Antiques & Collectibles: Hinged Santa Claus figure is pewter ice cream mold

Question: I am searching for information about a yard sale item I have owned for several years. It is a three-dimensional, old-fashioned 4½-inch-high metal Santa Claus figure stamped “E & Co. NY” with some numbers. It is composed of two pieces, a front and a back, that are connected by a working side hinge that allows it to open and close. Can you help? — E.H., Rio Grande

Answer: You have described one of thousands of two-piece, hinged, heavy pewter ice cream molds produced from the 1830s for more than a century. Such molds were constructed so that a soft ice cream mixture could be spooned into each side before the mold was firmly closed and freezing began. When the mold was opened, the frozen, molded dessert was served on a plate.

Ice cream molds were offered in two sizes. The most common is the small size created for one person, while larger versions known as banquet molds served as many as a dozen guests. Both sizes were used by homemakers, caterers, confectioners and ice cream companies to create novel desserts.

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Especially popular from the mid-1800s to the 1950s, favorite mold shapes were flowers, fruits, vegetables, animals, birds, holiday and patriotic symbols — even steamships!

Although a number of manufacturers produced pewter ice cream molds, one especially important American firm was Eppelsheimer & Co. of New York City, whose stamp appears on yours. The numbers you mention identified your Santa mold in the company’s product catalogs.

Collectors who buy ice cream molds or other pewter items associated with holidays, political, historical or other special interests look for examples that are scarce, unusual and in very good to excellent condition. Banquet molds often fetch top dollars.

Last year, a mold like yours in good condition brought $75.

Question: I would like to know the origin, age and value of a lovely, pristine cruet found among my great-aunt’s glassware after she died. It is 7 inches high and made of opaque glass that is very pale yellow at its base and gradually turns to rosy pink at its top and stopper. It is marked with a “P” inside a small, diamond-shape outline. — W.G., Mount Holly

Answer: Your cruet, a Burmese glass item, is an example of art glass popular from 1885 — the year it was patented by Frederick Shirley for Boston’s Mt. Washington Glass Co. — through the early 1900s.

The opaque glass’ unique coloring that subtly changes from pale yellow to delicate salmon pink is the result of combining uranium oxides, gold and intense heat during production. Offered with a dull or glossy surface, Burmese glass items were made in a variety of shapes, patterns and forms that included tableware, decorative pieces and ornamental lampshades.

In 1894, Mt. Washington merged with Pairpoint Manufacturing Co. in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and in 1900 the firm became the Pairpoint Corp. The “P in a diamond” mark you describe was Pairpoint’s identifying symbol.

Burmese glass, a favorite of Queen Victoria, who likened its colors to those of a Burmese sunset, was an important art glass for many years. Prized for its beauty, simplicity and affordability, it was manufactured and marketed internationally. However, during the early 20th century, Pairpoint ceased making it due to diminished demand and rising cost of materials necessary for its production.

Currently popular because of its uniqueness and timeless beauty, old Burmese glass is collected by folks who enjoy searching for unusual, elegant art glass. Recently, a cruet like yours in excellent condition sold for $125.

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