On the left are what we consider normal HR decoration on hooves. They are airbrushed, may have a run of underglaze, but are obviously not hand-brushed on.
On the right are "silvery" HR hooves.
How common is the silvery hooves trait, and which molds is it on?
I don't have enough samples to tell you how common it is, versus the normal hooves. "Silvery" hooves occur on 9" Zara, 6" Zara, and 9" Amir models, and possibly other gray Monrovia Arabian models. Unlike the normal hooves, the silvery-pale gray hoof color looks like it was swiped on with a paintbrush, on top of airbrushed underglaze. It doesn't appear to be on top of glaze, unless it has completely obliterated the glaze's texture with its own.
UPDATE: Dawn Sinkovich sent this the next day, very interesting and backs up my observation of a lack of glaze:
I bought a large white Monrovia Large Amir, and... all four feet had been dipped in a clear lacquer up above their fetlocks! The lacquer had really yellowed, and definitely looked like they dipped it rather than painted or sprayed - the levels were very even on all four legs. I stripped it off with something or other, and I sold it a couple of years ago. The hooves hadn't any clear glaze on, and I've attached a pic of him.
Also, when I bought my original large group of Monrovia horses, the rose grey lying Fez had a thin coat of red stain or paint on it - it even was on the bottom if I remember right. I washed it off, if I remember, pretty easily. I wondered at the time if it had been done at the factory. Trying to make him even rosier?
So, we may be looking at brush-painted pale gray enamel or lacquer, then dipped in lacquer to "shine" it up, so it would look similar to the rest of the model's fired glaze.
The coronet bands show airbrushing overspray on both. The airbrush overspray is the same dark gray-black color of underglaze. There, the similarity stops.
For further context, here are the two Monrovia white gray Zaras of the hooves above, showing their stickers, chest vent holes, and relative slip color.
Another Monrovia white with silvery hooves.
Photo and model courtesy Sue Thiessen.
Sue Thiessen reported the following:
... does it have weird silvery hooves? as I've worked on them with those hooves. Also, the factory didn't glaze those silvery hooves, they have a varnish on them, that yellows some with age, and it will come off if solvent or thinner is used. [I] don't know what to tell you about the silvery hooves, except that a lot of 9" arabs have them....and, if you mess around with them, the shine will come off, but not the color. Yes, it is factory, for some reason those hooves aren't glazed like the rest of the model....the color is fired on, but not glazed...however that's not to say some might be glazed!
I once repaired a 9" rosegrey Zara for a good customer. She really had silvery hooves, and I remember I had to work on one or two of them.... My 9" rose gray Zara does not have the silvery hooves, but my white one does, they look just like yours, they aren't yellow either. I think her hooves may be glazed, not sure, didn't mess with them....
Here, the lacquer gloss is starting to yellow with age.
Lacquer stripped, or incomplete application?
Below, the hard, raised edge of the silvery color along the hoof wall shows it was hand-brush applied, not dipped, nor airbrushed. The green is shelf putty, from a previous owner; the putty has proven difficult to remove. Note that the uneven surface of the hoof sole shows dark gray directional airbrushing... the first application of decoration to these hooves.
Sole of a normal, airbrushed gray hoof.
Note the thorough color application.
It appears to only be on Monrovia DW horses. It is found on both white gray and rose gray horses, but not all of them, so it was not a practice that was continuous for each entire run. It may even have been a "save" decoration, applied only to pieces pulled from the line for correcting airbrush runs or rubs on their hooves. Show evidence of airbrush runs being a problem on HR Zara hooves, you say? Check it out:
The entire left side of this normal, airbrushed hoof is a run.
The darker hard lines on these rose gray hooves are airbrush runs of underglaze.
This "save" decoration scenario could be supported by the continuity of body colors (matching family sets) that can be achieved, despite the hooves. We can only know the answer if someone remembered both colors of hooves coming out of a single factory shipment.
These are random examples, grouped together for photos as families and pairs, not based on their hoof color:
White Amir and Zara: silvery hooves
Rose gray Zara: silvery hooves?
Dark rose gray Zara: silvery hooves?
Rose gray silvery hooves are tricky to determine by photos.
They can have thick matte glaze that just looks pale.
Normal rose gray hooves.
A dark rose gray with normal hooves.
Sole of a normal rose gray hoof.
DW 6" Zara: silvery hooves?
It's unusual for a production line to add another layer of decoration (added costs of labor and materials), unless it was serving a very distinct purpose. As a ceramist, I would guess that HR quality control found that some hooves needed an overglaze or enamel touch-up, because airbrushing hooves in assembly-line style is fraught with errors. The edges always want to grab the paint spray, and make runs. The underglaze, after drying but before bisque firing, is very fragile and easy to rub off, like pastels. Additionally, overzealous wax resist application could result in unevenly glazed hoof walls, which would make for seconds. If the hooves frequently had production issues, I can see the advantage of using a low-fire enamel, or a commercial lacquer, to make them all one smooth color, with quick a swipe of a brush!
Where in the Monrovia timeline does the silvery relate to the normal? I am not sure about the dating-by-sticker method, since I don't know which sticker style is older. They were both used during the Monrovia Zaras' 18-month production run. Did the blue Monrovia stickers come later?
If so, I would be inclined to say that hoof decoration on the large pieces was a work in progress, at first. Once the airbrushing opacity on hooves was solved, and the process streamlined, the later pieces would not require the extra step of decoration. I would, in other words, suspect the silvery hooves to be among the earliest in the production run. This is also based on my own experience/observations of how potteries adapt and streamline their decoration processes.
If you know more about the "silvery hooves", so far only found in Monrovia DWs, I'd be very interested to learn more.