Sunday, February 1, 2015

Collector Guide to Roseville Pottery Zephyr Lily Pattern

Roseville Zephyr Lily vase 135-9
The Roseville Pottery created ceramic art pottery from 1892 until 1954, most of that time in Zanesville, Ohio. They produced many lines that sold across the country and abroad, and were a household name for over 50 years. For decades after their bankruptcy, Roseville pottery could be obtained for almost nothing at flea markets and garage sales, with most pieces selling for less than a dollar each. In the late 1970's, a new generation with a nostalgic attitude began collecting vintage Roseville Pottery they remembered from their parents, and a new hobby was born. Prices reached amazing heights in the turn of the new century, but crashed around 2003 when the internet made it easier to find and obtain previously scarce pieces. With prices now much more reasonable, it is much easier to put together a respectable collection. We will examine the Zephyr Lily pattern, a very common and popular line that has a strong collector base as well as supply.

Evergreen Zephyr Lily vase 206-7

Sienna Zephyr Lily vase 206-7

Bermuda Blue Zephyr Lily vase 206-7
The Zephyr Lily Colors and Marks
The Zephyr Lily pattern was first introduced by Roseville in 1946, and is considered a late period line. Roseville had for decades produced line after line, each named for a particular flower, and in a variety of colors. They generally used three sets of two colors each, and this served two purposes. The first was to ensure that no matter the color theme of a customer's decor, they would have something which would match. Secondly, they provided a seasonal feel, so that a customer could change out their decor with the changing of the seasons.
The Zephyr Lily pattern came in three distinct color themes. There is the "Bermuda Blue", designed for summer, which transitions from a very deep blue to a pale blue, there is Sienna, designed for fall which transitions from a burnt sienna to a pale orange, and there is "Evergreen", designed for spring which transitions a very dark green to a pale light green. The flowers themselves came in four colors, white, yellow, rose, and lavender. While there appears to be no system which will predict which colored flower will appear on a particular piece, the same shape with the same background colors will always have identical colors for the flowers that every other one does. A piece may have four flowers, each a different color, but so will every other piece of the same mold with the same background color. No other background colors or flower colors were ever used, so if you find a vase with a white background and purple zephyr lily flowers you have a problem.
Each piece of Zephyr Lily has raised marks on the underside reading "Roseville", "USA", and a shape number. There are a few exceptions, such as the ashtray which is unmarked. The second part of most shape number is an approximate size of the largest dimension in inches. It was not unusual for the actual measurement to be off by a half inch either way, but since the pieces were molded, if one particular vase was off by a half an inch, then all of them with the same shape number were.

Roseville Zephyr Lily Shapes
According to Roseville records, there were 51 different shapes offered for sale. Considering that each was done in all three background colors, it comes to 153 unique pieces for a collector to obtain. The following is a list of the known shape numbers:
393-7 basket
394-8 basket
395-10 basket
470-5 bowl, tall 2-handles
471-6 bowl, tall 2-handles
472-6 bowl, low
473-6 bowl, with pedestal base
474-8 bowl, low
475-10 bowl, console
476-10 bowl, low
478-12 bowl, console
479-14 bowl, console
1162-2 candle holder
1163-4.5 candle holder
8-10 compote
5-8 cookie jar
203-6 cornucopia
204-8 cornucopia
7-C creamer
22-6 ewer
23-10 ewer
24-15 ewer
672-5 flower pot
472-5 hanging basket
671-4 jardiniere
671-6 jardiniere
671-8 jardiniere
671-8 pedestal
477-12 tray
478-14 tray
130-6 vase, 2-handled
131-7 vase, 2-handles on base
132-7 vase, 2-handles on base
133-8 vase, 2-handles on base
134-8 vase, urn, 2-handles on top
135-9 vase, 2-handles on sides
136-9 vase, 2-handles on base
137-10 vase, 2-handled
138-10 vase, 2-handled
139-12 vase, 2-handles on base
140-12 vase, 2 handled
141-15 floor vase
142-18 floor vase
201-7 bud vase
202-8 vase, urn, 2-handles on top
205-6 vase, "V"-shaped
206-7 vase, three holes in top
1297-8 wall pocket
1393-8 window box
*The ashtray is unmarked

Fake Zephyr Lily. Note the almost uniform color of the background, and crude painting of stems and leaves.

Correct raised marks. Note the yellowish color of the unglazed circular heel.
Spotting Damage, Repairs, and Fakes
In it's heyday, Roseville Zephyr Lily pieces could command amazing prices, and so naturally many damaged pieces were repaired. It used to be easy to spot these repairs with a black light, but today materials are used which can fool that test. When examining a piece, always remember that the Zephyr Lily pattern has a dull finish. If if has a glossy and high-shine finish, it has probably been over-sprayed. Zephyr Lily can be safely cleaned with warm soap and water, and many times this over-spray will peel off when being cleaned like a snake shedding it's skin. You can also safely use common kitchen cleaners such as 409 that will cause many repairs to melt off. You can also scrub them lightly with a non-scratch scrubby pad, but never use metal steel wool or SOS pads. If there are repairs they will usually just peel right off with light scrubbing. Don't kid yourself: a very large percentage of the time when people sell pieces "as-is" they are repaired. We have been to auctions where there were dozens and dozens of Roseville pieces, and found every single one to have been repaired. Although a practiced eye can usually detect the repairs with a bright light and magnification, even the best get fooled occasionally. Always purchase from dealers with strong reputations who will accept returns.
For the last 20 years there have been Zephyr Lily reproduction pieces produced in China available on the market. They cannot fool a practiced eye, but can certainly fool the novice. The first clue is that on the bottom, the clay will usually be a brilliant white instead of the yellow Ohio clay. The second clue is that the colors are usually off by quite a bit, as are the details. Lastly, the "Roseville" signature on the bottom is not correct. They pop up here and there at auctions, but most collectors see them immediately for what they are. We see them less and less as most auction participants call them out for what they are, but be aware they do exist.
Always look carefully at pieces for chips, cracks, and damage. A small "fleabite" can be the difference between a great piece and one that is almost valueless. Check the edge of the base all of the way around, the rim at the top, and try to look inside for any cracks. Then examine the edges of the handles for chips, and especially cracks where handles meet the main form. The ones that we usually miss are on the flowers themselves, but the Zephyr Lily pattern has smoother flowers than most so they rarely get damaged.
The Zephyr Lily pattern seems to be nearly immune to crazing, we rarely see crazed pieces come up. I would steer clear of any crazed piece since there is an abundance of uncrazed pieces available.
Many patterns such as Pinecone were run in molds so many times that you can find examples with nearly every detail smoothed. This is known as "bad mold" or "poor mold". While in the Zephyr Lily pattern some molds are sharper than others, I am yet to see a produced piece that I would consider a "poor mold". They must have become more diligent in changing the molds in the 1940's, so this is not normally a concern with this pattern.

The Roseville Pottery Zephyr Lily pattern is popular with collectors, and armed with a little knowledge it can be a fun collection for you as well. Take your time, learn about the shapes and the colors, learn to spot the bad apples, and you will soon amass a beautiful collection to be proud of!

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