Nantucket baskets have been popular purses and collectibles since the 1940s. The first baskets on Nantucket Island were made by the Wampanoag Indians, but they were not like the later Nantucket baskets.
The Nantucket Lightship Station was at Nantucket in 1854 and had a crew of six. A lightship is a substitute for a lighthouse in waters that can’t hold a lighthouse because of the depth or the rough water.
The crew worked 30 days at a time with little to do. So, some started making baskets. The first basket was made by Capt. Charles Ray. The wooden parts were made on land, carried to the ships and used to make the woven baskets.
The government made them stop basket making while on duty in 1900, but baskets were still made on the island. Purses were made by 1900, and in the 1940s, friendship baskets were made. New ones today sell for $500 to thousands of dollars.
One very rare type is the lollipop basket. The top rim has round pieces that look like little lollipops. They have had auction estimates at $40,000 to $60,000. They are very difficult to make.
I almost bought a strange piece of gold jewelry that had a picture of an eye and no other decoration in the frame. The antique 18th-century pin was gold with a border of pearls and blue enamel, and it was in an auction estimated at over $2,000. Why just an eye?
This type of pin is known as a “Lover’s Eyes.” They were exchanged by lovers and for other types of remembrance, including those lovers who had died.
According to legend, it started in 1784 when the Prince of Wales fell in love at first sight with Maria Fitzherbert, a twice widowed commoner. The prince needed permission from his father to wed, so he proposed to Maria in a letter that mentioned he was sending an eye.
It was a miniature of his eye painted by a famous miniaturist. She accepted the proposal. They were secretly married, and Maria later sent the prince an eye miniature for his birthday. It became a trend and similar eye jewelry was made into the 19th century.
The pin was worn in a secret, unseen place, like under a coat lapel. The pins were always miniatures in watercolor on ivory, vellum or gouaches.
They were covered with glass. A few were made as pendants or rings. One expert says less than 1,000 still exist. Watch out for fakes made years ago.
Bride’s basket, satin glass, blue, silver plate, Aurora, 10 inches, $80.
Map, England, title cartouche, shield, acanthus, multicolor, Robert Morden, 1695, 14 1/2 x 16 3/4 inches, $140.
Cash register, National, model 313, brass, drawer, scrolls, banners, c. 1920, 17 inches, $360.
Cane, silver, monkeys, climbing, tree branch, wood, 35 x 4 inches, $625.
Tip: Don’t set a hot glass dish on a wet granite countertop. The sudden temperature change might crack the glass.
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