19th century color: Gaudy Welsh
One of the most colorful products of the 19th century was pottery known as "Gaudy Welsh". Produced mainly in the Staffordshire district by companies such as Allerton Brothers, Gaudy Welsh in some ways represented a transition form hand-made pottery to mass-produced wares. It was produced in large quantities and was intended as everyday ware for the working class. Unlike the carefully crafted slipware with elegant, intricate designs, Gaudy Welsh had loose, colorful polychrome decoration highlighted with lustre that in some ways was akin to folk art and in other ways almost modernist.
The motto was, "cheap and cheerful" and that certainly summed up Gaudy Welsh. Like carnival glass, Gaudy Welsh was sold for very small sums and could often be purchased at fairs and markets. It came in all the usual forms, but most often one sees hollowware such as small pitchers and cups and saucers. Most pieces were utilitarian in design but some pieces have elegant forms and in some instances, unusual polychrome handles. The Allerton serpent-handled pitcher in the above photo is a good example.
The principle years of Gaudy Welsh production were 1840-1900. Despite the bold color and antique status, pieces of Gaudy Welsh can be had for remarkably small sums on sites such as Etsy and eBay. They make wonderful splashes of color and visual interest and the loose decoration means that a piece of Gaudy Welsh won't look out of place in a contemporary setting.
A "Tearful" Revelation
One of the more interesting things to be produced throughout the 19th century were "laydown" or "throwaway" perfume bottles. Made mostly in Czechoslovakia, Turkey, and England, these were hand-pulled bottles about 6 or 7 inches long that carried a small amount of perfume in them. They were essentially free samples and the bottles were made to be discarded. Nontheless, they were usually beautifully decorated, typically with gilt paint and enameling. Most were crystal and square-sided; less common (and more desireable) are those of spiral form and of colored glass.
Now... about that "tearful revelation". Mourning became a serious affair in England with the death of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria's difficulty in getting past it. Mourning jewelry, photography, and other related areas all became part of everyday society. One notion that has been revealed to be a myth, however, is that the laydown perfume bottles were for collecting tears while mourning a loss. This myth became so pervasive, in fact, that another name for these bottles is a "tear catcher" or a "lachrymatory". While it makes for an interesting story, it should also be regarded as the antiques equivalent of an urban myth.
Lastly, if you are fortunate enough to run across one or more of these bottles, expect to pay retail price between $100 to $300 apiece.
Bryan H. Roberts is a professional appraiser in Sarasota, FL. He is a member of the Florida State Guardianship Association and currently serves on the board of the local FSGA chapter. He is a past president of the Sarasota County Aging Network, a non-profit that provides grants to other non-profits benefiting seniors in need and is also a board member of PEL, an area non-profit whose resale store profits support programs and scholarships for at-risk and disadvantaged youth. He is certified in the latest Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice (USPAP) Equivalent