Unfaithful spouses have been around since the beginning of time, and they've always been a source of gossip. Today there are all sorts of electronic ways to spread gossip, but an earlier method that's very difficult for us to understand is 18th-century "lover's eye" jewelry. Adultery back then could lead to losing your right to be king. Less-prominent lovers might be faced with a duel and death. So why advertise an affair? Perhaps it was a way to brag - or perhaps some of the stories about this jewelry are myths. In 1785, future King George IV and an older Catholic widow with whom he was romantically involved were united in a secret mock marriage. They knew he could not become king with a Catholic wife. So the story goes that the "almost king" commissioned special jewelry - two gem-encrusted brooches, each with a portrait of the other's eyes. The lovers were sure no one else could identify their eyes. The brooches soon became stylish and many couples were wearing lover's eye jewelry. Pins, rings, bracelets, pendants and necklaces were made. By the 1790s, special "mourning eye" jewelry was being made using portraits of the eyes of dead spouses or lovers. Eventually the pins were exchanged between mothers and daughters, sisters and close friends, but the fad was almost over by the 1830s. Antique eye jewelry sells for high prices today. A 1 3/8-inch brooch with a portrait of two blue eyes set in an oval frame edged with a coiled gold serpent sold for $2,280 at a December 2012 Skinner auction in Boston. But beware. Many fakes have been made by removing the center of a brooch and inserting a new picture of an eye. Even old gems and original goldsmith-made mountings have been used to make fantasy pieces. Experts say you can detect a fake. Genuine antique lover's eyes were painted on ivory and covered with a piece of crystal. The eye or eyes should be the proper size for the space. Look for details like an eyebrow and shadows near the eye that suggest a portrait made from life, not a quick copy.
Q: I have a pewter ice-cream mold in the shape of a ship. It’s marked “E and Co. N.Y. 1222” on the side. Is this valuable? Can I use it?
A: The mark was used by Eppelsheimer & Co. of New York City. The company was in business from 1880 to 1947. It was one of the major U.S. producers of pewter molds for ice cream and chocolate. Eppelsheimer sold molds to confectioners, ice-cream companies and other retailers. The number marked on the mold is its catalog number. When the company closed, the dies for the molds were sold. Another American company has been making tin molds from the old dies since the 1980s. Old pewter molds may contain lead and should only be used for display, since they might contaminate food. The value of pewter molds ranges from $50 to $100.
Wrapped wicker furniture should be repaired as soon as possible. Rewrap the wicker and glue the end with white glue.