Ask Antique Trader: Mother of pearl ‘Last Supper’ valued at $2,000

My wife and I own a small antique shop in the Shenandoah Valley and recently purchased a pair of Bohemian glass vases at an auction of an older estate. They are 11 3/8 inches high and 1/4 inch thick. The auctioneer said they were made 1840-70. One has a large chip on the inside edge. When do you think they were made? How do you know? How should price them?
— M.B., Middletown, Va.

A From your photo you appear to have a pair of cranberry-cut-to-clear Bohemian lead glass vases made from 1875 to 1900. The deer motif was one of the most popular designs and has been reproduced over the years. The thickness of the glass and the quality of the cutting are clues to age. In today’s uncertain market you could put a beginning price of $1,500 for the pair.

Is anything made of mother of pearl of any value? My late father did some coin business with a gentleman from India. He gave dad a 3-dimensional picture in 1953 of the Lords Prayer. Now it is mine. It has what appears to be “Jerusalem” carved on the outside framework, below the picture. It is approximately 7 1/2 inches high by 7 1/8 inches wide. Any information appreciated.
— B.C., via e-mail

A It took a bit of Internet hopping to determine what your mother-of-pearl art object is and the history. Using my magnifying glass on your photo showed a shallow carving of “The Last Supper” with Jesus and the Disciples. Not the “Lord’s Prayer.” What you have is a Jerusalem School mother-of pearl Orthodox Christian icon. It was a specialized art done by Eastern Christians called Melchites in the Holy Land  It was made beginning in the 1830s and into the 20th century. Yours could have been made in the early 20th century. Similar pieces of lesser quality are sold by dealers in Middle Eastern art for $1,800. Yours, with the elaborate frame, could sell for $2,000 or more by a specialty dealer.

My great grandfather wasn’t a seafaring man but he had a hobby of making tiny ships and putting them into whiskey bottles. Over the years they were given to various family members. This one was handed down to me. Can you tell me how the ships were placed in the bottles? Does mine have any value?
— G.S., Chicago, Ill

A The tiny ships show up mostly in whiskey pinch bottles. Great attention was paid to the details. For example, the sails always seem to be full, blown. If they were paper they were rolled up before the ship was placed inside the bottle. The sails were pushed outward for their windblown effect. They sometimes included backgrounds such as a lighthouse, trees and a shoreline. Some had their hulls cut off at the waterline. They were placed in the bottle with a previously inserted rolling sea of painted putty or crumpled paper to simulate waves. The tiny ship masts were folded down, strings were attached and the vessel was eased into the bottle. When in place, the masts were raised with strings, or stays and wire hooks. Yours, in a 19th century, pumpkin seed bottle, could sell in a shop for $600 or more.

Anne Gilbert is a nationally syndicated columnist, author of eight antiques and collectibles books, and is well known for her lectures to business and professional groups. She is a member of the Newspaper Features Council and Society of Illustrators. She can be reached via e-mail at

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