Friday, November 21, 2014

Antique copper, brass and pewter

Today many copper, brass and pewter items are obsolete because people are no longer using these objects. However, because they add visual warmth and charm to a home, attractive pieces in good condition still appeal to collectors.

17th century Dutch brass candlesticks
Copper and brass objects became common in the home during the 17th and 18th centuries and these early pieces are the most desirable for buyers today. Items from the 19th and the early 20th centuries are typically not as valuable. Many people keep their brass and copper highly polished, which removes patina. Unlike silver, most brass and copper objects were unmarked until the Companies Act of 1862. This can make dating difficult, but not impossible, if you know what you are looking for. 

Copper tea pot
For example, brass candlesticks were not cast as one piece until the 18th century. Previously they had been cast as two parts and soldered together, so it is worth checking hollow examples for evidence of seams, which might indicate an early date. An early 18th century brass candlestick might be valued at £200, while a similar-shaped Victorian example may be worth less than £50.

Arts and Crafts copper plate
Many pewter objects are likely to be older than copper and brass examples. The metal declined in popularity during the 18th century and by the 19th century only tavern mugs were being made in large numbers. Much early pewter was melted down and re-cast into more fashionable styles, making good condition pewter from before 17th century rare. There are, however, relatively few collectors, so values tend to be modest.

American copper bed warmer
Fortunately, not all base metalware is selling for low sums. During the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, several craftsmen abandoned mass production and returned to handcrafting copper, brass and pewter objects. Some of the best pieces were produced by the Newlyn School, the Keswick School and Liberty & Co. – which produced its ‘Tudric’ range of pewter wares in 1903. As with most Arts and Crafts objects, the hand-worked metalware took time and skill to make. These pieces were costly at the time, so relatively few were sold, and they should continue to fetch good prices due to their rarity and quality.

Antique pewter metalware
Unfortunately, the market for standard pewter, copper and brass object is unlikely to improve. The best prices may be achieved on eBay or at a car-boot sale. 

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