Author: Mark

Art Deco: 1920s Filigree Jewelry

1920s Art Deco 18K White Gold Filigree Jewelry Diamond Bar Pin

Origin of Filigree

Filigree jewelry has long been popular, with found samples in southern Asia dating to a few thousand years old and gold filigree flourishing in the Fatimid era of Egypt.  Originally, filigree was made with delicate threads of precious metals being hand-manipulated by jewelers into intricate designs.  This process took a lot of time and required expert craftsman.  This made filigree jewelry very expensive.  With the growth of industrialization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the production of filigree jewelry became faster and more inexpensive than ever.  This led to an explosion in the manufacturing of In the 1920s, filigree jewelry was used to show off.  The 1920s were a time of opulence; flagrant displays of wealth were not only common but encouraged.

1920s 18K White Gold Filigree Diamond Solitaire Ring


Factory Filigree Jewelry

In the early twentieth century, many pieces of filigree were made through the use of die-cut stamps.  Automation allowed intricate designs to be punched from solid sheets of metal.  This decreased both the time and expertise needed to create astounding pieces of filigree jewelry.  Stamped filigree jewelry is distinguishable from handcrafted pieces because the edges of the open spaces are sharper.  They are closer to 90 degree corners, unlike the rounded edges of hand crafted filigree.  The automation of the creation of filigree led to a huge number of filigree jewelry pieces being created.  This increase in production was also due in part to the onset of the Art Deco movement.  The geometric designs of filigree mirrored the abstract geometry of popular Art Deco design like that seen in the Chrysler building.


Why Gold?

Art Deco Solid White Gold Filigree Ruby Stick Pin


The most common metal used to create filigree jewelry in the 1920s was 18k white gold.  It was soft enough to stamp with intricate designs but strong enough to hold the delicate designs.  Additionally, the white gold color complemented the diamonds that were frequently added to the jewelry.  Filigree was common in everything from rings to panel bracelets to necklaces. Filigree pieces retain their value not just because of the charming aesthetic appeal but also due to the continued fascination with the Art Deco designs and rising gold prices.


Value for pieces can vary based on age, condition, maker, karat level, and the intricacy of the design.  We at Mark Lawson Antiques love well-made filigree jewelry.  If you have a piece you’d like to sell, call us at (528)-587-8787 or send an e-mail to to make an appointment at either our Saratoga or Colonie locations!


Additional Resources

Fatimid Jewelry, Metropolitan Museum of Art.  A history of jewelry, especially filigree jewelry, in Fatimid Egypt.

Art Deco Jewelry Appraisal, Antiques Roadshow, PBS.  An appraisal of a stunning Art Deco necklace.

Edwardian Filigree (a decade prior to Art Deco), Gemology Institute of America.  A survey of Edwardian filigree jewelry at the turn of the century.

Opening at the Met: ‘The Art of London Firearms’

Flintlock pistol, made by Wogdon & Barton.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is opening a new exhibit featuring exquisitely crafted firearms, highlighting the abilities of British gunmakers.  The exhibit, entitled ‘The Art of London Firearms’, features seventeen separate firearms, each made in London.  Instead of rifles and long guns, the focus will be on pistols dating from the mid-eighteenth century into the early nineteenth century.  Included is a pistol made for the Prince of Wales, King George IV of England.  The pieces are pulled from the Metropolitan’s permanent collection and many of them have never been on display.

In the period encapsulated by the show, a group of gunmakers with workshops on the outskirts of London and became fierce competitors.  This competition led to rapid design growth, paring down Baroque design elements for simple, elegant, and efficient design.  These gunsmiths include Durs Egg, John Manton, and Samuel Brunn.



When: The exhibition opens January 29, 2019 and lasts until January 29, 2020.  For more information visit the exhibition website.

Where: It will be in Gallery 380 of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, located at 1000 5th Avenue in New York City and is open Sunday through Thursday from 10AM to 5:30PM, Friday and Saturday from 10AM to 9PM.

Pair of flintlock pistols, made by Samuel Brunn.

Admission is $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, $12 for students, and free for children under 12.  New York State residents have the ability to choose what to pay.  This exhibit and all others are included in museum admission. There are also multiple membership options available.


Well-made firearms have always had collectible value and can be sold for a tidy sum.  When not in museum exhibits, guns like these are often in personal collections.  Collectors can find more information on the sale of these and other types of firearms here.

Mark Lawson Antiques Hosts Landmark Saratoga Springs Estate Sale March 10-12 2017

Mark Lawson Antiques announces an historic Saratoga Springs estate sale taking place March 10, 11, and 12. This untouched on-site estate sale is a landmark event, with a wide variety of items collected over the years by the long-time Saratoga Springs residents.

The gentleman of the house was a true captain of industry, an avid amateur woodworker with an interest in antique and modern tools, and an advanced collector of militaria, painting his own toy soldiers and creating small dioramas. He also acquired memorabilia from the Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations, including some Civil Rights related letters signed by Robert Kennedy during his term as Attorney General. He was also an automobile enthusiast with scattered automobile collectibles including signs, old framed advertisements, and a 1978 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow.

The lady of the house was a successful artist exhibiting in New York galleries in the 1970s. she was known for her framed collage and mixed media assemblage works, a number of which are featured in the sale. Her works can be found in private and public collections around the world.

The contents of the estate are fresh to the market and include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Saratoga Racetrack objects, memorabilia, artwork, and photographs (antique, vintage, and modern)
  • High quality antique, vintage, and modern furniture, rugs
  • Large amount of framed artwork – including antique 19th and 20th century oil paintings, drawings, and limited edition prints
  • Military collectibles – Civil War swords and leather, porcelain figurines, many lead soldier sets and small dioramas
  • Presidential memorabilia including photographs and signed letters
  • Antique tools and woodworking equipment, including many antique cabinets with lots of drawers
  • Modern tools – lathe, table & band saws, drill press, radial arm saw
  • Designer clothing, hats, shoes, belts, and bags
  • Custom window hangings
  • Good quality household & kitchen items – fine porcelain and glassware
  • 1978 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow Sedan, Color: Ivory, Miles: 92K

Dates and Times:

Friday March 10, 9am-4pm

Saturday March 11, 9am-4pm

Sunday March 12, 10am-3pm


View additional details, including photographs and terms of sale, by visiting the listing on

Mark Lawson Antiques Saratoga Springs Estate Sale March 10, 11, 12 2017Mark Lawson Antiques Saratoga Springs Estate Sale March 10, 11, 12 2017


Settling an Estate Sale Saratoga Springs Albany NY

Thoughts on Settling an Estate

Settling an Estate Sale Saratoga Springs Albany NYSettling an estate or thinking of having an estate sale? Here’s some of what we have learned:

We have helped literally thousands of people over the last 25 years taking care of or resolving issues related to settling an estate. Figuring out how to find new homes for things that have come down through families or friends can be a difficult and overwhelming job. It may involve emptying a house full of stuff that has not been maintained because of declining health, or a house simply stuffed to the rafters by prudent well-meaning people who lived during the Depression years and did not want to waste a single thing. The situation is complicated by having to cope with a big project at the same time as you are experiencing a major loss of a loved one or family home, so it’s not just a big logistical job, it’s a big emotional job as well!

I know how this can be. In 1998 my grandparents both passed away over the course of the year. They had been living in the Embury apartments here in Saratoga Springs; after the memorial and funeral was done, my aunts and uncles were over at the apartment sorting out what to do with what, to get the place cleared out. I went over thinking that I would be a big help with all my experience helping families navigate this situation. I knew there was probably not enough to have an estate sale but was confident that I could help steer things in the right direction. I walked in the apartment and froze. I was so overcome with the reality of my grandparents really being gone, it was unexpectedly so upsetting to me, that I was unable to even stay, never mind help sort things out. That was a very sobering experience for me. That day really helped me to understand how difficult it can be for the families that I am called on to help.

Downsizing Estate Saratoga Springs Albany NYOne thing that I know is that every situation is different. It may be a house full, perhaps an apartment. Maybe it’s a safe deposit box. Sometimes there are wonderfully valuable and amazing things that nobody had any idea were there. Other times there may be a one or several things whose value has become legendary as they have been passed down and cherished. Each time they are pointed out in the china cabinet or brought out at get-togethers to look at, they become more and more precious and valuable in everyone’s eyes. Sometimes they are truly exceptional and valuable. Unfortunately, sometimes the value today does not reflect the hopeful and well-meaning information that has been passed along.

While many prices have changed over the past 10-15 years because of changing lifestyles and collecting trends, there are always things that have good value that need to be sold and given a new home. Some things sell much better in one way than in another. An estate sale is only one option. Our experience is that a blended approach can give families the best result.

Selling Estate Sale Near Me NYThe first step is to talk with someone knowledgeable about the types of things you have and your situation. It may make sense to schedule a meeting to have them look at everything with you and your family. You may be able to get enough information to move your process forward just by a phone call. It may be difficult to proceed with anything until all the legal requirements have been met. You may need to obtain a formal written appraisal first (which can cost thousands of dollars and is sometimes required by the courts or well-meaning lawyers) but make sure if you can that you don’t spend more on a written appraisal than the items are worth – this happens all too often. A conversation with someone knowledgeable can help guide you here.

How do you know if a person or firm is someone that you want to trust to deal with? I am asked this often at our speaking events and I believe that you know within the first minute of talking with someone whether or not you want to do business with them – trust your gut! I am also a fan of good referrals and recommendations from friends or others who have had an experience dealing with the firm you are considering hiring.

Every family and type of house contents is different. Some people love the idea of doing a yard sale themselves and/or find it helpful to spend some time with the items sorting or organizing before things are sold. Other people need to just move on because of personal preference or because the house needs to be emptied as soon as possible. Each situation may need a different approach. Certain types of things might sell best at an in-house professionally run estate sale – this can be particularly true for good quality furniture and the sometimes thousands of $1-$5 items that otherwise might just be donated or discarded. An estate sale can be a good choice if there is enough to sell of the right types of things.

Some higher value items may sell best when consigned for auction or sold directly to specialist dealers. Coins, sterling silver, and gold jewelry items are generally purchased by professionals with a 5% to 20% margin, e.g. a dealer might pay $80 for something they can sell for $100. Estate sale commissions are typically 30%-50%, so if that same item is sold for $100 at the estate sale , it will only bring the family $50-70.

Estate Services Near MeAuctions and auction services are another option. Keep in mind that auction commission rates today range from 10% to 30% depending on the value of the item you are consigning. However, this does not reflect the true cost of selling at auction. Most auction houses today charge a “buyer’s premium”. This is an additional charge (usually 15%-25%) on top of the “hammer price”. For example, if you consign an item to auction with a 20% commission and it sells for $100 (the hammer price), you receive $80. But if the buyer has to pay a 20% “buyers premium”, they actually pay $120. Any buyer at auction figures this into their bidding so the true sale price is $120. On a payment to you of $80, that means you really paid a 33% commission on that consignment! The ins and outs of selling (and buying) at auction are at least several other posts; it is complicated. Don’t get me wrong, auctions can be incredibly successful for the right kind of thing, especially things that are rare and sought after. The psychology involved when two people that want something start bidding against each other can often result in unexpectedly high prices (and very happy consignors!). What is important to know is that it makes sense to sell on a consignment basis sometimes depending on the nature and value of what you are selling. You need to know the specific details in order to make the best choice for your family.

To summarize, make sure you do your homework (as best as you can in a difficult time), find reliable people to help through good referrals or talking to some professionals to get a feel for who does what and how. Beware of a “one size fits all” method, very often a mixed approach will give the best results for the estate. Find an experienced expert who you get a good feeling from and who other people say good things about. I love Antiques Roadshow, it’s great to see the woman who purchased the table at an estate sale for $40 that’s worth $250,000, but I can’t help but think of the poor soul watching the show that sold the table for $40 at their estate sale! Don’t make that mistake.



Estate Sale & Dispersal

Estate Sale Services - downsizing and estate settlementOne of the things we are busiest with and that I enjoy the most is providing estate sale services: helping families figure out how to deal with houses full of things that they need to take care of. For a variety of reasons, including downsizing or elderly parents moving on, clients call us to help them figure out what to do. It can be incredibly overwhelming to consider disposing of family treasures that are no longer wanted or that are impractical to keep and maintain, or to consider leaving the family homestead that holds so many cherished memories.

It can be hard to know where to start when considering an estate sale. What we do is meet families on-site at the home, get a sense of the nature and amount of things, and help decide the best way to accomplish what they need, based on the preferences of the family and the specific circumstances. We only meet on-site when the family has reached the point where they are ready to actually proceed with selling items. We can help figure out what make sense to keep and what makes sense to sell.

You may be considering an on-site professionally run estate sale. We can help with that, if it’s best for your circumstances. However, estate sales are sometimes not the best way to sell certain categories of things. One area that we specialize in is estate jewelry, scrap gold, and collectible coins. The profit margin that a professional dealer makes on this type of material is typically 10-20% as opposed to an estate sale where the commission rate is typically 30% to 40%. If you sell these types of items at an estate sale you will pocket less money because of the higher commissions.

Some types of decorative art objects like paintings or rare collectibles may have high value and may be best to sell through a major auction house. We have an established relationship with all of the major auction houses and can arrange the best placement, conservation if necessary, and delivery, taking care of all of the details that an auction house will typically not do. Our clients love this service, which we provide for the same commission that you might be charged if you dealt with the auction house directly.

Estate Sale Services - downsizing and estate sale settlementThere are always many concerns to address. Sometimes families need help getting general values on items that the family wants to keep in order to distribute them fairly. Very often, families might suspect or have been told that one or more things have exceptional value. Maybe they have been pressured to do things one way instead of another and aren’t sure or didn’t get a good feeling about that advice.

It’s important to be careful. There was a man in Voorheesville who purchased a bowl at a yard sale in 2007 for $3 that ultimately sold at auction for 2.3 million dollars. Great story, but you don’t want to be the person left holding three one dollar bills. I love Antiques Roadshow on PBS which we have sponsored locally since 1997. The stories of things of things purchased for a song by normal people and sold for small fortunes are very exciting. You just don’t want to be the poor soul that sold the table for $40 who is later watching TV and seeing the table that they sold valued for $400,000!

Our philosophy is that each person in a transaction with us should achieve the best results possible and should come away from it feeling satisfied and pleased with what they have accomplished. We want everyone we deal with to feel good about their experience.

If you have any questions about estate sale services or feel that we can be of assistance in any way, please send us an email or give a call; we are always happy to help.

Mark Lawson

Pocket Watches: The Value of Nostalgia

Buy Sell Elgin Hamilton Waltham Pocket Watch Saratoga Springs Albany NY Pocket watches were one of the most popular collectibles 15 to 20 years ago. Many people had fond memories of sitting with their grandfather and playing with or being shown his pocket watch, and it was traditional to pass these keepsakes down through the family. In the 1920s, the wristwatch began to replace the cumbersome pocket watch in popularity and by the 1950s pocket watches were a thing of the past. In many ways, the popularity of collecting pocket watches was driven by remembrance and nostalgia, which has faded over the last two decades.

Pocket watches were a part of my early fascination with “interesting things”. I can remember playing with my great-grandfather Marden’s pocket watch (he was a railroad policeman on the New York Central) in the 1960’s when I was a boy. At that time the only new pocket watches I saw being sold were inexpensive, mass produced ones at the five and dime store like Woolworths, probably mostly purchased by little boys like me.

Today we see many pocket watches brought in by people who no longer need or want them. Very often, the watches may have been passed down through the family, but the watches have no significance to their children or they have no one to pass them on to. A gold pocket watch or silver pocket watch with an antique watch chain can be an interesting curiosity, but isn’t very practical in today’s modern world. We help our clients find the current value of their watch and how to best find a new home for it.

Like many things that were mass produced and are no longer popular as collectibles, the values for pocket watches have changed dramatically over the past 10 years. Your pocket watch value today depends on many factors. Watches with very fine movements (railroad grade pocket watches were the pinnacle of 19th century technology and good examples can be found from American watch companies like Elgin, Waltham, and Hamilton) and watches by prestigious well-known makers (Patek Phillipe, Breguet, etc) are still highly sought after by collectors and can have good value. “Complications”, or extra functions on these watches such as a stopwatch, alarm, moon phases, chiming the time (repeaters), etc., can add value as well.

The more common pocket watch produced by companies such as American Waltham, Elgin, and Illinois have much more modest values today. Many of them were cased in what only appears to be solid gold cases. Most of these are actually gold filled – similar to a heavy gold plating. To create a gold filled case, a thick plate of brass is sandwiched between two very thin sheets of gold and the watch case is manufactured from the layered sheet. These are usually marked 15 year, 20 year, or 25 year depending on how thick the gold sheets on the sandwich are, indicating how long the manufacturer guarantees the watch to not wear through to the brass layer in normal daily use.

Occasionally we will see a more common watch in a solid gold case, usually marked 14k for 14 karat gold. Pure gold is 24 karat but very soft. It is alloyed or diluted with other metals to make it durable and hard wearing. 14k gold is 0.585 pure gold alloyed with other metals. The term 14k is because 0.585 pure gold = 14/24k. We sometimes see 18 karat gold cases as well. Because of the generous rise in gold prices over the past ten years a common watch in a solid gold case can be worth $300 to $500, and sometimes more.

So many antiques dealers today focus on the bottom line, especially with objects made of gold or silver. We help our clients who want to sell a pocket watch by looking past just the material value, and connecting the watch to a collector who wants to buy a pocket watch for its technology, its beauty, or its nostalgia.

Mark Lawson


Would you like to buy or sell a pocket watch? Do you have questions about your antique pocket watch? Would you like to schedule an appointment for a free evaluation? Call us today at (518) 587-8787. We have offices in Saratoga Springs and Colonie, conveniently located for our clients in the Albany, NY and surrounding Capital Region.

Antique Japanese Swords: 19th Century Japanese Katana

A Brief History of Antique Japanese Swords

Antique Japanese Swords: 19th Century Japanese Katana

Inspired by swords imported from China and Korea, Japanese swords first appeared after 200 CE, the finest of which emerged in approximately 700 CE under the direction of Amakuni, a legendary swordsmith from the Yamato Province. In reaction to civil wars, skirmishes to attain and retain leadership, invasions from Korea and China, and Japanese invasions of Korea and China that necessitated exceptional weaponry, Amakuni and his fellow swordsmiths passionately dedicated their lives to designing the most effective, deadly blade. As a result, the long-used chokuto, or straight sword, gave way to tachi, or curved sword. Whereas the straight, single-edged chokuto could not be swiftly drawn from the sheath and was limited in the number of angles from which it could be thrust, the curved blade of the tachi could be drawn quickly and proved more efficient at attacking foes from multiple angles and while on horseback.

When battles on foot and individual conflict eventually replaced battles on horseback, however, a shorter, slightly less curved version of the tachi (the katana) was developed. Katana usually range from between two and four feet in length and are favored for their ease of use. Furthermore, the shortness of their blades allows them to be drawn more quickly and to pierce adversaries from the sharpest of angles. Katana were first crafted during the Muromachi period (1392–1573).

When purchasing an antique Japanese sword, authenticity is the foremost factor to be determined. An original will have visible grain in the steel of the blade, a true temper line made by differential tempering of the blade, a blade that is sharpened all the way to the base where it joins the hilt, and rusted tangs (projections on the blades), whereby deep black rust is indicative of the oldest swords. In other words, while rust is a detrimental feature on other types of antiques, the right kind of rust is highly-esteemed on the tang of antique Japanese swords and thus should not be tampered with.

We’re always interested in seeing antique Japanese swords and their accessories like tsuba or menuki. Please feel free to contact us if you would like us to take a look at one for you.

Antique Japanese Sword: 19th century katana temper line
The temper line can be seen on the blade of this 19th century Japanese katana
Antique Japanese Sword: inscribed tang of 19th century katana
The tang of this 19th century Japanese katana has been inscribed with a signature

Native American “Wild West” Show Beaded Costume Jacket

Today’s spotlight is on an early twentieth century piece of  Western American History. Recently we took a look at the authentic Native American jacket we found at the Malden Bridge Community Center Appraisal Day event. The jacket is characterized by intricate beading and design.

19th century Native American beaded costume

Though the history of this garment is still speculative, the original owners believe that it was crafted by Plains Indians primarily as a costume in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Shows. Shows like Buffalo Bill’s and others characterized late nineteenth and early twentieth century entertainment in the central and eastern United States.

The Buffalo Bill Wild West Show started in 1883 under the leadership of William Fredrick “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Cody employed a cast of over one hundred Native Americans, and sharpshooters like Annie Oakley to portray a theatrical and abbreviated history of the “conquering” of the western frontier to an audience that knew little of the American Indian wars of the 18th and 19th century.

The Wild West Shows were created to romanticize pre-war Native American civilization. The shows featured live “buffalo hunts” and even reenactments of the Battle of Little Big Horn. Some of the cast in the Wild West Shows  had even been present for the battle, and -for the most part- willingly participated in the battle’s caricature. Though the Wild West performances originated  in Nebraska, they became so popular in the late 1800s that the cast went on tour to New York and Europe, accumulating a large fan base that included Queen Victoria.
Jacket detailed beading
The beaded jacket here was not created for traditional use in everyday Native American life. It was created as an eye-catching garment to be worn by performers in the Wild West Shows. The details are more intricate and the colors are brighter than one would normally see on a traditional Native American item. This particular jacket is a costume that was worn by a Wild West Performer during the early 1900s, and it is estimated to be work between $3,000 and $5,000.

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