Q: I found this pretty oval box with fighting unicorns on the lid at a thrift store. It has a hinged lid, velvet lining inside and the bottom has a foil label that says “Incolay” and the same word is also on the back underneath the hinge of the box. I think that this is some type of soapstone or maybe porcelain but it is difficult to tell. I did not pay much for it but knowing a value would be great. Thank you, L.S.
A: Real Incolay products are getting hard to find so kudos on finding one. There are a great many knockoffs to be had and unlike most items it is very easy to tell the difference when it comes to Incolay.
Incolay (an acronym of “in layers of color”) is made-up of a variety of crushed minerals and the end result is a marble looking substance. The founders, E.M. Bright and his wife, developed the process to create inexpensive cameo-style jewelry beginning in 1966 in their California home. By the early 1970’s they had expanded and included jewelry boxes and a few music boxes to the Incolay line. Mr. Bright passed away 10 years after the company started. The company was sold at this point. I have seen decorative plates issued by Bradford Exchange aka Bradex but I believe that these were made after the original owners sold the business.
It is difficult to find any historic information on the company but the business was sold around 1976 after the passing of Mr. Bright production continued but the quality of the wares was not up to par with the Bright’s creations.
As mentioned above it is very easy to tell real Incolay from the knockoffs. Foil labels can come off but true Incolay has the name clearly marked on the back underneath the hinge. All Incolay boxes are lined inside with velvet and have hinged lids. Cheap hinges were not used, they are heavy brass with screws. The lid sits nice and even on the base due to the manufacturing process the lids do not warp over time. Real Incolay is heavy, it may look lightweight until you go to pick it up.
Incolay is an American made product and if the label says otherwise it is not true Incolay. A metal rim around the edges of the lid or box, not by Incolay Studios. One last point to bring up is that Incolay Studios made only 3 hexagon boxes; a bear on lid, a doll on lid and a rocking horse on the lid. These boxes are also hinged.
Pieces made after Mrs. Bright sold the business are not as detailed and the hinges were glued on instead of held in place with a hinge. The product line was expanded to include small cameo brooches and similar items.
The value on Incolay Studio pieces is still affordable with most items selling in the $20-$40 range. Large boxes fetch around $60 and pieces with the original booklet can add $25 to the price. Now there are a few large music boxes that can bring several hundred dollars. Condition is everything with Incolay wares, repairs, excessive dust or stains can bring it to a nice decorative item for the trash bin.