Antiquities: communication solves the mystery of the chess table

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Q Here are the results of our ongoing investigations into our mysterious chess table. My friend from Iran confirmed that the inscription was Arabic and not Persian. My cousin, the owner of the table, participates in senior chess tournaments all over Switzerland and he noticed an inlaid chessboard from Andalucia, Spain that strongly resembled the inlay on the table. Historically, the southern part of Spain has been heavily influenced by the Arabs. Independently, two different Arab acquaintances confirmed the scenario. My source commented, “This is an unusual decorative Arabic phrase that says ‘wa la ghali ella Allah’, which translates to ‘and there is no one more precious than Allah.’ I am very happy that we have solved this mystery. Sending you my best regards,

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A Congratulations on your commendable diligence in using your worldly contacts. I have always believed that there is more information on “the tip of people’s tongues” than all the libraries in the world combined. It turns out that your table was made in Syria. Since the mid-1800s, in central Damascus, large quantities of inlays illustrating traditional Middle Eastern geometric designs have been produced – traded easily in the riparian countries and in the general area of ​​the Mediterranean Sea – so the ties with Spain and Saudi Arabia make perfect sense. . Any decorative writing is unusual to find, suggesting a custom order. The table is no more than 50 years old. Either way, similar tables cost well over $1,000.

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Jewelry box. Photo by Fourni

Q I purchased a jewelry box for $20 that looks and measures exactly like the one shown online which was listed for quite a high price. This left me intrigued by the actual value of my purchase. It measures approximately 5 x 14 x 10 cm (2 x 5.5 x 4 inches). Let me know what you think. Thanks.

Francine, Casselman, Ont.

A Your interesting hinged box is made of lapis lazuli stone – probably from Afghanistan. The box is contemporary – dating, at the oldest, to the 1970s. The lid is made up of several pieces and sellers describe this as “mosaic” work. Your box, with the interior lined and hinged with another described as a “piano” style, is among the most expensive group of related boxes housing “asked” retail values ​​ranging from $1,000 to $2,500. Those without hinged lids usually lack liners worth $150 to $250. Only high-end retailers in “big cities”, such as New York or London, England, can sell at these high prices. Lapis is popular and boxes with an interesting composition of pyrite (the white or gold highlights) and large single pieces are more expensive. The front piece of yours is very attractive and appears to be a unique piece that has better value. These boxes seem to attract attention but are readily available. Beware, the realistic selling price of your box today is $650.

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Crystal regulating clock.
Crystal regulating clock. Photo by Fourni

Q I suspect my dad bought this round crystal regulator clock years ago from a clock shop in Winchester, UK that he frequented. There is mercury in both tubes of the pendulum, which I think is quite unusual. The top and bottom are bucket green marble with a brass surround and pretty feet! It measures approximately 28 cm (11 inches). Any info is welcome. Thanks again.

Margaret, St. Thomas, Ont.

A You have an unusual round version of a French crystal regulator. Most are rectangular. The marble top and bottom sections are even more unusual for these clocks – and very attractive. The pendulum style is not that unusual and when it comes to mercury, it poses problems for its marketing and transportation. It was made around 1900 and it will run for eight days when fully wound. The enamelled face, often called ‘porcelain’, is in excellent condition. An advanced collector will pay $1,200 for your treasure in due time.

John Sewell is an appraiser of antiques and works of art. To submit an article to his column, go to the ‘Contact John’ page at Please measure your part, say when and how you got it, what you paid for, and list all identifying marks. A high resolution jpeg photo must also be included. (Only email submissions are accepted.)

* Appraisal values ​​are estimates only.*


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