch mapmaking, cartographers like Van Langren and Hondius competed for the lucrative market. Some, to speed production, copied competitors’ hand-painted or printed maps, simply altering landforms or adding geographical names. Others, like leading globemaker Willem Jansz Blaeu, crafted completely new creations featuring fine, copper-engraved scripts, ornate cartouches and curiously charming images of nomads, sailing ships, sea monsters and cannibals.

Terrestrial globe displaying discoveries of Capt. James Cook, with rococo cartouches, zodiac illustrations on braced horizon band. C.F. Delamarche, 1801. 8.4in diameter on a wooden stand. Image courtesy of Altea Gallery

London globemakers Senex, Adams and Ferguson pioneered globe production through the 1700s, as British trade and travel increased. Cary, Philip , Johnston, C. Smith & Sons, and others followed, marketing not only to educational bodies, but also to Britain’s expanding merchant class.

Through the 1840s, when British societies funded expeditions and fostered natural research, pocket globes, prestigious orbs housed in sleek, fish-skin cases or luxurious, lidded boxes, delighted the country’s upper classes. Though barely 3 inches in diameter, most marked major mountain ranges, rivers, islands, as well as ocean trade winds. Moreover, their interiors sometime featured concave world maps, historical timelines or celestial charts. Since geographic study was a popular Victorian pastime, these tiny globes also graced many a family parlor.

Rare W. & A.K. Johnston 1879 celestial globe, Edinburgh & London, 18in on a cast-iron base, overall 45in x 24in. Realized $3,400 + buyer’s premium in 2015. Image courtesy of North American Auction Co. and LiveAuctioneers

In time, fine globes were produced not only across Europe, but also in America. Early

manufacturers, including Wilson, Joslin, Copley, Franklin and Schedler, were based along the Eastern Seaboard. Though most created standard size globes for home and instructional use, Charles Holbrook created affordable 3- and 5-inch “hemisphere” orbs as hands-on, rudimentary tools for schoolchildren. (Despite their solid wood cores, surviving ones are often worn beyond repair.)

George III pocket globe, John Miller, 1793, terrestrial globe with a hand-colored celestial map applied to the interior of its leather case. Realized $7,500 + buyer’s premium in 2010. Image courtesy of DuMouchelles and LiveAuctioneers

In the early 1860s, A.H. Andrews, a Holbrook employee, set up his own globemaking company in Chicago. Since then, Chicago, home to Weber Costello, Rand McNally, Chicago Globe Makers and other companies, has become the leading center for commercial cartographic publishing and globe production in America.

Many collectors seek vintage terrestrial globes issued in limited numbers. Yet size and condition also affect their value. Those depicting a geographical discovery for the first time – or near its date of discovery, for example, are particularly desirable. So are globes featuring vivid, hand-colored, original maps bearing extensive, crisp detail, symbols and ornamentation – especially those by noted cartographers. A beautiful, original mount may also increase a vintage globe’s worth considerably.

Illuminated brass, glass and paper globe, 17in x 9½in, Paul Dupre-Lafon, circa 1927. Realized $17,000 + buyer’s premium in 2011. Image courtesy of Phillips and LiveAuctioneers

European globes were traditionally mounted on mahogany, walnut, cherry or rosewood bases following popular furniture styles and fashions. American globes were often mounted on turned wood, brass or cast-iron bases. Larger models, displayed in libraries or studies, sat securely atop pedestal floor mounts. Smaller ones, designed for table or desk use, were cradled within low footed bases. Most featured supportive horizontal bands representing the celestial horizon, as well as vertical meridian bands, indicating longitude.

Globes, to some, may all appear alike. Yet to enthusiasts, each, reflecting history, science and art at its time of creation, is a world unto itself.

Jasper52 sale June 10 reveals many faces of tribal art

A tribal auction that features rare masks and figures from tribes across Africa will be conducted by Jasper52 on Wednesday, June 10. This collection of 122 hand-picked artifacts exhibit significant use in tribal ceremonies and rituals.

Songye neckrest, Democratic Republic Congo, wood, 7¼in x 7¾in x 2½in. Estimate: $2,000-$2,500. Jasper52 image

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Luxury watch auction June 9 in time for Father’s Day

A choice selection of more than three dozen men’s luxury watches are presented in a Jasper52 online auction that will be conducted on Tuesday, June 9. Bidders will discover fine watches by world-class manufacturers such as Omega, Rolex, Movado, Longines and Vacheron Constantin. Estimates range from $250 to $10,000.

Omega, Museum Collection 1951 Cosmic, triple date, 2000-2010, automatic movement, 18K rose gold generic leather strap with orginal Omega buckle. Estimate: $8,000-$10,000. Jasper52 image

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Ormolu: ornamental castings bathed in gold

NEW YORK – From time immemorial, mankind has been mesmerized by the glint of glimmering gold. Ancient Egyptians overlaid royal mummy cases and furniture with thin gold leaf; Chinese artisans adorned pottery, wood, textiles and decorative figurines with gilt designs. Greeks gilded marble statues and architectural elements, while Romans gilded temple and palace walls with this rare, highly malleable metal.

During the Renaissance, Italian craftsmen gilded sword blades and hilts, while masters, like Ghiberti (1378-1455) and Donatello (circa 1386-1466), created magnificent, religious-themed, gilt works of art. Ornamental gilt furnishings, however, became fashionable among French royalty and well-to-do centuries later. Their description – gilt-bronze or ormolu (literally “ground-gold”) – reflects their ancient method of production, fire-gilding.

E. Kahn Louis XVI-style desk with ormolu mounts, clock signed ‘Le Roy Paris;’ some mounts marked, circa 1900, 40in high x 40½in wide x 24½in diameter. Realized $55,000 + buyer’s premium in 2012. Image courtesy of Dallas Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers

After metal decorative items were designed, molded and cast, they were tooled in a variety of textured surfaces. This ensured that finished products would feature lively interplays of light.

In gilding, the final step, craftsmen coated these with an amalgam of ground-gold and mercury. As they were heated over open fires, the mercury vaporized, leaving a thin, dull, pure gold film behind. Subsequent waxing, refiring and burnishing to brightness created pieces that rivaled the richness of solid gold. Yet they were more durable, less costly, and considerably lighter in weight.

Fine, rare George III-style paste-mount ormolu automaton music clock, made for the Chinese market, 32 x 16 x 15in, dial 4½in. Realized $270,000 + buyer’s premium in 2016. Image courtesy of A.B. Levy’s Palm Beach and LiveAuctioneers

Like the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, however, fire-gilders suffered from exposure to the vaporized mercury. Stricken with “gilder’s palsy,” manifested by tremors, jerky gaits, stammering and “mercury madness,” few lived past the age of 40. Although France banned mercury-based artistic techniques in the 1830s, ormolu production continued. In fact, luxurious French ormolu remained the foundation of European decorative art through the early 20th century.

Napoleon III ormolo-mounted marble mantel clock, signed Raingo Freres/Paris, circa 1870, overall dimensions 26 1/8 x 22 7/8 x 8 5/8in. Realized $16,500 + buyer’s premium in 2020. Image courtesy of Shapiro Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Designers closely followed evolving styles of French interior design. During the flamboyant reign of King Louis XIV (1643-1715), master cabinetmakers, fashioning exquisite furniture, for wealthy clientele, replaced functional bronze elements, protecting corners, cabinet keyholes and table feet, with ornamental ormolu-mounts. Since affluent clientele sought to flaunt their wealth, these soon became integral parts of furniture design itself.

Massive, magnificent Imperial Napoleonic Russian ormolu Damascus blade sword, signed, dated, 41in overall, 33in blade. Realized $25,000 + buyer’s premium in 2019. Image courtesy Dan Morphy Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Through the reign of Louis XV (1715-1774), fine furniture ormolu-mounts and fittings, shaped like shells, vines, flowers or leaves, were decorative in their own right. They not only enhanced the general appearance of luxury writing-tables, marquetry-cabinets and bureaus. By accenting borders and edges, they also emphasized their stylish scrolling and serpentine shapes. Craftsmen also created lavish ormolu-mount pieces, like vases, sculptural clocks, wall sconces and firedogs (decorative andirons). Craftsmen, “gilding the lily,” also enhanced extravagant Sevres porcelain with ormolu-mounts.

Pair of monumental gilt bronze mount Sevres urns, ormolu mount base, overall 36½in high. Realized $40,000 + buyer’s premium in 2018. Image courtesy of Clars Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers

In the reign of Louis XVI (1774-1792), decorative ormolu-mounts embellished a wide range of pieces, including cabinet-on-stands, commodes and credenzas. Ormolu-mounts also transformed functional candlesticks, candelabras and chandeliers into fonts of shimmery, lustrous light. Richly ornamented, ormolu-mount clocks were coveted eye-catchers as well. These were so impressive that, to this day, “Louis XVI-style” creations remain the height of elegance.

Toward 1800, fine ormolu-mounts, resembling garlands, tied ribbons, drapery and classical figures, not only embellished worktables, salon-chairs and consoles. They also adorned smaller pieces like vases, jewelry boxes, inkstands, urns and crystal centerpieces. Similarly, architectural mantel clocks gleamed with ormolu-mount sculptures of Cupids, Greek warriors and winged goddesses. Toward mid-century, remarkable ormolu-mount mantel clocks even depicted highly ornate, spired façades of French Gothic cathedrals.

Rare 19th century French bronze clock, Cathedral de Reims, upon ormolu mount step base, 26 x 15½ x 15½in, overall 30 x 18 x 18in. Realized $6,000 + buyer’s premium in 2007. Image courtesy of Kaminski Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Because these creations have little melt-down value, many have survived. Since certain models appeared repeatedly, mounts were fraudulently cast, and regilded older pieces appear as new, however, dating them may prove problematic. Though few are signed, some may be identified by their quality, contemporary descriptions or study of existing models. French ormolu clocks, on the other hand, sometimes bear names of their gilders, casemakers, dial makers and enamelers.