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“My grandmother, who was a fabulous antique glass collector, bought this object at a garage sale in southern California about 1965 or ‘66,” Michael Harrigan wrote to the column asking for help with a family heirloom, adding that she later gave it to him and his wife. He brought the item, which he refers to as the “mystery solid silver and gold cup,” to an appraisal session held recently with Brian Thomczek at the Michigan Design Center in Troy.

The email contained additional information. “It is a little more than 6 inches tall,” he wrote. “I hope the pictures convey the detail of this piece.  It is encrusted with turquoise and amethyst.  The central piece under the bowl of the cup appears to be solid gold.  This piece has loops at the end of each sconce but whatever was hung from them is gone.  While this object looks like a chalice the top silver piece has a bottom as if it might have been a candle holder.  There are bits of it that are missing but overall it is an exquisite object.  I believe it is Middle Eastern or Eastern Mediterranean in origin. What can you tell me about this 60-year-old family mystery piece?  I know it is a treasure not trash.”

Thomczek took a closer look and agreed that the piece is sterling despite its lack of hallmarks. “There’s nothing marking it as such, but you can tell by the texture, which is soft,” he explained. He also remarked that there were pieces missing, including loops on the chain. “When I first saw this my first impression was that it looked like a chalice or a Kiddush cup,” the appraiser said. “It’s also possible that it could have housed a candle but that seems odd.”

He remarked that the item is hollow but the top had been filled in at a later point in time. “It should be hollow,” he said. “It almost looks ceremonial in some way. I would have liked to see it when it started life and had all of its pieces. The mystery would be easier to solve.”

Because it is missing pieces, unmarked and has been altered, it is worth less than it would have been otherwise, the appraiser said. He valued it at $200 at auction, adding “if it had been marked it would be worth a lot more.” Harrigan inquired about its age, which Thomczek said could be late 19th to early 20th century. 

Thomczek said that it could have started life in Russia or China as well as the Middle East. Harrigan says they have it on display in their home and have always enjoyed looking at it.

Thomczek said he could see why. “It was done by hand and is very nicely done,” he added.                            

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 trashortreas@aol.com. 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: Cup

Owned by: Michael Harrigan

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: approx. $200

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 trashortreas@aol.com. If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.     

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