Bell push, snuff box & other pretty little things
The color was the first thing that struck me. The round chartreuse item seemed to glow in the glass case at the auction house. I wasn’t sure what it was – it resembled a door bell, but it was too lovely and too pristine to have been used to announce an arrival.
I had spotted it on my first walk-through, had notice its beauty but moved on because I wanted to make sure I saw everything before the auction got started. Later, while I waited – and waited some more – for the auction to get past the plodding sale of what it calls Orientalia, I circled around to the glass case again.
This time, I took a closer look and saw that the item that had caught my gaze was not the only pretty little thing in the case. It was in the good company of other equally small and intriguing items, all of which seemed to serve no purpose but to look good.
The item was listed as a 1920s bell push with a mother of pearl button and mounted on a wooden base. In other words, an extravagant doorbell. This one, like two others next to it, seemed to have never or will never be used on a door. It was more like the expensive glass pieces you put away in some equally pricey lighted cabinet with the sole purpose of admiring it.
I started to look for other pretty little things in the cases that would, like the bell pushes, be sold in the next-day’s Gallery Auction, where most items go for top prices. Here’s some of what attracted me. Descriptions are from the auction bid sheet:
19th-century hand-painted French porcelain snuff box in the shape of an extended arm and hand with a gilt brass lid, $110.
Limoges blue porcelain trinket box with hand-painted floral designs, $30.
Late 19th-century Victorian amber glass shoe, $10.
1920s Charles Thomae & Son sterling silver and enamel bell push, $170.
1920s Continental silver and enamel bell push with a silver owl atop a silver and enamel base, and mounted onto an onyx base, $170.
Contemporary art glass perfume bottle in the shape of a woman’s torso, illegibly signed, $20.
Mid-to-late 19th century Continental crystal glass perfume bottle with a 14k gold lid and top, and center overlay mounts, $200. This perfume bottle matched some of the lovely ones I saw in an exhibition at Longwood Gardens outside Philadelphia more than two years ago.
Pairpoint cranberry and clear glass perfume bottle with a floral stopper, unsigned, $50.