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September 2015

Butler's Antiques Newsletter September 2015 No. 61
I apologise to anyone who has tried and failed to communicate with me since my last newsletter. My Apple desktop computer failed and it took Apple all of three weeks to repair it. Such a failure is very disappointing when the Internet is the platform on which my business works! Anyway, it is up and running again now, so do please communicate again!

Finally, I extend my usual warm welcome to my new customers and to those receiving my newsletter for the first time.

Robin Butler
An Approach to business

I regularly find myself asking questions of myself and my business. What am I trying to achieve? Where am I positioned in the marketplace generally? Who am I appealing to? What are my clients searching for and am I providing for them? Am I following, or leading market trends? Are my price points what my clients expect? There are, of course, many more questions.

My clients - that's you - are almost equally divided between those whose interest is wine and those who are collectors of one kind of antique or another. Some are both. As I see it, it is just as important to sell a completely genuine antique to someone whose passion is claret or Burgundy, as it is to find a practical decanter for someone whose prime interest is Georgian glass. Also, it's just as important to say if objects have shortcomings - if a decanter has a chip or crack, or if a silver wine funnel, say, has been damaged and restored. I do try wherever possible, to source antiques without shortcomings and in large measure succeed in this, but when this is not possible, or when the object is so rare that only an imperfect example is available, then I do describe such problems - warts and all.

One question by winos that has emerged, is why I have coloured decanters because clearly they do not help in the assessment of red wine. The colour of the wine cannot be seen properly, if at all. However, as I have written in the past, red wines are not the only ones to benefit from decanting; white wines can be improved even more. Not only can decanting take the chill of an over-cooled white wine (and most are), but also recent research showed unequivocally that white wines benefit even more than red ones for being decanted. So why not display them on the table in glorious technicolour.

I once met a highly individual lady when we were showing at a small London antiques fair. She bought red claret jugs because she liked to place one between each pair of guests at her dinner table. She said it saved her from having to bob up and down while eating, to serve wine to her guests which I thought it was a delightfully practical touch! For white wines, however, and for those outside her clique, green or blue decanters are better suited. The intensity and shade of yellow of a 'white' wine will soon become apparent in the glass, so it is not necessary to see it in the decanter.

When we have guests and if we cook fish or chicken for them, I often serve the white wine from a green decanter; it adds a touch of colour to the table and makes a pleasing change of experience for most people. It is a talking point, making conversation about the decanter and its contents flow easily.

Green decanters eminently suitable for white wine
Currently I have two pairs of green decanters click here to see, one pair of full bottle size (on the left), while the other pair hold less and are perfect for a small bottle of dessert wine and can be seen here. However, the green decanter which really takes my fancy is one that I bought last week. It is the standard Georgian pattern known as a 'Prussian' and which usually has three neck rings to aid the grip. This example is different; let me explain. From the late 15th to the late 17th centuries, many wine glasses from what is now Germany and Holland, followed a particular pattern. They are called 'roemers' and had cup-shaped bowls supported on wide, hollow stems and crafted from pale green glass (waldglas), that is, glass made in the forest and tinted green by naturally occurring minerals.

Note the green glass in the foreground - probably late 17th century.
However, their principal point of interest was their decoration; they had applied 'raspberry prunts' - small blobs of glass, each impressed to create several tiny bumps resembling the surface of a raspberry. There is one in a picture I took many years ago and which I now use as my 'desktop'. You can see it above.

These glasses were reproduced in the early 19th century in England, but with a much stronger shade of green and the construction of the foot was quite different. These later copies are quite common.

A Green Roemer of c. 1820
However, decanters with similar decoration are considerably scarcer almost to the point of being rare - but I have one now. The raspberry prunts give an excellent grip, which is why they were applied to glasses in late mediaeval Europe. One has to remember that forks were not used until the 17th century and solid foods were eaten with the fingers - which became greasy. A good grip on a glass was almost essential. It amuses me how a motif, originally serving a very practical use, then became merely decorative when applied to glasses in the 19th century when forks were plentiful, but of course, very useful for a decanter.

A 'Prussian Decanter with 'Raspberry Prunts' in place of neck rings

My Website
The observant readers of this may have noticed that my website has been up-graded. We now sport a more current and legible font, but more cogent than that; it is now more easily visible on tablets and smart-phones. I hope it makes it easier for you to visit the site to see what I have bought recently click here to visit my website.

Your comments and observations would be welcome.

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