Carousels: Carved animals in motion

NEW YORK – Who, as a child, hasn’t whirled merrily like a top? Or spun a playground merry-go-round and hopped onto it for a thrilling ride? Carousels, which feature creatively-shaped mounts on rotating circular platforms, are the ultimate spinning amusement for fun-seekers of all ages.

Surprisingly, they originated in medieval times, when mounted knights, to hone their skills, tossed balls to one another while galloping in circles. Indeed, the word carousel originates from Italian and Spanish terms for “little battle.”

By Elizabethan times, circling jousters speared small, suspended rings. Within a century, similar ring-tilt carousels sprang up at fairgrounds across Europe. Wooden horses, suspended from central canopies, replaced riders. These popular amusements, powered by ponies or rope-pulling youngsters, however, had no platforms. So as they gained speed, the horses pushed outward centrifugally, flying free.

Their wooden stick-legs, heads and bodies, adorned with rabbit-skin manes and tails, were crude, wrote George Sanger in Seventy Years a Showman. But bright-white and “plentifully dotted with red and blue spots,” they thrilled the crowds.

Rare, county fair-style carousel frog, park paint, 40 x 42 inces, American, circa 1914, Herschell Spillman. Realized $6,500 + buyer’s premium in 2010. Image courtesy of Guernsey’s and LiveAuctioneers

By the mid-19th century, newer models, featuring carved riding horses fixed to round platforms suspended from central poles, replaced flying-horses. Like earlier ones, however, these were pulled by man or beast.

When the first steam-driven carousel appeared a decade later, its impact was profound. A Halifax Courier journalist described its … “huge proportions, driven by a steam engine which whirled around with such impetuosity, that the wonder is the daring riders are not shot off like cannon- ball, and driven half into the middle of next month.”

Soon afterwards, Frederick Savage, an enterprising British engineer, incorporated farm machinery into fairground rides — including carousels. According to Victorian fairground manufacturer Frederick Savage, The Platform Galloper, his best-loved carousel, “imparted a vigorous rocking motion to the mounted horses via a series of eccentrics under the platform.” Later models featured platform slides — which swang poled-mounts concentrically as carousels gained speed — as well as gears and off-set cranks, which created up-and-down “galloping.”

Eventually, Savage carousels were also enhanced by “vivid scenic painting, exuberant scrollwork, carved Baroque dream images, plush upholstery, engraved mirrors, barley-sugar brasswork, gaudy hues and gilt. The emphasis was on unashamed opulence.” As traditional British trading fairs gave way to public performances and amusements, Savage carousels thrilled crowds far and wide. They were also exported around the world.

French carousel carvers, including Gustav Bayol and Limonaire Frères, fashioned charming figures, like prancing donkeys, long-eared pigs, cockerels, and cows with brass horns. German carvers usually created gentle-faced, prancing horses, while others fashioned whimsical pull, wind-up, or wind-driven toy carousels.

Philadelphia-style, outer row stander carousel horse, provenance Great Escape Fun Park, Lake George, New York, 58 x 62 inches, Gustav Dentzel. Realized $10,000 + buyer’s premium in 2010. Image courtesy of Guernsey’s and LiveAuctioneers

Gustav Dentzel, a German immigrant, introduced carousels to America in the mid-1800s. Most of his large, decorative, Philadelphia-style machines featured elegant, realistically carved horses, along with menageries of rabbits, roosters, bears, and other beasts. Carvers, including E. Joy Morris, D. C. Muller & Bro., and the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, created similar creatures.

Glamorous Coney Island-style carousels, fitted with bright lights and glittering mirrors, also featured flamboyant horses adorned with multifaceted jewels and gilded trappings. Lavish Looff, Carmel, and Stein & Goldstein equine creations are especially appealing.

Prolific North Tonawanda, New York carvers, like C.W. Parker, Charles Dare, and Herschell Spillman, created small, easily transportable county fair -style carousel animals for the seasonal Midwest county fair circuit. Their elegant though substantial pieces generally inhabited permanent amusement park carousels.

Whatever their style, American carousels usually featured three rows of mounted animals. Visible, outer rows usually boasted grand, colorful stationary horses with lavish, finely carved manes, gilded trappings, and decorative images on their flanks. Inner rows, in addition to accommodating ornately carved chariots and smaller animal mounts, featured “ galloping” poled horses in prancing (front legs up) or jumping (all legs up) positions.

Until the Great Depression, thousands of American fairs, towns, cities, and amusement parks hosted carousels. Afterward, many were closed, destroyed, or abandoned. While some reopened as the economy improved, they were overshadowed by more thrilling rides and were no longer main attractions. Today, some 400 are believed to exist.

Fiberglass reined elephant featuring iron hand/foot rests, 48 x 26 x 45 inches. Realized $700 + buyer’s premium in 2019. Image courtesy of Dan Morphy Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Due to extensive use and exposure to the elements, most carousel mounts were repaired and repainted every few years. Since those in original or near-original condition are very rare, those that have been restored — stripped to their natural wood, repainted with original colors, or featuring brighter “park paint” hues — are the ones most likely to reach the collector marketplace.

For those who dream of owning an entire carousel, the price is steep. In 2012, RM Sotheby’s auctioned a huge, extraordinarily ornate, custom-built example featuring a menagerie of 42 historically accurate, hand-carved animals and two chariots, along with a Wurlitzer 153 Band Organ and 10 music rolls. It realized over one million dollars.

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Victorian-era tiara stars in Jasper52 jewelry sale Dec. 29

A 150-year-old gold Persian tiara, sparkling with 8.5 carats of diamonds and rubies, is one of the fantastic pieces in a Jasper52 online auction of Exclusive Estate and Designer Jewelry that will be conducted on Tuesday, Dec. 29.

Yellow gold diamond and rubies Persian tiara, 79.5 grams, circa 1870. Estimate: $17,000-$20,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Curtis Jeré skiers go for the gold in online auction Dec. 29

Jasper52 will conduct an Exquisite Decorative Arts online auction on Tuesday, Dec. 29. The auction consists of well over 400 lots of decorative arts to enhance any interior, from art glass to bronze sculptures.

Mid-century Curtis Jeré ski sculptures, bronze on onyx bases, 6 x 7 x 6in. Estimate: $700-$800. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

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Hark! The herald Christmas angels

NEW YORK – “Fear not” are usually the first words of an angel, described as a messenger with direct access to God and Heaven. It’s one of the reasons why they are so omnipresent during the winter holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah and other religious observances.

Originally from the Late Greek ángelos, angels may even have an earlier possibly Persian reference that is documented before the Christian era. In most religions, an angel is interpreted in art as having a human-like form complete with wings of feathers and, sometimes, a halo. While they are described as being a guide or messenger from God, it’s also suggested that an angel is a metaphor for the struggle of morality and spirituality of the conscience.

Over time, the angel has played a direct role in a religious context, mostly to tell stories of the season, particularly Christmas. The Archangel Gabriel, for example, is the one who informs Mary that she is to become the mother of the Son of God and to name him Jesus, meaning Yahweh or salvation in the Annunciation, a full nine months before his birth. It was an angel that appeared in the dreams of Joseph to spirit the baby Jesus away from King Herod’s murderous search for him.

One of the early commercially available holiday angels beginning in the late 19th century was this lovely embossed, hand-gilded tree topper made in the German state of Thuringia from 1880 to 1914 and are the most coveted of early tree toppers and ornaments. This almost perfectly preserved Dresden angel sold for $650 + the buyer’s premium in 2014. Image courtesy Bertoia Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

As a Christmas Tree Topper

So it’s no surprise that an angel figures greatly during the Christmas season. Except for the figure of Santa Claus or St. Nicholas, an angel is the most collected of all Christmas ornaments.

Its popularity began in a castle. An indoor lighted and decorated Christmas tree was featured in the Illustrated London News in 1848 at the royal residence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of England. Both born of German heritage, it wasn’t unusual for them to feature an indoor evergreen during the Christmas season. It’s been done since at least the early 16th century.

What was particularly inspiring for the newspaper reader, though, was that the top of the tree featured an angel evoking the Archangel Gabriel and the Annunciation. Today an angel, along with the star of Bethlehem, continues to be the most popular Christmas tree toppers.

As a Christmas Tree Ornament

With an indoor evergreen tree more common by the late 19th century in America, early decoration consisted mainly of handmade colored paper, fruit and candles. More fanciful hand-blown glass ornaments from the German state of Thuringia were imported by the 1870s beginning the introduction of more commercial varieties that families added to each year.

From 1880 to about 1914, highly detailed fitted paper ornaments handmade in Dresden, Germany were being imported into Great Britain. Because these Dresdens, as they’re known by collectors, were not expected to survive from year to year, they are considered some of the most collectible ornaments today.

An unusual example of a wax covered angel that was popular in the late 19th century that features inset glass eyes, colorful fabric and doll’s hair. Containing a music box that plays two tunes, it sold for about $928 + the buyer’s premium in 2018. Image courtesy Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GBMH and LiveAuctioneers

Guarding the Christmas Creche

At the birth of Jesus, celebrated on Dec. 25, angels appeared to shepherds to announce that, “Today your Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in [Bethlehem where you] will find an infant wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger,” according to the Bible’s Book of Luke, chapter 2.

The stories of the season tell of the Roman need for a census of its citizens and so Joseph and Mary traveled back to Nazareth for the final count. However, because so many were traveling, space for the birth was found only in a sheep stable where a manger was the only bed available. Even in this humble place, angels appeared to herald the coming of Jesus and to direct others like the Three Kings with light and celebration.

To help tell the story, nativity scenes are set up in a prominent place in homes, complete with angels that guard the manger or creche (French for crib). Look for figures of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, animals and Three Wise Men to complete a set. Most were made from painted ceramic from Germany in the late 19th century, but chalkware from Fonanini in Italy and detailed papier-mache ones from the 1940s to 1950s are also collectible in very good condition, but usually available for under $100. Ceramic or crystal angels from Mikasa and Lenox continue to remain popular with collectors and usually available at auction for under $30.

Painted chalkware was most commonly used for the seasonal creche and usually included an angel that was sometimes identified as the Archangel Gabriel similar to this mid-20th century version recently auctioned for only $5 + the buyer’s premium. While popular, chalkware chipped easily and the colors often faded. An example in very good condition is difficult to find at auction.
Image courtesy Vidi Vici Gallery and LiveAuctioneers

And Throughout the Season

By the early 20th century, America was importing ceramic angel figurines by the Japanese company Yona. They became one of the most collectible of the 1940s and 1950s because of the detailed hand-painted facial expressions and that they were incorporated into candle holders, wall hangings and table decoration. Each angel easily matched the holiday spirit and are routinely available for under $30.

Other more realistic angels were made of spun glass, delicate fabrics, and even wax figures were also very popular, but difficult to find excellent condition. By the 1950s, though, the molded, plastic angel became the more commercially successful version.

Three German spun cotton Christmas ornaments including two angels, late 19th or early 20th century, all with some paper elements and printed applied face, about 4½in high. Sold for $425 + the buyer’s premium in December 2019. Image courtesy Locati LLC and LiveAuctioneers.

What Collectors Look For

According to, an online Christmas-themed website, “… angels have been crafted using a variety of techniques including hand-carved from wood, poured wax … papier-mache, clay, pressed cardboard, paper, fabric, bisque, porcelain, glass … tin, lead and almost any other readily available material.

“Interestingly,” they continue,” angels made from celluloid are virtually unknown.” So the variety of angel collectibles is rather large and varied with most available only from the early 19th century. recommends Italian papier mache angels from Fontanini beginning in 1908 until production switched to plastic by the 1960s. Early ceramic Hummel figurines from the World War II era still command auction interest rather than the later more commercial production period. Just note that each Hummel figurine with a copyright date embossed at the bottom only suggests when it was introduced, not when it was manufactured.

These German-made glass angel ornaments are an example of the fine hand-painted detail collectors of early 20th century ornaments look for at auction. They sold for about $920 + the buyer’s premium in 2016. Image courtesy Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GBMH and LiveAuctioneers

Any Victorian-era angel (1840s to the early 1900s) will always have an enormous collector interest from the because production was more limited. The brighter the colors and the more intact, the higher the auction value is overall.

Without exception, the colorfully embossed, hand-painted Dresden angels are the most sought after with auction values easily beginning at several hundred dollars for good to very good examples. Products of a cottage industry and made of cardboard, they weren’t especially intended to last generations, so they are also difficult to find in exceptional condition.

As a Guardian

The presence of an angel during the Christmas season does seem to trumpet joy and celebration. Still, whether angels were messengers or guides from God in human form or are only metaphorical manifestations of our collective conscience, perhaps in the end, angels are just ordinary people that are intended as guardian angels for each other, not just for a holiday season, but all year-round.

Fantastic team-ups mark comic book auction Dec. 20

Superheroes team up in a no-reserve comic book auction that Jasper52 will conduct on Sunday, Dec. 20. Nearly 300 lots of vintage comic books will sell to the highest bidder, no matter the price. The first pairing featured in the auction comes in Green Lantern #76 co-starring Green Arrow, a fellow DC character, in a groundbreaking series dealing with various social and political issues in America.

‘Green Lantern #76,’ co-starring Green Arrow, VG+. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Jasper52 presents Swiss-made Natkina jewelry Dec. 21

Swiss jewelry brand Natkina is presenting its fine jewelry of previous and current collections in a Jasper52 online auction on Monday, Dec. 21. Nearly 600 lots of Natkina contemporary designs are described and pictured in the Jasper52 auction catalog.

Tsavorite, diamond and 18K yellow gold dangle earrings. Estimate: $18,000-$22,000. Jasper52 image

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Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Navajo expressed artistry with silver adornments

NEW YORK – The Navajo, who traditionally seek balance and beauty throughout their lives, adore ornamentation, especially silver. So families accumulate all they can afford. Besides, explains Charley B., raised on the “Big Rez” reservation near Chinle, Arizona, “Silver jewelry is given as gifts from birth, then all through life.”

Charley’s grandfather, a medicine man, wore all his silver – rings, bolos, concho belts, bracelets, ear pendants, moccasin buttons, hatbands, and bow guards – when performing healing ceremonies. His grandmother, a Navajo “star-gazer” and “hand-trembler” diagnostician, wore all her splendor, plus apparel bearing weighty Mercury-dime and Walking-Liberty-dollar buttons. All that radiance, though unrelated to religion, inspired respect and trust.

Silver concho belt, commercial leather and sinew with metal buckle, 43in, circa 1890. Sold for $7,000 + buyer’s premium in 2018. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Yet Navajo silverwork is a relatively new art.

Decorative silver reached the New World in the 16th century, along with Spanish conquerors who decorated their horses with dazzling, silver-mounted bridles. Like the Moors, who had long ruled Spain, they believed that its shimmer averted the Evil Eye.

Hispanic blacksmiths, impressed by these trappings, eventually created similar bridles, trading some for Navajo cattle. In the 1850s, Atsidi Sani, a venturesome Navajo blacksmith, tried his hand at silverwork, using crude tools forged from scrap metal.

Leather bow guard adorned with silver buttons, 79 grams, 6in circumference, 2½in high, first quarter 20th century. Sold for $1,800 + buyer’s premium in 2020. Image courtesy of John Moran Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers

While bands of his tribe were forcibly held at Fort Sumner in New Mexico Territory, he taught them his new-found techniques. By the time they returned to their homeland a decade later, scores had mastered the skill.

Initially, Navajo silversmiths melted American silver coins into ingots over charcoal fires. Then, by pounding them flat, they fashioned bridle bits, belt buckles, and bow guards for themselves, their families, and their community. Many of these early pieces featured simple, stamped geometric ornamentation, accented with filed or chiseled grooves and gashes. Others featured punched, scalloped borders.

Navajo silver bracelet featuring gem quality turquoise, stamped ‘RS,’ 105 grams, 1⁵⁄₈ x
5⁵⁄₈in, circa 1970. Sold for CA$450 (US$452.36) + buyer’s premium in 2012. Image courtesy of
Seahawk Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

By the 1880s, Navajo silversmith also crafted heavy ingot bracelets and earrings, embellishing some with choice blue or green bits of turquoise. Within a decade, many featured this “sky stone,” believed to offer physical and spiritual protection, more extensively. Yet it rarely overpowered the silver in their designs.

Once Navajo silversmiths mastered more advanced techniques like pounding silver into dies and soldering, they constructed more intricate creations. Silver conchos, possibly inspired by Spanish buckles, for instance, feature large shell-like, repoussé domes threaded through leather belts. Squash blossom necklaces, featuring flower-like beads resembling Spanish bridle floral motifs, are pairs of domed, soldered coins. Bridle-inspired najas, horseshoe-shaped, good-luck pendants often adorning these necklaces, were painstakingly sand-cast.

Squash blossom necklace featuring central, sand-cast, turquoise-tipped 3¼ x 2¼in naja suspended from dual strands of separated beads, each featuring bead and naja, on a 24in foxtail chain. Sold for $5,750 + buyer’s premium in 2017. Image courtesy Soulis Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Anglo-American trading posts, established across the Navaho Nation in the 1890s, eased contact with the outer world. Since then, the relationship between trader and Navajo has been mutually beneficial. Traders provide Navajos with needed food, clothing, tools and art supplies. (When the U.S. government forbid defacing American currency, for example, traders supplied silversmiths with pure, soft Mexican pesos instead.) Navajo artists, in turn, sold completed creations to traders, who brought them to market.

From the 1920s, Navajo smiths, now including women, created lighter, smaller, more portable designs for the growing tourist trade. Others, in urban, Anglo-owned workshops, mass-produced similar pieces from prerolled silver sheets and precut components. Yet at the same time, innovative Navajo craftsmen, like Kenneth Begay and Mark Chee, were creating superb pieces for tribal use and retail. Sales fell, however, during the Great Depression.

Navajo silver hatband featuring groups of pear-shaped, bezel-set turquoise divided by raised crescent embellishment, marked ‘IH Sterling,’ 72 grams. Sold for $375 + buyer’s premium in 2020. Image courtesy Hill Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers

Navajo silver regained popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, as interest in Native American culture rose. Since production did not meet demands, however, prices soared. Yet toward the turn of the century, traditional Navajo silver pieces, along with fashionable watchbands, combs, barrettes, brooches, and earrings were readily available. Since then, master Navaho silversmiths, including Lee Yazzie and Ben Begaye, have combined traditional skills and innate creativity with sophisticated style.

Serious collectors, though, may seek Navajo “old pawn,” silver jewelry that, from the early 1900s, trading posts accepted as collateral on loans for necessities. Even today, women may swap sand-cast or turquoise-studded bracelets for bolts of cloth, redeeming them after their sheep are shorn. Farmers may swap prized concho belts for seeds, redeeming them at harvest home. Others routinely keep all their silver in pawn, “borrowing” it briefly for communal dances and ceremonies. “Stuff changes hands whenever there is a need,” Charley explains. “ Families in the midst of a dispute, for instance, might redeem their entire fortune, then don it to demonstrate strength and independence.”

Silver bracelet featuring turquoise set on stamped motifs resembling feathers, 5.5 x 1.2in, first quarter 20th century. Sold for $3,750 + buyer’s premium in 2010. Image courtesy of Cowan’s Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

If old pawn silver is not redeemed within the contracted period of time, however, it becomes “dead pawn,” which traders are authorized to sell at will. These historical pieces, which rarely reach the market, are prized not only for primitive style and silver content, but also for their authenticity – unevenly wrought wire, worn edges, crackled silver and crazed, natural turquoise. Some even boast original pawn tickets.

These treasures, created by Navajos for Navajos, reflect not only tribal art and culture, but also a notable time in Native American history.

Online auction Dec. 17 presents melting pot of Americana

Like America itself, Americana is a melting pot of objects that not only originated in the United States, but also found thier way here from other lands. Many of the antiques offered in a Jasper52 Americana and Folk Art Auction on Thursday, Dec. 17, have such varied disparate pedigrees.

Grenfell Mission, Canada, hooked mat, 18½ x 14¼in, 1930s. Estimate: $600-$900. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Bronze figures at the fore of Jasper52 auction Dec. 16

Jasper52 will conduct an Exquisite Decorative Arts online auction on Wednesday, Dec. 16. The auction consists of well over 700 lots of decorative arts to enhance any interior, from art glass to bronze sculptures.

France figural gilded-bronze mantel clock, 19th century. Estimate $47,250-$67,500

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Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

The enlightening story of the menorah

NEW YORK – Hanukkah, known as the Festival of Lights, falls during the darkest days of the year. It commemorates the rededication of Jerusalem’s Holy Temple following second century B.C. Greek defilement. Though a bit of consecrated olive oil, enough for one day, was found to rekindle the Temple’s candelabra, it burned for eight days and nights – long enough to prepare more.

Ever since, Jews have celebrated this eight-day miracle by kindling special lights commonly known as Hanukkah menorahs or lamps. Their form is fixed – eight lights at uniform height, along with a separate “servant” light, used to kindle them. One light is lit on the first night of Hanukkah, followed by another on each subsequent night. By holiday’s end, all eight are aglow.

Rare, important, Neo-classic style Hanukkah lamp of hand-chased silver with the original servant light, 7in high, Wurzburg, Franco-Germany, 1800. Realized $17,500 + buyer’s premium in 2018. Image courtesy of J. Greenstein & Co. Inc. and LiveAuctioneers

Though candelabras appear on Jewish coins dating from 40 B.C., people likely kindled eight individual oil-filled clay lamps or single ones featuring eight small oil-fonts. During the Diaspora (70-1948 A.D.) when Jews scattered worldwide, Hanukkah lamps often reflected local materials, techniques and traditions. Some were impermanent. Many communities kindled eight small cups of oil, while others used eggshells or scooped-out potatoes.

Through the late Middle Ages, Franco-German Jews evidently favored wall-hung bronze lamps featuring pierced, triangular backplates. In place of olive oil, however, they may have kindled wicks dipped in goose fat.

Rare, engraved silver, marked Hanukkah lamp with architectural-type backplate, 25.5 x 13.5 x 4 centimeters, Salé, Morocco, 1899. Realized $950 + buyer’s premium in 2017. Image courtesy of Hammersite and LiveAuctioneers

Early Spanish Hanukkah lamps, though similar in style, featured vertical backplates.

Examples reached foreign shores during the 15th century when Jews sought refuge overseas from persecution. In time, Moroccan wall-hung models incorporated Moorish-type arabesques, openwork geometric designs, stylized birds and architectural elements. Algerian and Tunisian ones, edged with tiny oil fonts, featured decorative scrolled motifs and crenelated backplates. Since North African Jews favored appearance over age, when these lamps were worn or needed repair, they were melted down and cast anew. As a result, originals are rare.

With the expansion of international trade, North African Hanukkah lamp elements also appeared in other lands. Early, squarish, brass Dutch backplates, for example, were pierced, punched or embossed with low-relief bird, flower, candelabra, heart or Star of David images.

Brass Bezalel menorah, marked, 29 x 15.5 centimeters, circa 1915. Realized $5,500 + buyer’s premium in 2017. Image courtesy of Ishtar Auctions Ltd. and LiveAuctioneers

By the 19th century, however, Dutch Jews, like many others across Europe, favored convenient, candle-lit silver, gold or bronze menorahs featuring symmetrical branches supported by central shafts. Some were simply designed, evoking the stately Temple candelabra. Others featured imaginative bases, decorative spouts and intricately scrolled branches, along with oil jug, lion or Star of David finials.

Small, decorative backplate, footed menorahs of this era, especially those wrought by master craftsmen, were highly desirable. Silver Austrian ones often feature semicircular backplates exquisite chased and pierced peacock, ramping lion, or Ten Commandment motifs enhanced by rich florals and regal crowns. Polish brass ones, depicting crests or noble animals like stags, griffins or eagles, are sometimes flanked by similar side panels. Fine, woven silver filagree “Baal Shem Tov” models, featuring gilded, cartouche-shaped backplates adorned with birds, flowers, Torah scrolls, architectural elements and paired servant lights, are particularly enticing. Though most were small, designed for table use, “monumental” Polish and Russian synagogue menorahs ranged up to 4 feet in height.

Baal Shem Tov menorah, fine woven filagree, with applied decorations, marked 12 and a clover, 12in high, Ukraine, circa 1820. Realized $8,000 + buyer’s premium in 2012. Image courtesy of J. Greenstein & Co. Inc. and LiveAuctioneers

Rare, exceptional, antique menorahs, featuring fine, unusual images or craftwork, explains Jonathan Greenstein, Judaica expert at J. Greenstein and Co., are extremely collectible. Yet few survived the Holocaust. Most available on today’s market reached the West during earlier Jewish immigration.

From 1909 through 1926, members of the Bezalel School in Jerusalem created appealing stamped brass and silver backplate menorahs, many depicting classic motifs or scenes of the Hanukkah story. Classic Bauhaus forms and green, patinated brass models followed.

Rare Austrian silver peacock menorah, marked and initialed, Vienna, late-1800s. Realized $9,000 + buyer’s premium in 2016. Image courtesy of Pasarel and LiveAuctioneers

Contemporary Western artists often recast favorites or, inspired by tradition, create modern ones featuring Hebrew inscriptions, embossed Biblical scenes or popular motifs, Some, through cutting-edge technology, create crystal, acrylic, glass and freeform “molten” silver beauties. Others craft intriguing menorahs from found materials like bullets, artillery shells, or a mishmash of metal pipes.

Handmade sterling silver menorah featuring spheres intertwined with silver pipes, signed Ari Ofir, 13in high, Israel, modern. Realized $11,000 + buyer’s premium in 2015. Image courtesy J. Greenstein & Co. Inc. and LiveAuctioneers

Though many celebrate Hanukkah with a single menorah, others assign a separate one to each member of their family. Seven, eight, nine menorahs with candles all aglow – that’s a sight to behold.

Many observant families, however, prefer kindling oil-fonts because they are closer to tradition, closer to the Hanukkah miracle. These are enclosed in protective glass boxes, then displayed outdoors for all to see.