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The chair is a simple idea: legs, a back and a flat surface that serves as a seat. For centuries, the only change in the shape of a chair was the curve of the leg or the height of the back.

In the 20th century, new materials, like plastic and metal, made it possible to totally change the look of the chair. A group of chairs was designed in the 1930s that had no back legs. The first of these was developed by Mart Starn. It was followed by a chair by Heinz and Bodo Rasch in 1927. The chair was shaped like a person sitting -- a person with one very large foot, bent knees, a flat lap and a straight back. Gerrit Rietveld of Holland, inspired by this design, made an even simpler chair, then improved it to make the Zig-Zag chair. It was Z-shaped and had very tricky construction features, including a wedge under the seat, special screws and reinforcements. The chair was manufactured in 1934 and a version is still being made, although Rietveld died in 1964.

A bracelet that glitters

Q: My sisters and I are going through some jewelry that belonged to our mother. There are a few pieces of fine jewelry as well as some costume jewelry. One attractive bracelet looks like real gold, but it is not marked with a carat number. It is marked "Panetta." Are you familiar with the mark?

A: Your bracelet is a very good piece of costume jewelry. It is made of a gold-plated metal. Benedetto Panetta, an Italian immigrant, founded Panetta Jewelry Inc. in New York City in 1945. His two sons worked with him. The company made high-quality costume jewelry that many people mistake for precious-stone jewelry.

The pottery lingo

Q: My pottery candlesticks are marked in script with the words "Watcombe, Torquay, England." I can't understand the information I find in the research books. Could you possibly help me?

A: Pottery was made in the Torquay district of South Devon, England, from 1870 to 1962. Most of the potteries used the name Torquay in the mark, so collectors call all of it by that name. The factories include Watcombe, Torquay Terra-Cotta Company, Aller Valle, Torquay Pottery and Longpark. The script mark on your candlesticks was used by Watcombe Pottery from about 1900 to 1925. Collectors pay high prices for Watcombe and Aller Valle pieces.

Write the Kovels

The Kovels welcome letters and answer as many as possible through the column. By sending a letter, you give full permission for its use in the column or any other Kovel forum. The Kovels cannot guarantee return of any photograph. If you wish other information about antiques, include a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope, and the Kovels will send you a listing of helpful books and publications. Write to Kovels, The Buffalo News, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017.

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