Enamel & Gold Vinaigrette, ca. 1830
Appraised Value: $7,500
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (3:32)
GUEST: My husband and I attended an antique show here in Salt Lake, couple of months ago. And we were looking around, and I happened to see this in a case with a lot of other jewelry and I thought it was very interesting and unique. And I kind of passed by the jewelry three or four times, kind of deciding what I wanted to do, and I finally asked the dealer about it. And she couldn't tell me anything other than she bought it at an estate sale.
APPRAISER: How much did you pay for this?
GUEST: I paid $175 for it.
APPRAISER: Did you kind of negotiate a little bit or...?
APPRAISER: You can tell me, it's okay.
GUEST: I didn't negotiate.
APPRAISER: You didn't...
GUEST: I just loved it so much that I wanted...
APPRAISER: $175, you wrote the check.
APPRAISER: Well, this is a very rare item. I've seen examples of these in museums in Europe, and I've handled them. The item itself is called a vinaigrette, sort of like the salad dressing. There are no marks we could find. It's either Swiss or French.
APPRAISER: In the early 19th century, there wasn't garbage men that carted away the trash. People threw the stuff out the window. Slop pails went out the window in the 18th century. And when you left your house, you would encounter odors that made you just choke. So they invented a device called the vinaigrette. And it was a box or a little trinket carried to revive oneself if one felt faint.
APPRAISER: I don't think that the dealer that sold it to you was aware of the fact that it's 18-karat gold.
APPRAISER: And I don't think you knew that either.
GUEST: No, I didn't.
APPRAISER: The material that makes the color on this object is enamel, and it's polychrome, meaning many colors of enamel, in beautiful designs, on both sides. The other side is different and just as pretty as the top. The connecting chain is enameled all around, as is the top piece. The ladies wore whale-bone corsets because the ideal beauty was a 13-inch waist.
APPRAISER: So now they can't breathe, they go outside, they smell the rotten garbage and the sewage, and they think they're going to faint. They opened up their vinaigrette, which they held in their hand, and inside is a gold-pierced grill with beautiful decoration. But underneath the grill is a sponge. They would soak that sponge in an aromatic solution, sort of a mixture of perfume and ammonia, like smelling salts.
APPRAISER: So here's madam, and she's faint, "Oh, my goodness, I can't...” And... (sniffing) “Oh, I could carry on now, I can make it to the coach."
APPRAISER: That was the concept of the vinaigrette. But the other end of this, you seldom see these all together. This is called a train holder. And this is shaped like a shell. When you squeeze it, it opens. The train was the long part of the ball gown. And they didn't want it to drag in the dirt and be soiled. So they would hook the train holder onto the edge of the train, and then they would hold the vinaigrette in their hand, and this kept the train from dragging behind them. These are quite rare. We don't see a lot of them. It's museum-quality and just beautiful. Conservatively, the retail value of a piece like this is about $7,500 in today's market.
GUEST: Oh, my goodness.
APPRAISER: So, let me tell you, for $175, you did phenomenally well.
GUEST: Wow. Thank you.
GUEST: I'm amazed. I'm amazed.
This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2015 WGBH Educational Foundation.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.