Trash or Treasure: Vintage vessel mainly decorative

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News
Marilyn Beckham of Bloomfield Hills shows off a decorative piece called a ewer.

“It’s a glass and bronze ewer according to an appraiser who valued my grandma’s things in 1973,” Marilyn Beckham told appraiser Brian Thomczek at a recent Trash or Treasure event held at the Michigan Design Center in Troy. “I’ve always wondered what it would have been used for,” she added.

Thomczek confirmed that the piece was indeed a ewer, defined in the handy book “A-Z of Collector’s Terms,” by Therle Hughes as “a large water jug…ornate in early silver for dinner guests.” 

Thomczek identified the materials in Beckham’s piece as glass and etched glass, adding that it  may have begun life as part of a pair, and that by the 19th century, many ewers were mainly decorative instead of utilitarian.  “It’s definitely Victorian,” he added, saying that he would date the piece to about 1890 to 1910. “My guess is that they were used in the dining room on a sideboard or buffet or maybe once on a fireplace.”

He said that silver ewers would have been better for holding liquids and that her piece is brass, not bronze.  “You could put something in there, but the material in yours probably wouldn’t taste particularly good.”

He identified the style of her piece as Neoclassical and praised the design, including the small figure on top. “It has a small amount of damage, which would hurt the value,” he said. “If I had to pinpoint the style or heritage I’d say it’s probably English, but it definitely has some French elements. The style was gradually imported to the U.S., too, so it’s not uncommon to see it here as well.”

Unfortunately, the only marks on the piece is a “75” on a paper label, which offered few clues to a maker or manufacturer. “It could be an inventory number, who knows?” the appraiser mused. “Sometimes these are marked, which makes them easier to identify and date.”

If it were part of a pair, the value would be approximately $200 to $300, but as a single, it’s worth half that, $100 to $150. He recommended Beckham give it a bath with mild soap and water.

“I don’t think I’m going to keep it,” Beckham said of its ultimate fate. “My grandmother liked Asian things, so I’ve never been sure why she had this.”

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.  

About this item

Item: Victorian ewer

Owned by: Marilyn Beckham

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $100 -$150