1892 Rookwood Spirit Jug with Silver Overlay

Value (2009) | $3,000 Auction$4,000 Auction

I got it from the estate of my father-in-law. I came to the family in '66, so it was existed in '66, and I assume it's been there a long time in his home. Now it's in my home, and I’ve loved it all these years.

What would you like to know about the piece?

Well, everything, because I don't know anything.

It's a piece of Rookwood pottery, which is fairly famous. We've done it a number of times on the show. We have a picture on the front, which is underglaze slip decorated, a painting of a gentleman drinking spirits, or liquor. In addition to that, this beautiful silver overlay also has either... I can't tell if it's a young man or a young woman drinking liquor. So to have that reinforced all the way around, it’s a spirit jug. The silver is by Gorham Manufacturing from Providence, Rhode Island, and they do a great job. But what happens with these Rookwood overlay pieces is that the artist who painted the work and the artist who did the silver are usually competing with each other, and I've seen so many pieces where, if the work happens to be complementary to the piece, the silver goes over it-- over the artwork, over the painting, and this is a piece where they actually frame the decoration with silver. So a rare occasion where the person who did the silver after the piece was painted respected the artwork.

Respected it.

This little netting is also an indication of Gorham's work, the highest order of silver overlay. We'll talk about the markings here. This is the famous Rookwood flame mark, dating it to 1892.


That's right.

Oh, my gosh.

The artist is Harriet Wilcox, who tended to paint a lot of little nymphs and spirits and odd creatures on the side of jugs. And then at the bottom is the Gorham registry mark, which is how you know it's a Gorham piece. Because Rookwood did these overlays for a number of years. And they stopped using Gorham after a while. Perhaps it was too expensive. Maybe their demands were too exacting. But this is an early-period Gorham piece, so that also adds to its quality. There's no crazing on this piece, and crazing is what happens when the glaze cools faster than the pot itself and it crackles it. There's none of that, which means it fired perfectly, which is very important on silver overlay, because when people clean the silver over the years, the solvent gets into the crazing and darkens it like a spider webbing. This has none of that; it’s completely clear. So that's a good thing. The only negative I can give you is this tight hairline in the body. You can feel it with your fingernail in the glazing. So that does detract from the value a little bit. In spite of that, in terms of auction value, I would have to think that a piece this rare would be somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000

You're kidding.

No, no. And were it not for the tight hairline, I would have said $4,000 to $6,000.

I am amazed.

Appraisal Details

Rago Arts & Auction Center
Lambertville, NJ
Appraised value (2009)
$3,000 Auction$4,000 Auction
San Jose, CA (August 15, 2009)
19th Century

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.