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Robert S.
Robert S., Antiques and Collectibles Researcher
Category: Antiques
Satisfied Customers: 5600
Experience:  Expert in decorative arts especially ceramics, silver, paintings, and furniture.
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It's hard to describe but the bottom is silver,top is

Customer Question

It's hard to describe but the bottom is silver,top is brass,turtle shell with a rooster on top breathing fire, has wheels but has no screws,it rolls. Also have alot old glass vase from Tiffany's and more.
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Antiques
Expert:  Rarewares replied 10 months ago.

My name is ***** ***** I would love to help. There was only the blurry photo of the bottom that came with your original inquiry.
Please use the Add Files feature on your screen to add pictures of the piece as well.

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
My phone isn't the greatest but I will try, one question, there's a place near the neck looks almost like a bird or just a place that was there and should I clean it?
Customer: replied 10 months ago.
I found this over 10yrs ago at thrift shop, have interest in wanting to sell it. No one in family likes antiques.
Customer: replied 10 months ago.
Expert:  Rarewares replied 10 months ago.

Yes, the pictures are here, thank you.

Please give me some time for research. No need to sit by the computer, you will get an email when I respond.

Expert:  Rarewares replied 10 months ago.

I am unable to find a match for this item. I will opt-out and allow another expert to answer.
They will see our conversation and your photos. I am not able to respond once I opt-out. Good luck!

Expert:  Robert S. replied 10 months ago.

Hello Mrs Dee,

My name is ***** ***** I'd be glad to help with this.

What you have is an example of an Indian temple toy and quite an unusual one as these are rarely seen in the form of a turtle (tortoise) they are usually other animals such as horses or elephants.

They have come to be known as "temple toys" because the wheeled animals can be so reminiscent of the old-fashioned pull toys that were once popular with small children in the West.

However these Indian versions are not toys.

They are for devotional purposes, for offering donations to Vishnu & Shiva and other Hindu deities in times of need, and are found mostly in Central and Southern India, particularly the state of Tamil Nadu at the southernmost tip of the subcontinent.

The tortoise (Kurma) in the Hindu tradition is considered highly auspicious as it's one of the Avatars of Vishnu (he's one of the three main gods of Hindu along with Shiva and Brahma) and in their creation mythology the tortoise carried the mythical Mount Mandara, home of the gods, and the source of the ambrosia of immortality.

Some of these temple toys can be very elaborate like this example of elephants pulling a carriage, but you'll notice they are often ornamented with those rooster-like finials that yours has.

Yours is most likely early 20th century in date, certainly no newer than the 1950s. It's made from cast brass and is carefully hand-engraved.

If you were to sell your tortoise temple toy on-line (on eBay, for instance) and properly described as what it is, it would sell in the range of $70 - $120.

I do hope this helps!

Please let me know if you'd like me to explain or expand on any of the above, I would be glad to.

Best wishes,

PS. No need to clean it. In fact most collectors prefer that old patina of tarnished brass and consider it detracts from value once cleaned. R

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
if its so unusal why would it first come so far from where its made from and theres no way for it to be pulled. and the bottom of its silver... i dont understandhow it got this far in a thrift store. im not satisfide with this report.please cancel my account. thank you dtuggle
Expert:  Robert S. replied 10 months ago.

Hello Mrs Dee,

I'm sorry you're not satisfied with the explanation of what this. Sometimes an object doesn't quite fit ones expectations of the story behind it, and this is obviously the case here. I know that might be disappointing but I hope you won't shoot the messenger.

As regards ***** ***** base is silver or brass, it's always hard to identify materials from photos alone because one can never know for certain that the color coming through on the screen is a representation of the true color of the object. If the base is silver colored (it's coming through yellowish on my screen) then it could be a different composition of bronze or pot metal compared with the top. There are an infinite number of proportions of copper and tin that can be used in alloys of brass or bronze and the higher the proportion of tin, the whiter the metal.

If you wish to tell whether it might be silver, take it to your local jeweler who'll be able to confirm in two minutes whether it's silver or brass. All good jewelers these days are equipped with test kits that analyse silver, gold and base metals in minutes.

Also, these devotional temple toys were never designed to be pulled with a string, I'm sorry, I should have made that clearer. They are just reminiscent of toys that in the West are called 'pull toys' which is how these Indian devotional objects got their name. Even thought they are not toys, it's easier to call them "Temple Toys" here in the west as that's the name that collectors here understand and look for them under.

As regards ***** ***** way to the west, thrift stores are full of souvenir items that tourists, overseas business people, armed services personnel posted abroad, and so on, have brought back from the four corners of the earth so it's easy to imagine this one being collected in this way, treasured for a while as you have done, and then donated after the story behind it -or the emotional attachment to it- was lost.

Hope this is helpful!

Best wishes,

PS. This example of your turtle/tortoise on wheels, but without the rooster finial, sold at auction recently in the UK for £50 ($65).

Expert:  Robert S. replied 10 months ago.

Hi Mrs D.

I hope all is okay?

I assume you must be having computer problems since I haven’t heard from you, however, if you are able to receive this, could you kindly take a moment to rate my services (with the stars or "accept" button) as this is how I get paid by JustAnswer at no extra cost to you.

We can still continue to communicate here on this thread after you do. Or, if you have another item you'd like to ask me about, just start a new Question and put "For Robert S....." in the subject line.

Thanks so much,