Farah S. bought a piece of porcelain at an auction that was described as a “19th century Sevres-style urn.” Being a novice in the antiquing world, she wasn’t exactly what she had, but she wanted to find out, so she put the question to our “Ask a Worthologist” service. Worthologist Mike Wilcox had seen these kinds of things before and was able to tell Farah exactly what she bought.
Farah S. has just caught the antique bug and is enamored with Continental porcelain. She was especially excited to find an interesting piece in a local auction. As is usual with local auctions by small auction houses, there is quite often very little information in the listing or even known about the item in question. The item in question was simply described as a “19th century Sevres-style vase.” She used our Ask a Worthologist service to find out what she’d stumbled upon, its history and value. Her inquiry was forwarded to me. Here’s her question.
“Since I just got my first apartment I’ve been looking for items to decorate it with and love the look of 18th-century European porcelain. Being new to all this I’ve been reading all I can find about companies like Meissen, Sevres and Paris Porcelain. I, of course, cannot afford to buy 18th-century pieces, so I’ve been on the lookout for late 19th-century copies. I bought this one for $450 at a local auction. It was just listed as “19th Century Sevres Style Urn.” There was no other information available about it. The problem with this one is it does not have any markings, not even the fake Sevres “Double L” markings that sometimes appear on vases like this. It’s also in amazing condition, which now makes me wonder about it. Please let me know anything you can tell me about it.”
Here’s my response:
You are correct that there are good-quality 19th-century urns and vases “in the style of Sevres” that carry Faux interlaced “Double L” Sevres markings. Based on the images of this vase, I have to say it a very lovely piece and at first glance it does appear to be a 19th-century copy in the style of Sevres. I can also see why you would get excited finding it at local auction for what seems to be a very good price. But generally, when the odds pile up against finding such a piece under such circumstances, it raises questions and one has to do a bit of digging. I’ve seen a number of these “Sevres” urns and vases pop up in recent years, most of them not being where they should be—at farm auctions, estate sales in small towns and at yard sales. Anytime an item one might see at rural auction once in a blue moon starts to show up regularly, I tend to develop a Sherlock Holmes attitude of “The game’s afoot, Watson!” and look for the reason why.
Most often, the reason is modern reproductions are being imported from high-tech /low-wage countries such as China and Indonesia. This first appeared in a big way during the 1980s, when values for Victorian china, such as “Flow Blue” wash basin sets, Limoges Chocolate sets and R.S. Prussia dinner services made major gains in value. In the last couple of years I’ve seen dozens of these “Late 19th-century Sevres style” urns at auction, some marked, but many with no stamped markings at all; just foil labels that were removed after the original sale.
Sadly, your urn is one of these a very modern reproductions, which are still being manufactured and sold by wholesale/export companies. But don’t despair; even though yours is a 21st-century reproduction of a 19th-century reproduction, what you paid for it is not far off. This one currently retails for new for about $475.
Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.
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