Art & antiques by Dr. Lori

Mesopotamian potters discovered the method for making multi-colored opaque glass beads around 2,750 B.C.

Circa 1,100 A.D., a window of colored glass was documented in Germany.

Colored glass windows were used in churches, monasteries, and other places of worship.

Artisans, like worshipping pilgrims of the day who made pilgrimages to holy sites, traveled from church to church to work on stained glass window projects during the Medieval period.

Most stained glass windows were made of colored glass with images of saints painted onto the glass itself.

The colorful images for each glass panel were kiln fired. This firing made the colored images a permanent part of the glass.

The arts and crafts movement of the mid-1800s blossomed in England and America.

A strong interest in hand-made objects and quality workmanship was embraced by William Morris (1834-1896) and his company, Morris & Company.

A popular artisan of the movement was Sir Edward Burne-Jones who produced stained glass windows for the Victorian collectors of the day.

Burne-Jones counterpart in America was an accomplished designer named John LaFarge (1835-1910) who worked along with W. J. McPherson.

LaFarge made opalescent glass pieces and created stained glass windows in the late 1870s in opalescent glass.

This process made it unnecessary to paint the glass and fire it in a kiln.

Other stained glass masters included the artisans Louis Comfort Tiffany, who was commissioned to produced stained glass windows for public institutions and private clients, and Frank Lloyd Wright who integrated stained glass windows into his architectural works.

LaFarge’s stained glass windows were highly detailed and highly decorative.

In 1885, Tiffany established the Tiffany Glass Company. Tiffany windows were made in many different types of glass making techniques.

They featured landscapes and figures and were produced for significant buildings such as churches and private homes.

Tiffany first began experimenting with glass art in 1873.

Tiffany produced stained glass windows for many different clients using various techniques: opalescent, etched and enameled glass.

Today, stained glass windows continue to attract collectors and enthusiasts as the art form has evolved.

Contemporary artists work in colorful stained glass window art forms with the aid of advanced digital imagery technology such as contemporary stained glass artist, Clifford Ross.

Celebrity Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents appraisal events to audiences worldwide.

Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on Discovery channel’s “Auction Kings.”

Visit, or call 888 431-1010.

Art & antiques by Dr. Lori

We live in a time when there is an overwhelming abundance of home make-over TV shows, articles and online blogs about redecorating, redesigning and reconsidering the objects with which we live.

After watching a TV designer transform a perfectly good bedroom into a jungle paradise by stapling, yes stapling, green plastic leaves and flowers directly to the drywall, I thought that some tips on how museum exhibition designers install art exhibits may prove helpful. As a longtime museum director, I have seen many exhibitions installed.

Museum exhibition designers make all kinds of objects look their best in any environment. When it comes to displaying objects, museum pros rely on the basics. Three things are important: the front, the collections and the guests.

Confront the front

Your home’s front door is like a museum gallery’s confrontation wall. When you enter any room in your home, there is one wall that is right in front of you or one that you focus on the most.

This wall is the starting point for any design concept called the confrontation wall. It’s the first one you confront.

This wall shouts out for something important, big, colorful, bright, important or sexy. The confrontation wall always makes a statement.

Often, in a museum, this wall hosts the most important work of art in the exhibition. Don’t ignore it in your home. Put the best object right there.

Avoid clutter

Architect Mies van der Rohe was onto something when he said, “Less is More.” Clutter and collections are opposites.

Displaying similar items near each other is pleasing to the eye. Arrange collections together by size, color, material or texture. This method shows the scope of the collection and highlights the similarities and differences.

You want visitors to your home to look at a collection and concentrate on it. They make great conversation starters. Clutter is unrelated and messy. Reject the clutter impulse.

Fragile yet family-friendly

In most museums, changing exhibitions occur about every three months or every season. You don’t want to look at your snowman collection in July and neither do the experts.

In museums and in your home, objects on display have to withstand pedestrian traffic and issues like temperature and humidity changes, sun exposure, etc.

Make sure your favorite works of art and antiques are far from areas of high heat, away from air conditioning vents or radiators, and out of heavy traffic areas from pets and children.

One last tip, if someone holding a staple gun is coming toward your bedroom in hopes of embarking on a re-design, point them in the direction of the nearest museum. Maybe they’ll learn something.

Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents appraisal events to audiences worldwide.

Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on Discovery channel’s “Auction Kings.” Visit, or call 888 431-1010.

Art & antiques by Dr. Lori

This holiday season, many people have renewed the age-old custom of building and displaying miniature Victorian-style holiday villages in their homes.

Young and old alike participate in the design of these traditional holiday decorations based on the old German markets of Thuringia.

Museum in miniature

Today’s miniature village-scapes derive from the miniature villages designed to adorn the table atop which the first holiday trees sat in the late 19th century.

Contemporary versions, though, feature varied tiers, miniature buildings, ersatz snow and figurines galore.

Many mini-holiday village installations rival the work of any professional museum exhibition designer.

Enthusiastic holiday decorators may employ mini factory buildings of cardboard or lithographed tin to gumdrop pathways and chocolate bar rooftops. Many of the items in these displays were acquired from friends, family members and during flea market or yard sale shopping sprees over the months all in anticipation of the holiday season.

Village people

Made of cardboard and filled with candy, miniature holiday houses were initially used to decorate a table top beneath early Christmas trees.

In the 19th century, small block villages were manufactured in Germany for the world market.

Along with the Christmas tree, Prince Albert of Great Britain introduced the Christmas village to the world based on Germany’s famed Christmas markets or villages, a tradition that dates back to the mid-1500s.

The Thuringian Christmas or holiday markets grew into holiday fairs.

Back then, the merchants offered necessities of the season including hand-blown Lauschen ornaments, silver tinsel, and miniature architectural structures and innovative toys.

Christmas markets and holiday villages were set up in German towns to provided citizens with the special needs of the season like regional crafts, gifts and specialty foods.

Cardboard Christmas

Originally intended as sets for display under the Christmas tree, miniature villages simulated winter wonderlands.

In the early 20th century, Christmas villages evolved with the popularity of toy towns and Lionel train sets.

In America, cardboard candy containers and miniature tin houses were displayed beneath Christmas trees as early as the 1920s. By the 1930s, many toy and miniature building manufacturers including the toy train maker, Lionel, offered Christmas villages in sets of eight structures each. Why eight? That was the number of holiday lights on a circa 1920 string which would be hidden within each mini building.

The set of eight little village buildings would create a suitably diverse holiday town complete with church, shops and a few well-appointed homes.

By the post war years, miniature Christmas villages were produced from flocked cardboard in Germany, Japan and the United States. These printed villages could then be folded compactly for shipping and assembled upon arrival for display beneath the Christmas tree or on the family piano.

Little houses-big money

Famous miniature “architectural firms” included the McLoughlin Brothers of New York and the Built-Rite Toys firm who teamed up with the Warren Paper Products Co. to offer mini holiday town displays in the early decades of the 1900s. A Sears & Roebuck miniature Christmas village would have cost only 69 cents in 1934.

After World War II, Bachmann Brothers introduced the Plasticville line of miniature buildings to accompany model trains. Miniature Christmas villages often command high prices at auction.

For instance, a miniature village from the Bliss Co. offered a lithographed cardboard pharmacy, opera house, bank and post office and sold for $16,500. That’s big money for some little houses.

Happy holidays.

Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents appraisal events to audiences worldwide.

Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on Discovery channel’s “Auction Kings.” Visit, or call 888-431-1010.

Art & antiques by Dr. Lori

For years, my 92 year old father collected wooden nutcrackers. He amassed a colorful collection of figural nutcrackers mainly from America, Italy, and Germany. They were fun to collect and attractive to display. My dad displayed his collection of nutcrackers from the mid-1900s to the present in his home, year round. He, like many of his generation, enjoyed nuts and believed that the figures brought good luck. To those of us who knew him, it made perfect sense that my dad would collect nutcrackers. Like the sentinel or guard figure nutcrackers, my dad is the kind of guy who, if you needed someone to protect you, would be a very good choice.

An Italian bronze nutcracker dating back to the 4th century B.C. is one of the earliest ones known. And, history teaches us that Anne Boleyn received a nutcracker as a gift from King Henry VIII, too. Nutcrackers are found in many cultures spanning the globe and famous nutcrackers and nutcracker collectors sparked an interest in the history of cracking the nut.

Nutcrackers use one of three basic methods to free a nut from its shell: percussion, lever or screw. The materials used to make nutcrackers run the gamut: stones, wood, metal. For instance, nutting stones were found in North America and parts of northern Europe about 5,000 to 8,000 years ago. A nut would be placed in the depression of a stone and then smashed with another stone (called the hammer stone) to reveal the nut inside the shell.

Some nutcrackers are simply bowls with a central depressed area where the nut is placed and a matching hammer is used to smash.

Some nutcrackers are carved from conifer (pine, cedar, spruce, etc.) and deciduous (linden, beech, ash, oak, boxwood, etc.) trees. Wooden screw type nutcrackers were introduced in the 17th century where the nut sat in an open cavity of the cracker and the screw came down on the nut the amount of force cracked the nut.

Some early nutcrackers work using metal hinges or levers. For instance, a lever-forced nutcracker worked with the nut placed in the mouth of a cast metal figure like a dog, alligator, or wolf. Some have the nut positioned in the belly of a carved nutcracker figure. The belly nutcracker prevents damage to the decorated face of the nutcracker from use. Some nutcrackers are free-standing with a lever at the back and some have elongated noses to create a lever for cracking.

Big names in nutcrackers

Italy’s Groden Valley was the famous site for the creation of figural nutcrackers, made of pine and polychrome paint dating back to the 1700s. In northern Italy, carvers produced lever nutcrackers with artisan, Anton Riffeser who established the Anri firm in the 1920s. Germany’s Erzgebirge (Ore Mountain region) percussion nutcrackers are popular with collectors for their tall hats and brightly colored costumes. Carvers from Norway, Denmark and Sweden produce highly recognizable nutcracker figures of fishermen, street sellers and sea farers. The German makers, Otto Ulbricht and the Steinbach firm were known for nutcrackers with fanciful accessories. Some nutcrackers like the are specifically used at holiday time as evinced by their forms: reindeer, Santa Claus or characters from “The Nutcracker”?ballet.

Ivory was once used for nutcrackers but the material could not withstand the force from repeated use. Porcelain nutcrackers were used in high style China table settings. A famous porcelain screw nutcracker by Meissen had a brass wheel at the top that crushed down on the nut and matched the China pattern.

Once the nuts were cracked, metal nut picks became necessary. Other accessories include nut bowls, fruit and nut serving spoons, nut openers used to pry open cracked nuts, and fruit knives which were small scale pocket knives used in the eating of fruits and nuts at the end of a meal. The ever popular nut bowls often came in pairs – one bowl was used for the nuts and the other held the shells after cracking.

Nutcracker sets, which included a pair of nutcrackers and assorted nut picks, was the brain child of a 19th century dentist, Henry Quackenbush, who started out making dental tools and then found fame in nuts.

From soup to nuts, the varied shaped nutcracker is a very popular collectible.

Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents appraisal events to audiences worldwide.

Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on Discovery channel’s “Auction Kings.” Visit, or call 888-431-1010.

Art & antiques by Dr. Lori

Soda lime glass is basically colorless. Metals and oxides can be added to glass to change its color during the glass blowing, molding or machine production process.

The following additives make the distinctive colors:

Red glass: selenium.

Ruby/cranberry glass: copper or gold depending on the concentration.

Amber glass: sulfur, carbon, iron salts.

Yellow green or vaseline glass: uranium.

Yellow glass: cadmium sulfide.

Yellow-brown glass: titanium.

Dark green glass: iron oxide and chromium.

Green blue glass: iron oxide.

Turquoise glass: copper oxide.

Blue glass: cobalt with potash.

Purple or amethyst glass: manganese.

Violet glass: nickel.

Black glass: nickel depending on the concentration.

White glass: fluorspar or zinc oxide.

Milk glass: tin oxide, arsenic, antimony.

Why are wine bottles green? Why are beer bottles brown? Why are medicine bottles blue?

The answers to these questions speak volumes about American culture and design.

For instance, bottles for wine and beer were typically dark in color such as green or brown in order to protect the wine or beer from the light that could change its taste.

Dark colored wine bottles also hide the unsightly sediment that accumulates at the bottom of a wine bottle.

Often used for powder jars and bedroom vanity piece, purple or amethyst glass has a long history. Purple or amethyst glass was first used in ancient Egypt and is a popular collectible today.

In many 19th century and early 20th century general stores and early pharmacy or apothecary shops, blue bottles lined the shelves.

Blue bottle glass was inexpensive to make, which was of interest to those who were trying to attract customers to new potions, tonics and medicinal products. The cobalt blue bottles were attractive and became connected with signs of good health.

Ruby glass is associated with its additive, gold, making the collecting of ruby glass a high society status symbol. Ruby glass is often featured in objects such as decanter sets, goblets and vases.

Milk glass was a Venetian invention, the site of a longstanding history of glassblowing and glass works.

Milk glass was commonly used at weddings for items such as bride’s baskets to hold money for the newlyweds since milk glass resembled porcelain.

Color reveals a great deal about the chemistry and history of collecting glass.

Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents appraisal events to audiences worldwide.

Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on Discovery channel’s “Auction Kings.” Visit, or call 888 431-1010.