By Kris Manty
The most important thing to know if you want to collect these pretty sun shields is the difference between parasols and umbrellas. Because parasols are used for sun protection, they are typically made of more fragile material; umbrellas offer rain protection and hence are traditionally waterproof and sturdier.
According to The Met website: “This parasol is an excellent example of the parasols typical of the 1850s.
The canopy echoes the skirt shape and tiered bands of the period. Like the flounces of the period, the
fabric was woven à la disposition.” Photo courtesy of The Met.
Collecting antique and vintage parasols in both adult and child sizes can be an expensive hobby, depending on the period and material used. The most collectible and valuable parasols are Victorian and Edwardian examples, as they are the oldest and most rare. Price points for these era styles can range from $20 or more for a plain, no-frills parasol to $100-$500 for parasols made of luxury materials like ivory, mother of pearl, and silk, especially if in excellent condition. Particularly rare parasols can sell between $1,000-$2,000. Paper parasols are more plentiful and can be found for under $10.
Vintage parasol canopies have been made of various materials through the centuries, including cotton, Fuji cloth, lace, linen, mesh, nylon, PVC, rice paper, and silk. Collectible designs include floral, novelty, plaids, solids, and stripes.
A jeweled gilt-metal and enamel parasol handle on an ivory parasol, mid-19th century, $733. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Since they were made to protect from the harsh sun, it’s rare to find an antique parasol that doesn’t have any damage, particularly those from the Victorian/Edwardian eras. Here are some helpful tips when considering one:
● Make sure the parasol opens and closes properly.
● Hold the parasol toward the light to detect any pinholes.
● Examine the canopy to make sure it has no fragile spots that will eventually crack.
● Check that the handle is well-attached and sturdy.
● Look for any damage on the shaft, such as rot or rust.
● Make sure the canopy’s ribbing/spokes connect at all points.
Parasols can be found at auctions, antique stores and shows, flea markets, and e-commerce sites, including eBay, Etsy, and Ruby Lane.
Handles Are Also Collectible
A Fabergé jeweled, silver-mounted agate and enamel parasol handle by workmaster Edward Schramm,
1908-1917, carved in the shape of a hare’s head with garnet eyes, 2 7/8 in. l., $24,570. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s
Some handles can be far more valuable than the complete parasol and sell for tens of thousands of dollars. Handles can be made of various materials, including Bakelite, bamboo, bone, Celluloid, gold, ivory, Lucite, mother of pearl, and silver.
The holy grails of parasol handles are those made by Fabergé, who designed them of all forms for wealthy, elite clients, including royalty. Fabergé’s parasol handles were made to the same precise standards as every other precious object created in the firm’s workshops and sometimes were crafted of hardstone but more often were enameled and gem-set.
A jeweled and guilloché enamel two-color gold-mounted nephrite parasol handle by Fabergé workmaster Michael Perchin,
1899-1903, with cabochon rubies and rose-cut diamonds, 2 1/2 in. l, $21,125. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Fabergé parasol handles are rarely if ever, attached to their original parasols. This can make it difficult to differentiate them from all the luxury cane handles the firm also made that are similar in size. The way you can tell them apart is in the diameter.
Since parasols were lighter in weight than canes, their “stems” were finer and narrower, so the diameter of the mount – the spot where the handle attached to the stem—would be smaller. If it’s less than half an inch, it’s a Fabergé parasol handle; if it’s wider, it’s a cane handle.
A jeweled, enamel, and gold-mounted purpurine parasol handle by Fabergé workmaster Michael Perchin, circa 1890,
with a trellis-work of chased gold laurel leaves set with rose-cut diamonds at intervals. It was purchased
by Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in 1896: $61,750.Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.
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