By Danielle Arnet

This cameo glass vase called 'Jeanne d'Arc,' made by French glass master Emile Galle in 1885, sold for $14,340 recently at Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas

This cameo glass vase called "Jeanne d'Arc," made by French glass master Emile Galle in 1885, sold for $14,340 recently at Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas

Q: Any info on this chiefs blanket, including how to sell it? I've researched and can't find a pattern exactly like it, but the diamond design seems to fit what I've read about Navajo chiefs blankets from 1880.

A: Perhaps our reader is thinking back to the Ute 1st Phase Navajo chiefs blanket that was featured on "Antiques Roadshow" in 2002. In a segment filmed in Tucson, the rug, dating 1840-1860, was appraised for $350,000 to $500,000. Rare because it came from the beginning of Navajo weaving, for the use of indigo dye, and for its A-1 condition, the blanket and its appraisal probably had a lot of viewers rummaging through closets and chests to see if they had one like it.

(We always hear from the grammar police if anything looks wrong, so I'm telling you that in this context, "chiefs" is plural, written without an apostrophe.)

Native American chiefs blankets are not bed covers. The woven textiles, often the size of a large rectangular throw rug, were worn as a designation of status.

Tucson gallery owner Mark Bahti is the second generation in his family to specialize in Southwest Indian arts. His gallery, Bahti Indian Arts,, specializes in textiles, pottery, jewelry, basketry and other native arts.

Because of their cultural importance, old and vintage chiefs blankets are prized by knowledgeable collectors. Searching, we found auction results showing that a variety of ages and styles sold for $130 to $34,000. Obviously, factors such as age, composition, color, condition, etc. matter.

Looking over an image sent, Bahti identified the reader's rug as Germantown. The name comes from Germantown, PA, where most of the brightly dyed pre-spun yarns sold to Navajos for rug making were made in the late 1800s.

Germantown-type yarns were used into the 1930s, Bahti added. They are characterized by cotton string warp rather than wool warp, especially after 1900.

In this rug, the colors used, especially pink, lead Bahti to think the rug falls into the recent end of the 1880-1930 period.

In his opinion, the rug is definitely not a chiefs blanket. The geometric pattern is claimed by some to come from the saltillo blankets (the serape family) of New Spain.

The rug is "good, but not optimum," he told us. There seem to be no stains or damage. "It is definitely collectible," Bahti added.

Regarding value, the rug needs to be seen firsthand to determine the condition of the weaving and yarn type in particular. While it's not the kind of item he carries, Bahti volunteers to take a look and suggest where/how it might best sell. Customarily, prices for collectible textiles in this category are figured per square foot.

FYI: "Weaving of the Southwest: 2nd Ed." by Marian Rodee (Schiffer, $29.95) shows weaving styles throughout the area, including Mexico. Chiefs blankets are included.

Q: I have a 3-inch-by-7-inch negative on glass. When I hold it to the light, it seems to be an inauguration photo. I'd like to know more about it, but when I took it to a camera store, no one had any idea about it. I'd love to have it printed. Any info?

A: The glass is a photographic plate, widely used before the advent of film. Images were captured with silver salts applied to the plate. Serious and professional photographers continued to use glass plates long after film was introduced. Plates were better than film because they were stable and did not distort or disintegrate like film.

Photo historians are racing to save old plates, as they provide valuable history.

And who can forget this summer's story about the boxes of photo plates found at a garage sale for $45 that turned out to be Ansel Adams negatives now valued at $200 mill?

I'm wondering if you took the plate to a chain camera shop where young clerks had no background in plates. An old timer with experience in serious photography can advise you on that plate. Phone around to area camera shops and photography studios. You'll find a plate person!

AUCTION ACTION: A 12-inch-high cameo glass vase called "Jeanne d'Arc" sold high recently at Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas for several reasons. Made around 1895 by the studio of French glass artist Emile Galle, the $14,340 vase is artfully etched in black over green glass. Black cameo glass, let alone one with a heroic theme, is not common. The design by Galle is an innovative spin on cameo class.


Can you match these pioneers of early photography with their contributions?

1. E.J. Muybridge

2. Driffield and Hurter

3. Schott and Abbe

4. T.H. O'Sullivan

5. William Talbot

Refractive lenses

Idea of photograph

Photographed motion

Early war and travel photos

Photographic plates

A: Answers are 1-c, 2-e, 3-a, 4-d, 5-b.

Collecting - Vintage Chiefs Blankets Prized By Knowledgeable Collectors

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