A Touch of Glass!
Ask the Appraiser: A Touch of Glass!
Tom Helms CAGA ISA-AM
Glass. Common, everyday, take-it-for-granted, glass. The over-all fair market value of most glass is nominal and often just tossed, over-looked, and treated like an ugly duckling. As we all know, the value in glass has much to do with supply and demand and is not necessarily related to age. As appraisers, we see very little remarkable pieces; and when we do, we take notice.
What we see in most estates are grandmother's jelly glasses, clear stemware and tableware, pressed pieces such as pressed crystal, sandwich glass, flashed Bohemian glass where the red looks like paint, and of course, carnival glass and cut crystal. All of it is common, and everyone owns a piece of it and, consequently, worth little.
The glass that makes us turn our heads includes special pieces of cased glass such as English cameo glass; antiqued glass which has been enameled or painted with extremely unusual birds, animals or flowers, and modern and vintage layered art glass. We also see a few rare pieces of Waterford, Baccarat and Tiffany which are all just a few examples of "head turners" that still command a healthy respect even in today's economy.
Some of the European manufactures of glass that most people recognize are Waterford which is presently in severe financial problems; Baccarat whose early 19th century pieces of pressed glass and ceremonial tableware for the French aristocracy has greater value than the cut crystal of today. If the name is acid etched, it is a twentieth century piece and considered common.
Another well-known name is Lalique who made everything from jewelry, vases and fountains to radiator caps. If you have a piece marked "R. Lalique France" it was made before 1945 and could have some value depending on the design and subject.
And then there is American glass. Of course, everyone knows Tiffany whose signature is many times just LCT which stands for Louis Comfort Tiffany; but can you name another famous glass maker? Most might mention Steuben glass manufactured in New York. It has been marked beneath the foot of the piece since 1933 which helps date it. A few collectors know that Steuben manufactured colored glass before 1935 which are often on a collector's search list.
Some of the outstanding items we have seen are Tiffany and some Galle' pieces. If you want to do your own snooping and discover if you have something that might be of some value then follow four simple suggestions:
(a) the name Galle is acid etched and usually written on the side;
(b) a Tiffany signature is scratched into the glass on lamps and is on both the shade rim and on the bottom base.
(c) On a Tiffany lamp if you tap lightly on the rim of the shade with the palm of your hand, a genuine Tiffany shade will reward you with the "Tiffany Whisper" which is created by the slight loosening of the leaded glass components due to age.
(d) But the most important fact to remember is a glass object should always be authenticated by the signature, but you still need to beware as there are a number of good fakes that only an expert can at times identify.
And, if there is any damage to the glass, it removes almost all of its value.
The moral: enjoy and respect glass because it has many uses and in some rare cases, extreme value.