Dear Helaine and Joe:
Can you tell me anything about this vase my mother owned? I do not see any markings.
Dear D. O.;
This is certainly a lovely piece of glass, but it is not a vase.
Instead, it is a ruffled top, claw-handled, enameled water pitcher that probably once had a set of at least six tumblers with it. During its heyday, it was probably designed for serving lemonade or possibly iced tea.
This is a type of glass called “Mary Gregory,” and yes, there was a real woman named Mary Gregory. She was a glass decorator for the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company of Sandwich, Massachusetts. The firm was founded by Deming Jarves in 1826.
Unfortunately, this piece was never touched by the real-life Mary Gregory, nor was it made in the United States.
Thanks to D. O.’s rather nice selection of photographs, we are fairly certain the piece was made across the Atlantic Ocean in Bohemia, dating to the last quarter of the 19th century or just a tad later. The real Mary Gregory was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1856 and began her working life as a schoolteacher.
She left the profession in 1880 to decorate glass for the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company and specialized in landscapes and depictions of animals until she left the company in 1884. Somehow, over time, her name has become associated with the charming decorations in white or pinkish enamel of children depicted in silhouette at play doing such things as rolling hoops, fishing, chasing butterflies, playing with a top and so forth.
It is now thought that the vast majority of this type of glass ware was made in Central Europe and had very little to do with either Boston and Sandwich or Mary Gregory. The base on the pitcher clearly indicates it was made in Bohemia (modern-day Czech Republic) and the extruded “claw” or “reeded” handle and extravagantly ruffled top tend to confirm this place of origin. It was made several decades before Czechoslovakia came into actual existence in 1918.
“Mary Gregory”-style decoration can be found on a wide variety of glass colors such as red, blue, green, cranberry, amethyst and clear/colorless. The clear/colorless examples are the most common, with amethyst and cranberry the most desired by collectors of this type of glass as a general rule.
The figure on the Mary Gregory piece belonging to D. O. appears to be an adult woman wearing an apron standing at a fence. She appears to be barefooted and her arm is raised – possibly in a “hello!” stance, which is a bit unusual. If she were doing something more active or unusual, this would enhance the value. But this is still a very attractive depiction, complete with overhanging trees.
This cranberry color is very attractive and the ruffled top and claw handle do add to the desirability. But Mary Gregory glass is currently a bit out of fashion, and the numerous reproductions available in the marketplace have hurt the monetary value. Still, this charming piece should be insured ii the $150 to $225 range.