Wednesday, January 27, 2016


A Remarkable 17th Century Solid Sterling Silver (96.1% pure) Spanish Chandelier 

First, I want to thank Riana, our brilliant Gallery Manager at C. Mariani WHO I LOVE TO DEATH for drafting this post "in my voice" because I'm a lazy bum and am busy reading articles on Brad and Angelina. 

A 19th Century London Silver Chafing Dish with Cover

A 19th Century English Silvered Loving Cup Samovar

Riana is so sweet, funny and smart--we couldn't be more different! But I'm training her to be as unstable and bitter as I am so she can write this blog for me. So, before you start reading this, I want to disclaim any endorsement of The Sound of Music or that insipid song, "These are a Few of My Favorite Things"--those were TOTALLY Riana's choices but I thought they were so innocent and sweetly pathetic that I left them in. But I really detest them both. Just FYI.

This is how dumb "The Sound of Mucus" is: I wrote a blog a couple of years ago about how Scarlett O'Hara had Mammy make her dress from her sweet, dead mother's old drapes. A wonderfully morbid homage to her mom, right? OK fine, that dress wasn't figure-flattering but at least the curtains were velvet. In "The Sound of Muzak," that nitwit nanny/part time nun Maria makes the kids clothes out of curtains too but they're cheap POLYESTER and JPU (just plain ugly)!!!! She was probably thinking  she could just throw them in the washer and save on dry-cleaning. But she was wrong. The only place those rags should be thrown is in the nearest garbage can. Sorry--I got sidetracked.

Interestingly, at least to me, is that I actually kind of know Julie Andrews. I swear! When I was in college in the 70's…(that's the 1970's just in case you're wondering), my best friend was her houseboy. Not kidding. We had so many fun nights back then, driving around Beverly Hills drunk in her Rolls Royce, wearing "shades" at 11 pm and screaming at unsuspecting tourists trying to figure out who the hell we were. We also played catch (I'm not making this up) with her Oscar! We sort of broke into her walk-in safe (my friend knew the combination) and the statue was wrapped in a purple silk velvet pouch--which was lucky because he grabbed it, reared back, told me to "go long" (which I thought was something sexual--what did I know? I was a virgin and so was he) and he threw the Oscar in a Hail Mary pass for me to catch. Of course, I was as uncoordinated then as I am now, so I fumbled the damn thing and heard it hit the cement floor with a thud. Note to Julie: if you're reading this, don't sue me, sue your lousy houseboy. He really stunk at his job. 

Ok, so back to Riana writing this blog post. Although she's way cuter than me, much less butch and practically as adorable, she's from Mars and I'm from Venus; so we write and think very differently. That explains why she chose to start this blog post this way (my smarmy comments are in pink): 

When it comes to "My Favorite Things, Maria (nee Julie Andrews), really got it right in The Sound of Music. I mean, who doesn't love raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens? Note to Riana: I DON'T! Moisture on roses make them rot. And I'm fundamentally against any whiskers that aren't plucked, lasered or shaved off daily. And don't get me started on crisp apple strudel. Every gourmand knows that strudel is best eaten al dente. And that pastry is the main reason so many Viennese are morbidly obese. I can only assume that they refuse to go on the Paleo diet and that strudel is just sugary empty processed carbs that go right to your hips. 

Plus brown paper packages wrapped up in string are so much fun to get! Really Riana? When I get a paper package wrapped in string, I call the bomb squad.

And here's the best part, Riana put a clip of The Happy Nun (Wasn't Maria a nun? I just Googled her but typed in nut instead of nun and it said "Yes, she was"). Anyhow, Riana put in this clip of the Nutty Nun singing her "Favorite Things" song. ARRRGGGHHHH! CAVEAT: Listening to this song may cause spontaneous bleeding of the ears. 

OK, so Riana doesn't exactly speak in my voice. But her idea did inspire me to make a short list of some of my favorite things that I use on sterling silver and sterling plate (if you don't know the difference, you don't own any silver so just skip the rest of this blog):

These are quick, easy and do a great job! They come in a tin with multiple cloths ready to use. There are smaller canisters (below) but I buy the super sized version, not only because it costs less per cloth but you'll have enough for the rest of your life. That's comforting, right? :)

2. Hagerty Silversmith's Polish - buy the 12 fl. oz. size!

OK, this is my second favorite choice for silver cleaning. It's really good but kinda messy and smelly. But it works and we're all messy and smelly at times, so it's perfectly acceptable.

My next choice (yes, I've tried every silver cleaner on earth) is Hagerty gloves. These are treated with polishing chemicals so you can just put them on and rub! They're Fun AND Easy but there are side effects ranging from diarrhea, nausea, bloating, gas, "hot dog fingers," and permanent insanity. But I think they're worth the risk if you want your silver to shine. The hot dog fingers only last about a day which is longer than the gloves last because you can't reuse them. BUT, they make great sock puppets for the kids (especially those who already have fat fingers and are permanently insane). It's a narrow market but they make great stocking stuffers for those who don't care about their children's health.

By the way, I don't recommend the aerosol version of Hagerty's--it puts lots of corrosive chemical cleaners not only on your silver, but also on your dog, bare legs (wear skinny jeans cause this stuff burns), floors and fine antiques.

I also don't like their Silver Dip (in fact I don't recommend any Silver Dips, including Tarnx). They remind me of flea dips for dogs and those are very dangerous.  I had a friend who had the cutest Pomeranian. But his groomer left it in the dip too long. Don't ask. :( Boo-hoo-hoo. Let me just say it was a lovely funeral, closed casket of course. The dip left the poor pooch with no hair she resembled a wrinkled Mexican Chihuahua (the good news is that beauty's only skin deep):

Plus silver dips are messy, smell like rotten eggs, make you high (and not in a good way) and they're scientifically designed to tip over and spill on you, your furniture, any Persian rug within 3 blocks and everything else you treasure. I don't know how they engineered that into the dip bottles but I've knocked over every single one I've ever bought. And that can be expensive: I had to renovate my acid-washed kitchen because of it and even had to throw out my only "muscle-T shirt" that I bought at Baby Gap and they don't make them anymore. But then I don't have muscles anymore. So I guess it's time to let go of my anger about this. Huh: I feel better already!!! :)

3. Cape Cod Horse Hair Polishing Brush - this is great for those hard to reach areas. You use it with the liquid polishes. It's not treated with anything. So you can also use it at bedtime on your teeth (talk about whitening!) and save a huge pile of money on those expensive electric toothbrushes.

With all these different types of silver polishes, you should wipe the silver clean with a dry soft cloth like an old t-shirt (try Baby Gap) or...
These are really perfect for silver cleaning and they're even washable! 

Speaking of cleaning, I want to talk about wood floors for a sec-I have no idea why. THE BEST and only thing you need for cleaning and polishing hardwood floors is a good strong housekeeper with great knees and good references. But since it's so hard to find good help these days, just buy Bona Hardwood Floor Care System. It's fantastic.

You can thank me later when everything looks shiny and new! Ok, maybe not the dog…or your hands. :(

Having said all this, I want to thank Riana for giving this ghost writing post a shot. She really is a key player on our C. Mariani team and I'd hang myself from one of our 18th or 19th c. Louis XV Chandeliers if she ever left. Any of these would work (and they're all available):

A Massive 18th Century 21-Light Genovese Parcel Gilt and Crystal Chandelier

An 18th Century Resplendent Giltwood 16-Light Florentine Palazzo Chandelier

A First Quarter 19th Century Italian Empire Crystal and Gilt 12-Light Chandelier

A Towering 19th Century Tuscan Giltwood Palazzo Chandelier

You really should stop in and say hello to Riana because in 10 years she's going to be the CEO here. I really believe that. She's a gem! Mwah Riana! :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


In describing antiques, many folks use the terms "Regency" and "Regence" interchangeably. Big moos-take. Talk about stepping in it. P.U.!

No, this is NOT a picture of me.  But people who make this mistake are telling you that they don't know squat about antiques and need to learn to PIPE DOWN once in a while. :) You'll have plenty of other opportunities to demonstrate you went to Cal State Chico and aren't the brightest bulb in the chandelier throughout your life. That was a joke so please don't text or twit me about being "dissing" your alma mater.

Regency antiques come from England and date to around 1811

It would be so much more productive to crack a book and learn understand that there really is a difference between ENGLAND (also called Great Britain) and France (also called..uh..France). Duh. Regency furniture comes from England and dates from 1811-1830 while  Regence furniture comes from France and predates Regency furniture by about a 100 years (around 1715-1723).

In England, the Regency period began in 1811 when George IV was named "regency" in place of his insane father George III, showing here:

Interesting factoid: George III was not only acting cuckoo but his urine was coming out blue. "Rhapsody in Blue" was probably named for this (at least I'd like to think so). And besides, if my pee was blue, I'd be acting like a lunatic too. I can barely keep it together when I get a hang nail). Today we know that the poor guy just had a disease known as PORPHYRIA (poor-FEAR-e-uh). Por guy. Or maybe he was just nuts--I forget.

Another interesting factoid: King George III's lips. Was King George a pioneer in lip augmentation? His are so big, plump and luscious! Very Angelina Jolie, right? I've Googled "Beverly Hills dermatologist of George III but came up with nothing). So I'll just let his lips speak for themselves:

In Beverly Hills, people kill for lips like Geogie's.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Regency England. So when Hot Lips was deemed unfit to rule, his son, the Prince of Wales, ruled as Prince Regent. In 1820, on the death of his crazy dad, the Regency ended and the Prince officially became King George IV, showing here:

I'd like to say that everyone lived happily ever after but nothing could be further from the truth. In the 10 short years of his reign, George IV succeeded in becoming the most despised monarch in English history. Commentators describe him as grossly self-indulgent, faithless, selfish, extravagant, spoiled, histrionic, a tub of lard, a gambler and a sexaholic. He died in 1830 to the widespread cheers of his subjects. Very sad.

Although the Regency period technically ran from 1811-1830, when  furniture is described as "English Regency," it really refers to a longer period than just the reign of George IV: my feeling is that Regency furniture dates from about 1795 to 1837 (so that would include the latter part of the reign of George III, the reigns of his sons George IV, as Prince Regent and King, and William IV) because this longer period was characterized by distinctive trends in British furniture, architecture, literature, fashions, politics, and culture. Think Jane Austen.

In this way English Regency sits as the transitional period and style between the Georgian and Victorian design periods.

Monday, June 29, 2015


Yup, I wrote an article about majolica (pronounced either "muh-JAH-luh-kah" or "mah-JOE-lee-kah"…or if you're Spanish or Mexican, 'may-HOLL-eek-kuh; course I don't speak Spanish so that's probably wrong) for the new issue of SF Cottages & Garden Magazine (which I love--it's a great new magazine you should check out). So I thought I'd share my article with you! :) So here goes...along with all of my photos which the Editors decided not to use! Wah.

A Magnificent and Rare 19th c. Faience Porcelain Bust of "Winter"
a masterpiece of modeling from a series of five enormous faience busts
originally commissioned in 1730 from the Rouen manufactory of Nicolas Fouquay

Whether it is superb antique Minton or more humble country-ware, majolica's vivid hues and whimsical motifs make it a go-to design element for summer. Its rustic elegance lends itself perfectly to the season's more casual entertaining, while its crisp blue-and-white hues evoke Mediterranean shores. A highly collectible art form, it ranges from garden pottery to tableware to statuary, and its distinctive themes--among them sea life, animals, flowers, fruits and exotic plants--continue to inspire contemporary textiles, tiles and accessories that bring color and wit to indoor and outdoor spaces.

An Exceptional Pair of 18th c. Faience Ceramic Lions
commissioned for the Royal Hunding lodge in Rouen

Majolica, with its white opaque and luster overglazes, first became world-famous in the High Renaissance of the 15th century. Originally created to emulate Chinese porcelain, it was eventually produced throughout Europe: In France, they called it Faïence after the Italian city of Faenza--a major early source of majolica--Delftware emerged from its namesake Dutch city; and England had its own interpretations as well, many of which originated with Flemish immigrants.

A Set of Four 19th c. Monte Lupo Faenza Diningware Plates

Majolica begins as an earthenware form, typically red terra cotta, which is covered with a fast-drying, white tin glaze. Once dry, the glaze is decorated with lively colored paints or stains and then fired at more than 1,500 degrees. At that temperature, the glaze interacts with the metal oxide of the paints, producing the deep and brilliant hues characteristic of majolica.

A 19th c. Exuberant Ginori Ceramic Urn
with Leopard Spotted Coiled Boas and Mascarons

The vast majority of majolica is unmarked and unsigned (exceptions include English Minton-ware and much of French Faïence such as Luneville and Limoges), so beginning collectors can build an exquisite collection without worrying about identification. Serious collectors look for indications of age--typically fine lines or cracks called "crazing"--or small bits of dirt. Many majolica aficionados look for similar color schemes--yellow and blue is a characteristic combination--while others organize by country of origin, motif or high-relief decoration, like that of Italian maker Capodimonte.

A Pair of 19th c. Sicilian Majolica Rusticated Cachepots

My favorite majolica takes the form of lions, a popular motif of the French and Italian makers. They were typically sculpted in whimsical and almost comical designs that I find irresistible. My majolica lions roam my summer garden, bringing color, humor and joy to all who spy them hiding among the blooms. 

A Pair of 18th c. Angouleme Faience Seated Lions
most likely from the Rue de Bondy Manufactory, patronized by the duc d'Anouleme

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Sometimes I think that antique dealers purposely speak in a language that bears no resemblance to English.

My suspicion is that they speak that way because they're extra-terrestrials (that is, not of this world)-and being aliens, they can't master our earthling vocabulary…..except for the one phrase: "TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER." All aliens know that one.

But back to our story: Here's a great example of antique mis-speak: When an antique is painted as opposed to stained, it's called "polychrome". Ok, fair enough since polychrome means many colors. But what do we call furniture that's painted in only one color? Monochrome, right? Wrong. It's still called "polychrome". Why? Dunno. Probably because even the most sophisticated alien beings can't collect painted antiques (painted finishes burn up in Pluto's atmosphere and so can't be transported back to their planet). 

Shown below: An 18th Century "Polychrome" and Parcel Gilt Settee and pair of Arm Chairs en suite:

Here's more proof that antiquarians are from outer space. In their "antique speak", the 19th Century doesn't include 1800-1830.

Yep, even the top auction houses agree that the first quarter of the 19th century is not really part of the 19th century at all. To illustrate my point, here's a recent quote from Sotheby's: "The 19th Century Furniture Department at Sotheby's deals with items produced after 1835." Strange but true: aliens have taken over Sotheby's!  And that explains those phony English accents…Blimey!

Ok, so what do you call antiques made in the 19th century prior to 1835? Well, in France, you call them Empire (the period under Napolean from 1800-1815), Second Empire or Louis XVIII (1815-1824) and after that Charles X (1824-1830). In England, it's called Late Georgian (1760-1820) and then Regency (under George IV from 1820-1830). In Italy, you can just call this period Italian Empire or Neoclassical.

Shown below: A pair of Polychrome and Parcel Gilt 1815 Empire Benches with later upholstery embroidered with the symbol of Napoleon, the bee centering a laurel wreath.

The reason the first quarter of the 19th century is often separated from the rest of the 1800's because the furniture styles that emerged between 1800-1830 were new and unique (as were those during the 1700's). And so they got fancy period names.

But after 1835, styles were really just revivals or reinterpretations of earlier designs. Examples would be Neo-Gothic Style in England, Neo-Grecque Style in Paris during the 1860's and 70's and Louis XV/XVI revivals throughout the latter part of the century. 

Boring side note: The furnishings from post 1835 are perhaps best encapsulated by the series of Great International Exhibitions. Although the idea of exhibitions of this type developed in France in 1798, the first truly International Exhibition did not take place until 1851 in London.

These exhibitions became popular throughout the world, although the most important were in London and Paris. They were intended to follow an eleven-year cycle (another alien concept aimed at confusing us earthlings), with Exhibitions in Paris in 1855, 1867, 1878, 1889 and 1900. London had another exhibition in 1862 but due to financial losses at the time the idea was never really followed through in England in the same way as in France.

How can you spot an ALIEN antique dealer? Easy. They all look like either gassy babies or (quite curiously), a young and luscious Liz Taylor.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


A common question I get is "Who's Da Boss?" Well duh. It's Tony Danza of course! I loved that show with Alyssa Milano as his innocent young daughter before she got edgy, got tats, started smoking and got pregnant. Poor thing. But this has nothing to do with debossing, embossing, or the critical hygienic technique of FLOSSING (PLEEZ don't forget to floss--it's so important! This is a PSA from the ADA). So….uh…so there.

Turning to our topic, would you be surprised to learn that everything you always thought was embossing is not embossing at all? Shocking but true! Even more shocking is how nobody gives a rats-ass about this, not even me. But I'm still going to blog about it because my blog hits have taken a nosedive.

So let's start out with a sneaky trick question like this one: "Don't you just love the rich look of a table that has a beautifully gold-embossed leather top like this one?"

Answer: "Most definitely Buzz, and not to brag but we have an embossed desk just like it in our pied a terre in Barthalona!" Retort: "Oh, gimme a break Buckwheat. You don't have a pied a terre in Barcelona-you have an Efficiency with a hot plate in Canoga Park. And lose the Catalan accent. It's annoying and my diet pill is wearing off." But getting back to our topic, if you did have that desk, it's not embossed at all, it's debossed!" Read on to learn how I know this.

C. Mariani is famous for doing this type of specialty leather work. And we do it all by hand (a very steady hand I might add) and in 22k gold leaf. I've spent (OK, wasted) many hours watching Claudio Mariani take his 200 year old tool set, select one of his 35 antique engraved embossing wheels, and then meticulously apply the pattern and the gold to leather desk tops.

He works very slowly and always grumbles that "left turns are the hardest"--of course, I have no idea what he's talking about. I think it's either his driving skills or laying down the perfect left curving gold debossing on these leather surfaces (he's a master at this and insists on perfection!).

But none of that matters now because I just found out that Claudio and C. Mariani have never embossed anything! All of these desk tops, blotters, and other leather specialty pieces we've been supposedly "hand embossing" over the years ARE NOT EMBOSSED AT ALL.

Quel scandale, oui?! Who knew? Certainly not The Buzz. I wonder if my education was deficient and  I should have been assigned to "special ed" when I was a tween.

But alas, back then, the only "special ed" available was just being called stupid. So my desperate cries for a tudor were sadly misunderstood as just being an overly ambitious tweenage phony trying to claw his way into private schools. Oh the humanity! {Cue the sobbing}. I always wanted to use that quote (it's from the 1937 radio coverage of the Hindenburg disaster). It makes no sense in this context, but I just wanted to use it anyhow.

But back to our story. So we're now going to learn exactly what EMBOSSING really is and how it differs from the gold leather decorating we've been doing for years, which is called DEBOSSING.

Embossing creates a raised relief image while debossing creates an indented/recessed image. So all this time we've been debossing those dang desk tops.

Sub-question that comes to mind here: what's blind embossing? Blind embossing is just creating a raised relief impression (from the back) with no gold or inking on the raised surface. So what we usually think of as blind embossing is really blind debossing because we do it from the top. In fact, there are many other types of embossing as well, none of which I care about. But just for the record, they include registered embossing, combination embossing, pastelling, glazing, and scorching.

I think the only time I used the term embossing right was when it came to "engraved" stationery. I always said it was EMBOSSED, VERY classy, VERY APPROPRIATE for anyone aspiring to be an old money East Coast WASP. And I was right (finally!) because "engraved" refers to the metal stamp that embosses the stationery. In fact, the widespread use of this engraving that creates embossed stationery is far more widely used than the hand-applied debossing we do at C. Mariani.

Want more details?  I know you don't but I have to continue….Embossing applies pressure to the backside of leather or paper stock to alter the surface, giving it a three dimensional raised effect. To do this, a die maker engraves the desired impression (it can be just about anything from text to images to design motifs) into several metal plates (embossing dies). So it's embossing that creates the elegant and understated stationery that no one under 60 uses anymore. Sigh.

Debossing, on the other hand, applies pressure to the front side of the leather (or paper or whatever) forcing the material away or down from the surface.

Placing gold foil between the stamp or roller (rollers are used for continuous lines like desk top trim) lays the gold down in the pattern or motif desired. The best gold debossing (and what Claudio is so good at) is really an old-world process that involves hand stamping/rolling and embossing at the same time. It requires complete concentration to keep the image and foil matched precisely. This is one of the many techniques in our workshop that only Claudio himself does. In fact, it's such a closely guarded trade secret that he's never trained any of our staff in this technique that only he can do.

Strange but absolutely true. Informational closing factoid: Despite everything I say in this post, EVERYONE still calls debossing "embossing." and I don't think this  blog is going to change that so feel free to misuse the term with abandon! I certainly do. :)