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Robert S.
Robert S., Antiques and Collectibles Researcher
Category: Antiques
Satisfied Customers: 5614
Experience:  Expert in decorative arts especially ceramics, silver, paintings, and furniture.
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Art Nouveau Vase,11 1/2", WMFB, as, I/O. Boy holding fish

Customer Question

Art Nouveau Vase,11 1/2", WMFB, as, I/O. Boy holding fish on base. Silver plate apparently all gone, now black havent touched it in years. Having it resilvered but not until June. Am I doing the right thing? It is beautiful. I can send you a picture. ***** *****,***@******.***. Thank you.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Antiques
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I sent a picture.
Expert:  Robert S. replied 2 years ago.
Hi Margaret,
My name is ***** ***** I would be happy to help with your beautiful WMF vase.
Thanks for the excellent photo I can see exactly what you have.
This is a wonderful example of the work of Württembergische Metallwarenfabrik (WMF for short) the German tableware manufacture renowned for its "Jugendstil" and Art Nouveau designs of the late 19th and early 20th century. The elegant elongated neck on a bulbous base, applied tulip blooms and leaves serving as handles, in sinuous and whiplash curves, and the charming figural group in full relief, of a young boy on the shore grasping a fish that he has pulled from the ocean, is WMF at its very best.
The only thing missing is the crystal glass liner that sat in the top, so one could use it more practically as a vase.
Thanks to your excellent description of the mark I can tell you that this is silverplate over Britannia metal. The "WMFB" mark was how the company indicated that the base metal is Britannia (hence the letter B) which is a white pewter like alloy containing nickel (that makes it white and so not so conspicuous should the silverplating wear through) and that is easily cast and milled. The company used this WMFB mark from 1880 to about 1918.
The I/O is a general Austro-German symbol for electroplated silver that was used at the time.
"AS" means "antique finish".
And therefore, I am so glad you mentioned cleaning and asked about re-silvering, this can be quite a contentious issue! My preference, and the preference of many collectors of this "AS" antique finished silverplated Britannia metal, is to leave the existing patina the way it is and just buff it with a soft cotton cloth or chamois leather and if the plating is beginning to 'bleed' (the base metal showing through) to consider that more of its antique charm.
I personally have no problem with that look and I think it compliments the areas of the design where there are highlights that contrast well with the deep black in the crevices of the design so one can appreciate the modeling better.
Traditionally in the past, collectors would disapprove of the 'bleeding', as the wear through to the Britannia metal is called, and would send it off to be re-plated. This of course makes it looks new again and eradicates forever a hundred and some years of wonderful aging and patina -as well as the AS finish. A growing number of collectors are beginning to agree with me that this is NOT a good thing to do and will pay less for one that has been re-finished. So my advice is that by all means go ahead and do it for your own benefit if you prefer it that way, and that is fine if you are never going to sell it, but if you are doing it with a possible future sale in mind, or to preserve its value I would highly recommend leaving it the way it is. Besides, re-silvering is not cheap! It would cost $300 - $500 to have it re-done.
As for current value, this is a rare WMF piece and sought after by collectors.
This example, together with its companion piece with a little girl watching the fish swimming and holding a shell to her ear (both vases complete with their glass inserts) sold on eBay in the UK:
in 2012 for $514.
I think your single one would do a little better here in the US than just half the value of that pair.
If you were to see it for sale in a good antique store it would have a full retail value of $1250. This is also the replacement value for insurance purposes.
Expect to get in the range of 30% - 40% of this if you were to sell at a top antique auction house, or on eBay.
I do hope this helps!
Please let me know if I can be of further assistance with this, I would be glad to.
Best wishes,
Expert:  Robert S. replied 2 years ago.
Hi Margaret,
Just checking to see whether you had read my response and if there is anything further I could help with.
If not, could you rate my services (with the smiley faces or the "Accept" button) as this is how I get paid by JustAnswer at no extra cost to you. And we can still continue to communicate here on this thread after you do.
Many thanks.