Collecting Glass

Well-preserved fragility is often synonymous with high values in antique items, and all types of nineteenth and twentieth century art glass commands premium prices due to the low survival rate of such pieces. Examples from continental Europe and America anchor the market in the United States, and nearly all types of such glass have enthusiastic collectors willing to forego food and shelter in order to own an obscure, rare piece in excellent condition.

The gold standard for American glass is that of Louis Comfort Tiffany, whose precious floral-form Favrile pieces (Tiffanys terms for his iridescent glass) seems to represent the beset intentions of early twentieth century America. They are the dream finds of all antique glass hunters, and with good reason. A small- to medium-sized Favrile vase designed by Tiffany sold at auction in Milford, Ohio for $2,530 in July 2005.

Art Nouveau-period glass in France was dominated by makers in the town of Nancy, which included Daum, Muller Frres and Emile Gall. Gall is credited with inventing cameo glass (frosted glass which is layered with colors and then cut back to the base color in the manner of cameo carving). His company created works that were praised the world over and are now displayed in every museum with major decorative art holdings. Due to the increase in value of such pieces during the 1970s (when the first major upswing in Art Nouveau decorative arts prices occurred), cameo glass vases were heavily reproduced after high sales were achieved, so collectors should take care that they are buying the real thing.

Czech glass is more readily available in the market than Art Nouveau-period glass, yet its aesthetic demonstration of the Art Deco period places it on equal footing with more prestigious art glass. A recent consignment included three Czech vases in different styles and a sold colored Tango glass bowl with geometric handles, possibly by the Kralik firm. Oher pieces in this consignment are also likely by Kralik and are called end of the day glass because of the speckles made from broken leftover pieces at the end of a day of work. Often this type of glass is very bright and gaudy, and due to their atypical qualities may fetch a higher price at auction. I estimate the pieces in our consignment to sell in the $100 to $250 range.