I bought this 35 years ago for $100. It was in a store window in a corner and needed cleaning, but I was curious when I saw the Hebrew lettering. After I polished this 22”-diameter round beauty, I hung it up. Is it worth more than what I paid for this Yemenite work? Thank you.
Your item is not from Yemen – it is from Iran. This type of tray, depicting Moshe and Aharon, was an extremely popular image in metal dishes from Iran sold to tourists from the 1950s through the 1970s. I’m glad you did not polish the tray too much, as it is made of copper with a coating of tin, and the tin-plating could rub off from a deep polishing. Even though all the images on the tray feature a lot of work using fine tools, there is no Jewish ceremonial use for a piece like this, and coupled with the fact that these were produced in tremendous quantities, that means that the value today, when adjusted for inflation from your purchase price of 35 years ago, is roughly equal to what you paid then: $200-$300.
The item I have is a bit unusual. It is a tea cup set from the early 1900s, produced for the Cunard Steamship Lines (Titanic or Queen Elizabeth I). I received it from my wife’s grandmother years ago. Like on airplanes in the 1960-70s, full meals under hashgacha were offered on the ships. This set is clearly for fleishig meals. Do you have any other information on this item? Thank you.
St. Louis, Missouri
I have come across pieces like your cup and saucer before. Based on the pottery markings underneath the cup and plate in the photos that you submitted, I was able to determine that your set was made during the 1930s, and is known in the trade as the “Greek Key and Fruit” design. These were used in the tourist-class dining rooms aboard all the Cunard liners during that era, most notably the RMS Queen Mary.
There really is no market for this type of ware among collectors of Jewish items, except perhaps to be purchased on a whim if seen at a flea market. However, there are many collectors of the pottery and fine china used on luxury steamships, especially those that date to before World War II, as your set does. To a collector of those types of items, based on other examples I’ve seen of sets sold which include Yiddish and English markings for meat or dairy, your set is worth $75-$125.
What can you tell me about this menorah’s age? It has a triangle hook for hanging on a wall. Also, how and with what do I clean it to bring it back to its original self? Thank you for your help.
You are the owner of a beautiful example of a 1920s-era Bezalel School Chanukah menorah, or Chanukiah. What makes it most unusual are the oil fonts, which are of a style found on Chanukah menorahs from North Africa. Bezalel manufactured various sheet-brass Chanukiot with a bold design for the backplate (all featuring the triangle hook on the reverse for hanging on a wall, as you mentioned your example has), but would offer the receptacles for candles or oil in multiple formats. I do not recall seeing any Bezalel Chanukiot with North African-styled oil fonts; these must have been issued for a very short period.
If your piece would have one of the typical styles of candle or oil fonts, in today’s market the value would be $400-$600. The oil fonts on your piece create added interest, which would bump the value of the Chanukiah up to $500-$700. I’m glad to see you still have the original servant light, which is often lost.
As for cleaning, personally I would advise against it, because so many modern reproductions of sheet-brass Bezalel Chanukiot have flooded the marketplace in the last 20 years. The naturally aged dark brown patina on authentic examples like yours is what keeps it looking “old.” However, if you have no intention of ever selling it and do not care about the patina, I recommend using the polish cream Noxon, which can be used to clean all types of metal except for silver, and is offered for sale at most hardware stores and on Amazon. Use a paper towel or very soft cotton cloth (like an old t-shirt) to apply and rub on the metal gently. A thorough cleaning will take more than one attempt, but afterward your brass Chanukiah will gleam the color of gold.
These Seder plates have been in my family for many years. My grandparents are long gone and no one else knows their history or age. Are you familiar with these?
Brooklyn, New York
Your Passover plates for eating off (they are not Seder trays), are very well known, if not iconic pieces of English Judaica. They were made by Ridgway, which was a ceramics factory in Staffordshire, England. The plates were available for sale by each of two London retailers, Bardiger and Tepper. Tepper and Bardiger were Ukrainian Jews who immigrated to London and set up shops well known for, among other things, beautiful Passover china. These plates are always found stamped with makers’ marks on the reverse that state the names Ridgway, Bardiger, or Tepper. In nice condition with no cracks or rim chips, the plates are worth $75-$125 each.