This tray is 100 years old and was made in Iran by the old Shah of Iran’s silversmith. It was brought to the USA in a diplomatic pouch. It is 29.5 inches wide and 21.5 inches high. Is it valuable?
Milton and Rachel
Dear Milton and Rachel,
I’ll start with the bad news first: It is not 100 years old. The reason I say this with certainty is that I am quite familiar with genuine old Persian Jewish objects (which are scarce and desirable), and Persian Jewish objects made between the 1950s and 1970s, which were created primarily for tourists and the export market, which is the category that your tray falls into. The most telling sign of this is the style of Hebrew engraving featured on your tray, which is simple line-engraving. On authentic 100- to 125-year-old Persian pieces with Hebrew, the letters are fully formed and beautifully executed, like those in a siddur. There are other features as well on your tray which point to a post-1950 creation but they’re quite dull to go into.
There is, however, a collectors’ market for a very decorative, hand-engraved silver tray like you have, as other silver post-1950-made Persian Jewish pieces, decorated in a similar manner to yours – primarily large bowls situated on a tall pedestal foot – tend to sell in the $2,000-$3,000 range when appearing at auction. Those bowls feature depictions of people and animals in raised relief, which require the skill of repoussé and/or chasing on the part of the artisan. They typically weigh between 40 and 45 troy ounces of silver, which is a primary factor in the aforementioned price being realized. Assuming your tray weighs a similar amount, the value would be $1,500-$2,000, as the figures on your tray are engraved and not in raised relief, and a bowl is much more appealing to potential buyers than a tray.
However, your tray is of quite a large size, and you may have substantially more silver content than 40-45 troy ounces. For example, if your tray is double that weight, I would double the value I just assigned.
What is the value of this menorah?
Kew Gardens, NY
What you have is a post-World War II-made copy of a style of Chanukah menorah that was made in Warsaw from the 1890s through the 1910s in tremendous quantities. Those examples are made of machine-cast elements applied to a thin sheet of brass. Your example has those cast elements, but they are thicker and of a higher quality.
The designer of your Chanukah menorah decided to embellish elements that, on the original example, are quite plain and simple, such as the cups and the oil jug. The designer also raised the base itself and made the feet quite fancy, in a claw-and-ball form, which is a style that was popular in the 18th century.
Even though your piece was made after World War II (likely in England or the USA), based on the quality and overall attractiveness, it has a value of $200-$400, which is about the same as if you had a Warsaw original in good condition.
I wondered if you might be able to tell me anything about a seltzer bottle I have. It’s etched with “F. Krompenholz, New York.” Thank you!
You’ve touched a soft spot with me, as I picture some bottles in my 2014 book, Jewish Antiques: From Menorahs to Seltzer Bottles. Your bottle was made sometime during the 1920s or 30s. The vast majority of seltzer bottles have a value of under $50, provided they are in excellent condition, meaning the there are no cracks or large chips, the glass is not cloudy, and the metal spray handle with glass tube is intact and not damaged.
Unfortunately, your example is lacking the metal handle and tube, and the bottle is quite cloudy. As is, your bottle is worth about $5. If you could locate a period metal handle and tube, the value would increase to $10-$15.
I attached three photos of scrolls that I have had for many years. Could you tell me something about them and if there is any value?
Egg Harbor Township, NJ
Your handheld scrolls, one of which is pictured here, were made as gifts for children, usually in Hebrew day schools. The scrolls are machine-printed, and were made in vast numbers in the USA, beginning in the 1940s. Based on the type of wooden handles and the font of the text on the covers of your scrolls, they were made no earlier than 1950. Unfortunately, there is no collectors’ market value for your scrolls. I’ve seen identical examples offered at flea markets for $3-$5.
I was wondering if you had any idea what the symbols on this besamim box may represent. Thanks in advance for your response.
Rabbi S. Ezagui
North Palm Beach, FL
Dear Rabbi Ezagui,
The symbols on your spice tower are hallmarks for the city, year, and other designations which silversmiths in England use for the wares they create and sell. I can clearly see the letter mark for 1914, the mark for the city of Birmingham, and the maker’s initials of Jacob Rozenzweig, of the firm Rozenzweig and Taitelbaum. This firm produced a wide array of silver Judaica articles for the home and synagogue in England during the 1910s and 1920s.
The design of your spice tower – specifically, the four eagles perched at the top – is somewhat of a copy of spice towers that were manufactured in Warsaw during the 1880s and 1890s. Here in the USA, the market for this English spice tower is rather limited, and when an example like yours appears, it tends to sell for about $500. However, in England, your spice tower, in a retail setting, would be priced at $1,000.
Can you tell me anything about these Shabbos candlesticks? They are about a foot tall. I’m not sure if the material is chrome or silver-plated.
If you look closely at one of the hallmarks, you will see the words “Norblin Warszawa.” Your candlesticks were made by the Norblin firm in Warsaw, Poland sometime between 1905 and 1910. They are made of brass and were originally silver-plated, but at some point, the owner decided to re-plate them in chrome. Chrome-plating was a common practice in New York and New Jersey during the 1940s and 1950s for metal Judaica when the original silver-plating had worn away.
Your type of Warsaw candlesticks were made in tremendous numbers, and it seems every Jewish immigrant from Poland to the USA brought a pair with them, so they are very, very common. That, combined with the fact that the collector market for plated-brass Warsaw candlesticks is very small, means your candlesticks have a value of $50-$75.