Hever Castle 1

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Antiques Roadshow, Series 34 Episode 5 of 28

Duration: 1 hour

Fiona Bruce and the team set up for another busy day in the grounds of Hever Castle in Kent. Despite occasional downpours, thick crowds unpack their heirlooms for the experts. Items include one of the finest pieces of furniture seen in recent years, with an important table from the early 19th century and a painting of Mick Jagger by Cecil Beaton from the 1960s; and a strong cuppa is required by the owner of a pair of some of the earliest tea caddies ever seen on the show.

  • Know your decanters

    Know your decanters

    Our irrepressible glass expert Andy McConnell really got us guessing with his Basic, Better and Best challenge at Hever Castle. The three decanters he brought along weren’t the easiest for our visitors, or Fiona, to assess.
    The BASIC was a decanter dating from c1810, worth £250. The BETTER was engraved and floral cut, c1765. It was a rare piece and therefore worth £1,500. But, the BEST was possibly unique. It was produced 1750-55 for someone who supported the Jacobite rebellion and is engraved with the appropriate emblems. It was valued at £8,000-£10,000.

    Although our BASIC decanter was priced at £250, you can pick up an antique decanter for less than £20 at boot sales, charity shops or flea markets. So, with an enormous range of values possible, and literally millions of decanters made from their earliest days in the late 17th century right through to the late 20th century, it’s not surprising it can be tricky to know which is which. To make things even more difficult, many designs were copied generation after generation, so an expert’s eye would come in useful. Here are a few basic points from Andy to consider:

    Maker’s marks
    If you find a maker’s mark on glass you’re lucky. The vast majority of factories didn’t mark their wares. So, you’ll need to do extra research and look for other clues to tell you how old your decanter is…

    Is the stopper correct?
    Give the stopper a wiggle. If it moves around a lot, it’s probably not the original stopper. Also, look at its design. Does its style look like it goes with the decanter? If not, again, it’s probably a replacement. There are so many decanters out there, if you are buying, you might as well look for one that’s entirely original. Many stoppers mirror the shape of the decanter they go with if you turn them upside down.

    Is it entirely colourless?
    The majority of decanters are made from clear ‘colourless’ glass. But is the glass really colourless? Exceptionally old decanters – from late-17th and through the 18th century – can look slightly grey as impurities slipped into the mix. The glassmakers of the day hadn’t perfected the way to purify the materials they used. So, although this might make your decanter look a lower quality, it can be a very good sign and indicative of age.

    Other pointers
    Generally, the more precise details such as engraving and cutting are, the more likely it is that your decanter is later. In the earlier examples, this kind of decoration would have been done by hand and irregularity of stroke would be visible. Later in the 19th and 20th centuries, machines would have been used, giving more precision and uniformity.

    Did you know?

    That from around 1765 until the 1960s decanting wine was de rigueur. In fact if you served wine from a bottle it was a sign that you were rather uncouth.

    Amongst glass collectors, glass is often referred to as “metal”.

    The design of some decanters has remained virtually unchanged since they were first introduced. A typical example is the ship’s decanter, which has a narrow neck that splays out, downwards to a wide flat base. This was so that decanter would not topple over on the captain’s table in rough seas. Even though they probably stay on land, ‘ship’s decanters’ are still modelled this way today.

    Finally if you have a decanter, or any other piece of antique or collectable glass you would like to know more about, why not bring it along to an Antiques Roadshow valuation day to show Andy McConnell or one of the other specialists in 2012. The dates and venues will be published, once confirmed, on wwww.bbc.co.uk/antiquesroadshow


Series Editor
Simon Shaw
Series Editor
Simon Shaw
Fiona Bruce
Fiona Bruce
Michele Burgess
Michele Burgess


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