Czech signed pins such as this sell for as much as $80 to $100, based on condition, setting and stones.

Question: I am sending photos of a 2-inch by 1 1/2 -inch gold pin with two aquamarine-color stones. It is marked "Made in Czechoslovakia" inside a small oval on its back. I would like information about the piece including its age and value. - A.E., Barnegat

Answer: Your buckle-shape brooch, featuring a matched pair of oblong faceted aquamarine crystals in a geometrical gilded brass setting enhanced with intricate, curvilinear wirework and beading, is a fine example of quality Czech costume jewelry produced from 1918 through the mid-1930s The pin's transitional style, a combination of delicate Edwardian era filigree with solid lines of emerging Art Deco design and sparkling, simply cut stones, typifies Czech jewelry prized by today's collectors.

An outgrowth of the successful glass industry enjoyed by Austrian and Hungarian factories prior to World War I, Czech jewelry featuring molded art glass decoration, dazzling glass beads, stunning crystal stones and dramatic settings captivated fashionable women throughout the world.

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Because most Czech necklaces, bracelets, earrings, pendants, rings and pins usually are not signed, marked examples command premium prices. Unsigned buckle brooches currently sell for $40 to $60, while a signed example can bring $80 to $100, based on condition, setting and stones.

Question: The shallow, oval, 12-inch wide bowl I bought at a house sale is decorated with a printed blue garden scene and floral border. A 6-inch wide crescent shape section of the bowl's front rim is missing and "Victoria Ware Ironstone" is printed under a large, very blurred coat of arms on the bowl's back. Can you tell me anything about this item? - J.P., Malaga

Answer: You described what appears to be an ironstone shaving bowl, also known as a barber's bowl or barber's basin. Such bowls, shaving accessories used by barbers and gentlemen's valets during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, were made with a missing rim section that enabled the bowl to be positioned under a man's chin while he was being shaved.

Specialist collectors search for antique painted tin shaving bowls as well as examples associated with particular ceramic arts such as Faience - tin glazed earthenware originally made in Faenza, Italy, and later produced in France, England, Germany and Scandinavia - as well as redware with Sgraffito ornamentation achieved by incising a design on the top layer of a clay surface, thus revealing the pattern on an underlying layer of a different color.

Many authentic antique shaving bowls presently sell for $60 to $475, and one redware Sgraffito has fetched $2,000 at auction. However, your bowl's intentionally blurred mark and bogus maker's name indicates it is one of many known reproductions made and sold worldwide during the 1990s. Originally bearing a "Made in China" paper label that was removed by importers and sellers who offered the bowls at shops, shows, flea markets and online for as much as $150, the fakes rarely bring more than $25 when mint.

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:

Letters may be used in future columns but cannot be answered individually, and photos cannot be returned.


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