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Hide antique cast-iron bunny in the garden

If you don't already have rabbits hopping around your garden, you might want to buy an antique garden rabbit to fool your friends.

The wealthy English and French of the 17th century liked formal gardens with paths, fences and planned flower beds. They put urns, statues, fountains, sundials, gates, furniture and odd pieces like finials and wall sculptures into their gardens.

In America, ornaments and furniture were being used in gardens by the 1600s. A brass sundial from 1630 is the earliest American garden piece that still exists. A wooden bench from the 1700s is the earliest known wooden piece. Gardens first had wrought-iron furniture and gates in the 18th and early 19th centuries. By the mid-19th century, most garden pieces were made of cast iron, not wrought iron, because cast iron was stronger.

Gardens were filled with iron ornaments and fences. Full-size deer, dogs and other animals, tiered fountains, iron benches made to look like twining vines or tree branches, obelisks and sundials were all made of cast iron. So were armillary spheres that help map the "movement" of the stars around the earth. In the 1930s, there was even more interest in cast-iron objects. Inside houses you could find cast-iron doorstops, bookends, planters, hardware and toys. In today's gardens, life-size rabbits, squirrels, frogs and even alligators and tall birds are among the many iron guests. Many of these figures were made years ago. A vintage rabbit or squirrel can cost from $50 to $200 today. A full-size deer or dog sells for $500 to $2,000, and a three-tier iron fountain with a bird pedestal and leafy edges costs $3,000. Look in backyards when you go to a house sale. You might find a garden figure no one noticed.

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Q: I have a small collection of vintage molded glass religious figurines. There's one that's a mystery to me. It's a 7 1/2 -inch light-blue glass sculpture of a standing Madonna and Child. It's signed "P. d'Avesn." I have learned that Pierre d'Avesn once worked at Lalique, but I also found his name connected with Daum art glass. I'm confused.

A: Pierre d'Avesn designed for Lalique in the early 1920s, then later that decade became a designer and manager at Daum. He managed Daum's factory at Croismare, near Luneville, France, from 1927 until 1932. The factory specialized in making decorative but affordable glass pieces that were marked in various ways. One of the marks is the "P. d'Avesn" signature on your figurine. Pieces made at the Croismare factory do not sell for as much as other prewar Daum designs. Your Madonna and Child figurine, if perfect, could be worth $100 to $150.

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Tip

Silver saltshakers should be emptied after every use or lined with gold plating to avoid corrosion.