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Question: This heirloom brooch, 2 inches long and
1 1/4 inches wide, was brought to America by my German great-great grandmother during the late 1800s. Its mark is a fancy rectangle stamped "A*D." My mother was told the carved decoration is soapstone and the gold metal is called pinchbeck. We are not familiar with the materials and would appreciate any information you can provide about this item. - N.S., Stone Harbor
Answer: The pin, a First Egyptian Revival (1875-1900) piece, bears the German hallmark of Andreas Daub, who founded one of Europe's foremost jewelry companies in 1870. A leader in cutting edge techniques, designs and production of quality items, Daub's firm continues to maintain branch offices worldwide.
Your carved soapstone insect brooch portrays the scarab dung beetle, symbol of good fortune and rebirth, found on ancient Egyptian talismans. Also considered a protector of important papers, the scarab appears with identifying carved hieroglyphics on amulets and signet rings once used to seal letters and documents.
In the late 1800s, soapstone jewelry decoration was not unusual. A soft rock which is easily pressed, shaped and cut, soapstone frequently was used for inlaid designs, sculptures and carvings. Pinchbeck, the metal alloy you have noted, is a combination of zinc and copper which closely resembles gold. Invented during the 18th century by English clockmaker Christopher Pinchbeck as a gold substitute for the middle class, its popularity eventually waned when unscrupulous jewelers began to sell it as gold.
During several additional Egyptian Revival Periods since 1900 - most importantly, the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb - interest in scarabs rose significantly then fell. Presently, your uncommon brooch will interest folks who collect scarab or Victorian jewelry, pinchbeck pieces or antique Egyptian items. If the pin has a strong, working clasp and no damage, it is valued at $75 to $125.
Question: Please tell me about my late mother-in-law's egg timer. It is a figure dressed in pink holding an egg timer attached by an elastic strap. A cheerful saying is printed on her apron. I am interested in its maker, age and value - T.W., Winslow
Answer: Your kitchen item, made from 1956 to the 1960s, is an Enescoe product. For years the Illinois company has imported and distributed home, garden and giftware items, usually made in Far Eastern countries. Popular lines include Jim Shore, Boyds Bears, Disney, Dept. 56 and Precious Moments.
The egg timer is part of Enescoe's extensive "Mother in the Kitchen" series. Also known as "Prayer Ladies," the figures have closed eyes, clasped hands and wear aprons inscribed with a prayer. Popular Prayer Ladies include the cookie jar, flower pot, canister set, string holder, mug, laundry sprinkler and egg timer. Dress colors are common pink and valuable blue as well as yellow, rose, turquoise and white.
Nostalgic, homespun appeal has kept Prayer Ladies quite collectible. Although asking prices for mint egg timers with original strap occasionally are as high as $120, many can be purchased for $50 to $60.
Alyce Hand Benham is an antiques broker, appraiser and estate-liquidation specialist. Send questions to: Alyce Benham, Life section, The Press of Atlantic City, 11 Devins Lane, Pleasantville, N.J. 08232. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Letters may be used in future columns but cannot be answered individually, and photos cannot be returned.