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THE KOVELS Fashion takes its cue from influences at top



Published: Sun, June 10, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Royalty has influenced fashion for centuries. When Queen Victoria went into mourning, she wore black clothing and black jewelry. Elegant women of the world turned to jet necklaces and black silk dresses.

Jacqueline Kennedy did not like hats, so she wore a small pillbox hat at the back of her head. That became the rage.

Queen Louise of Prussia, who lived from 1776 to 1810, was a popular monarch. When she first became queen, she had a swelling on her neck, perhaps a goiter, so she always wore a gauze scarf around her neck. Soon every fashionable lady twisted a scarf around her neck. Even after the swelling disappeared, the scarf remained popular.

There are many plaques and portraits that picture a woman with a thin scarf around her neck. Most of them picture Queen Louise.

Q. What is a butler's desk?

A. The term "butler's desk" is not found in most furniture dictionaries. It refers to a piece of federal furniture that looks like a chest of drawers. What appears to be the top drawer is actually a fall-front writing surface. A butler's desk was originally used as a sideboard or storage piece in a dining room or butler's pantry. The butler used the fall-front desk to handle the household's accounts.

Q. My brother just found a toy milk wagon about 2 feet long, if you include the horse that is pulling it. The wagon reads "Alderney Dairy, Milk & amp; Cream, Laboratory Controlled & amp; Tuberculin Tested." There is even a crate filled with bottles of milk inside the wagon. Do you know when it was made?

A. Toy milk wagons marked "Alderney Dairy" were made by the famous Schoenhut Toy Co. about 1930. They made a number of different wagons for bread or milk delivery. Each wagon had boxes of the product and either a gray or brown horse. The horse harness was made of leather. Since the horse was made on a wheeled platform and the wagon had wheels, the entire toy could be pushed or pulled. The company also made a jointed wooden doll dressed to look like the driver. More than 10 different wagons were made, and each one had the name of a real company. The toys were expensive when new and were only made for about four years. It is no wonder that today a toy like your brother's, in good condition, is worth about $5,000.

Q. One of my distant relatives was a passenger on the Lusitania before its final, fatal voyage in 1915. I wound up as the owner of a souvenir, from my relative's voyage. It's a metal ashtray with an enameled red ship's flag in the center and the words "R.M.S. Lusitania" on the edge. Does it have any value, or is it just an interesting conversation piece?

A. Graniteware is metal coated with one or more layers of enamel glaze. Some collectors refer to the cookware as enamelware. The industry began in the early 1800s in Europe and by the middle of that century here. Many cooks preferred the lightweight, colorful kitchenware to heavy cast-iron. It was also easier to clean. Graniteware is popular with collectors. Reproductions made today are lighter in weight.

Q. I recently bought a 1920s cut-and-etched 12-inch vase shaped like an hourglass. The vase has a 3-inch water stain about a third of the way from the top. I have tried soaking and scrubbing the inside with vinegar, bleach, denture cleaner, ammonia and several other chemical compounds. Nothing has worked. Any suggestions?

A. If water is left standing in glass -- particularly in glass with a high lead content, like your cut-and-etched vase -- the minerals in the water actually scratch the glass. The marks in your vase won't come off. They can only be hidden. Try coating the inside of the glass by swishing it with a clear liquid wax or a liquid dishwasher drying agent, like Jet-Dry. A layer of clear wax will cover the fine scratches so you can display the empty vase or fill it with artificial flowers.

Tip: Ivory-, bone-, and mother-of-pearl-handled tableware should never be washed in a dishwasher. The heat and soaking will crack these materials.

XThe Kovels answer as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for its use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names and addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, The Vindicator, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017.




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