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Depending on the age of your collection, you should know that little brassware was produced in the country before the mid-18th Century; thus, the candlestick's material would be one clue to age. So if someone is attempting to sell you a brass candleholder with a story that it was crafted in this country in the early 1700s, you should be wary and have the item carefully checked out.
There is an exception to the identification problem, however, and it involves the production of glass candlesticks. Experts have documented some of the U.S. producers of blown-glass candlesticks in the mid-18th Century, mostly in Eastern Seaboard cities such as Philadelphia. This would be your guide to determining approximate production dates.
Another way to judge age could be by the weight of the candlestick. Because most candlesticks produced before the 18th Century were made of solid brass, they were obviously quite heavy. Then, following the turn of the century (the year 1800), new techniques were used that allowed the candlestick and its stem to be hollowed out, thus producing a much lighter product.
A major innovation of the early 18th Century was the advent of the pressing machine, which, in effect, allowed mass production of glass stems and bases. Again, though, you may encounter difficulty in researching the company that produced the candlestick because no name will be found on much of the work produced during this period.
Some of the most creative designs were produced by 19th-Century American craftsmen following the advent of the glass-pressing machine. Aside from abstract patterns, early candlesticks took on the shapes of humans and animals and are sought after by collectors today. For example, dolphin candlesticks were produced in several colors in the mid-19th Century.
In the post-Civil War period, the candlestick apparently fell in popularity, giving way to the lamp, which, in turn, also has become popular among Americana collectors.
A resurgence in candlestick production then appears to have taken place for about three decades following 1900, before once again falling off.
Early American names in candlestick making included Casper Wilstar of New Jersey and the Kensington Philadelphia Glass Works. New England Glass and Boston & Sandwich were among the foremost producers during the mid-18th Century. Much of this early work restricted the length of the candlestick to no more than 12 inches.
Prices for some of the rarer examples of Early American candlesticks range up to several hundred dollars and more for sought-after items.
Q: How diligent should collectors be in cleaning collectible bottles?--A.R.
A: Many collectors simply recommend using a cleaning brush in combination with detergent and warm water. A soaking in a slightly stronger solution, such as ammonia, may be required for stubborn grit.
Be careful not to damage any distinctive markings--particularly a bottle's label, which could add to its value by not only providing a distinctive touch and some history but also tell you its producer and date of manufacture.
Over the years, some collectors have subscribed to the theory that leaving some dirt on a collectible bottle would enhance its value. This is a myth, most dealers say. Proper cleaning will not damage the bottle's value, they say.