Murano Glass

I love Italy. I love the people, the pizzas, the sunshine and the glassware. Italian glass overflows with exciting history and wonderful colours and one of it’s most colourful characters is Paulo Venini.

Murano is one of a compact group of Venetian islands and has been manufacturing glass since the eleventh century. Glassmakers were forced out of Venice for two main reasons. Firstly because of the ever present risk of fire and secondly to keep some of their most innovative techniques secret.

The eleventh century is a long time ago and from then until now Murano has seen some of the best glassmakers in the world. One of the very best came along in the early twentieth century, his name was Paulo Venini and he was born in 1895.

In adult life Venini was a disillusioned lawyer and he gave it all up to become a glassmaker. In 1921 he purchased a partnership in the Murano glasshouse of Glacomo Cappelin and by 1925 he had overall control and renamed it Venini and Company.

He abandoned the Revivalist styles of other Venetian glasshouses, but never departed from the essential traditions of Venetian glass. Very quickly he established himself as the leading manufacturer of high quality decorative and table glass in Italy.

Not only was Venini brilliant, he employed some brilliant designers. Such people as Taplo, Wirkkala and Ponti.

When he died, the factory was taken over by his widow and his son in law, Ludovico de Santillana and the tradition for excellence lived on.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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Lalique Perfume Bottles

My wife loves perfume and so I buy her perfume every Christmas. This year she bought me a wrist watch, which I have to say put her bottle of perfume somewhat in the shade. Next year I will buy her a Lalique perfume bottle to even things up a little.

Rene Lalique (1860-1945) began his career designing jewellery, he began working with glass in the 1890s and opened his first glass shop in Paris on the famous place Vendôme in 1905. His work caught the eye of perfumer Franҫois Coty who had a shop nearby and Coty invited Lalique into a partnership initially designing labels for his perfumes and later the glass bottles. Their partnership revolutionised the perfume industry; it was the first time perfumes were packaged in distinctive bottles evocative of the fragrance contained within and it was a huge success. By the 1920s Lalique has three factories and produced exquisite perfume bottles for over 60 fashionable and desirable perfumers.

A LALIQUE SCENT BOTTLE made £3000 at Sheffield Auction Gallery in 2011
A LALIQUE SCENT BOTTLE made £3000 at Sheffield Auction Gallery in 2011

The perfume bottles in highest demand now are the more unusual or abstract with inventive designs and forms. Most bottles had modern and stylized designs following the Art Deco style. Early examples feature more flowing lines, floral
designs and figural etching. Some bottles were formed in bold shapes with oversized decorative stoppers, occasionally more than one stopper could be designed for a bottle.

Bottles that are sealed with their original contents remaining or bottles with their original outer packaging still intact are considerably more valuable and thus more popular amongst collectors. Bottles made or designed after 1945 will not feature the initial “R” in their mark as this was never used after Rene Lalique’s death. The “R” is often added to later pieces to make them appear earlier and thus more desirable.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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Dessert Glass

Within the field of glass collecting, drinking glasses have always commanded the greatest interest from enthusiasts. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but as a lover, or should I say worshipper, of the pudding or sweet, or dessert or anything with custard I think it is my duty to introduce a whole other area of glass collecting. The dessert glass.

In preceding centuries dessert was considered an important occasion in its own right. These were times when the wealthiest members of society would celebrate with parties incorporating large and varied amounts of food.

Desserts would often be served away from the table in buffet form. This could be directly after dinner or later in the evening. The atmosphere would be something that we might expect at a cheese and wine party today.
The kind of treats on offer included candied fruit, marshmallows, crystallised citrus peels and almonds. They would be served in glasses on tall stems known as suckets, that resemble drinking glasses. They would also be served on footed and stemmed plates and saucers known as tazzas and comports.

Jelly and ice creams were served in glasses that were shorter and thicker with practically no stem. The custard cup is a variant on the jelly glass, but this time with handles. Custard cups were used for dishes like egg custard and baked egg trifles.

Sometimes all of these dishes would be placed on large, stemmed salvers placed to form a pyramid. Is it possible, I ask myself, to conjure up a picture of anything more delicious? What are we left with today? A wonderful wealth of marvellous glass to collect.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Scent Bottles

As a child I was surrounded by sisters and as a man I was surrounded by mostly daughters. There is little wonder therefore that I have grown accustomed to the smell of perfume. It’s not that I don’t love the smell of perfume, I do, but I also love the wonderful aroma of a freshly lit pipe, or roast beef cooking on a Sunday morning or the mixture of old leather and petrol in a vintage car.

I appreciate that everything has its time and place and if my wife was dressed for a glamorous evening and smelt of roast beef it somehow wouldn’t be the same. More than any of these smells however the thing I really love is the bottle that holds them.

Liquid perfume dates from around the mid 17th century, but few glass perfume bottles actually exist from that time. Glass was considered unworthy to hold the very expensive perfumes, so
precious metals and hardstones were used instead. Perfume bottles produced from glass were not seen in large quantities until the end of the 18th century and they reached their peak in popularity and production in the Victorian period.

A Laligue Scent Bottle which made £3000 at Sheffield Auction Gallery in 2011
A Laligue Scent Bottle which made £3000 at Sheffield Auction Gallery in 2011

A particular favourite of this period was the double ended scent bottle. These held perfume in one end and smelling salts or vinaigrette in the other. They were often made with coloured, faceted glass with silver, silver gilt or brass caps.

Although the glass bottles were mass produced, they were made in a variety of styles and prices. The more expensive ones were set with coral or turquoise and had silver cagework overlays.
Cameo glass scent bottles were also popular. These bottles consist of two layers of glass, the outer layer is cut away to reveal the coloured glass underneath. They were produced in various
forms including animal heads, swans, eagles, owls and even crocodiles.Thomas Webb and Sons were important producers of these cameo bottles.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Sweetmeat Glasses

Within the field of glass collecting, drinking glasses have always commanded the greatest interest from enthusiasts, but there is a whole sphere of glass production which is equally as exciting and readily available to the collector.

The Georgians loved their desserts and the taking of dessert was an important occasion in it’s own right. The late 18th century was a time when the wealthiest members of society entertained with
parties incorporating a large and varied amount of food, as well as generous amounts of wine and desserts.

Desserts may be taken with the meal or served away from the table in a kind of buffet form which could be directly after the dinner or later in the evening. The kind of treats on offer included
candied fruit, marshmallows, crystallised citrus peels and almonds.

These desserts would be served in glasses on tall stems known as suckets that resemble drinking glasses. They would also be served on footed and stemmed plates and saucers known as tazzas
and comports. Shorter thicker glasses with practically no stem were also used for holding jelly and ice creams. Custard cups, another variant on the jelly glass, were used for syllabub ( a creamy
alcoholic sweetmeat ), egg custard and egg trifles. Sometimes all of these vessels would be presented on large stemmed salvers placed in the form of a pyramid.

These wonderful Georgian occasions and marvellous Georgian sweetmeats have provided the modern collector with an enormous wealth of collecting opportunity.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Marbles

Marbles, for generations, have been a popular collectors item. Collectors look for marbles displaying complex patterns, the more complex and colourful, the more valuable. Symmetrical
patterns and size also add a premium. Sulphides, which are clear marbles with a figural insert, are amongst the most popular Probably the most desirable marbles are handmade, mostly German, from circa 1850 until World War One. They were made from brightly coloured glass rods that created swirling patterns of colour. The different patterned marbles created are known by different names including swirls, onionskins and corkscrews.

The telltale sign of a handmade marble is the slightly rough area called a pontil mark. This is the mark left when the marble is removed from the glass rod. It is important to distinguish these from
the machine made examples coming from America after World War Two.

Machine made marbles are still very popular today, partly due to the scarcity and expense of handmade examples but also because of childhood nostalgia; many of today’s collectors played with these American marbles when they were young.

Manufacturers to look out for include Akro Agate Company, M. F. Christensen & Son and the Peltier Glass Company, but the exact value of individual marbles can vary enormously. Collectors
are also beginning to take an interest in the innovative marble makers of today, especially as the Internet auction market booms.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Sulphide Paperweights

A ‘Sulphide Paperweight’ refers to a paperweight which has a shaped “cameo” made from porcelain-like material encased within the clear glass. It involved cutting a hole in the hot glass sometimes through a bubble in blown glass, sliding in the insert which had been previously moulded, fired and left to cool and then resealing the glass or allowing the bubble to close by extracting the air through the blowpipe.

The technique of cameo incrustation or the encasement of porcelain medallions in glass was first developed in France in the early 19th century and it was used in America from 1814 and the United Kingdom from 1817. In 1819, English Glassmaker Apsley Pellatt (1791 – 1863) patented the technique, calling it “crystalo ceramie” in view of its French origins. The technique was not at first used in paperweights but was seen in glass plaques, pendants, vases and other decorative glass items before paperweight manufacturers realised the design appeal.

The three major paperweight manufacturers; Baccarat, Clichy and Saint Louis, all made sulphide paperweights. The value and appeal of these paperweights can depend on other factors besides the individual cameo, including the use of techniques such as detailed and elaborate faceting or engraving and the addition of millefiori (coloured glass rods shaped into patterns).

The objects cast inside the paperweights were most commonly people or animals sometimes both and the best with landscapes included. Many examples feature famous people or capture historical events with images sometimes cast off objects such as coins and medals. Generally, the more complex the design, the more desirable the paperweight as the process of moulding the objects was difficult and creating a single cast for one feature was the job of highly skilled craftsmen.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Snow Domes

Snow domes, or snow globes as we might know them, may conjure up images of cheap holiday souvenirs but they are in fact a popular collectable nowadays and date back further than you would think.

The first documented evidence of snow domes was by Charles Cole, American Deputy Secretary of the Commission of Glassworks, writing about the 1878 Paris Exhibition. Although it is believed that their origins lie with the development of solid glass paperweights in France in the mid-1800s, Cole makes no mention of this. The first ‘souvenir’ snow domes were made for the 1889 Paris Exposition, to commemorate the construction of the Eiffel Tower, with mini Eiffel Towers in them. After all, the real tower was originally supposed to be dismantled after the show. Unfortunately none survive today.

The 1940s saw a boom in popularity for this novelty when mass-produced plastic domes took over from the previously hand-made glass domes. Joseph Garaja patented the assembly of snow domes under water in 1927, aiding this boom.

The glass domes used various substances to achieve the ‘snow’, such as ground-up bone, ceramic dust, sand or ground rice. When the plastic dome came into production, the snow followed suit and was more often than not plastic too. The liquid in the both glass and plastic domes was water but often with an addictive such as glycol to encourage the ‘snow’ to fall more slowly and swirl around before settling.

Snow domes are not always circular with the oval becoming popular in the 1940s as it was found to be less likely to crack. Unusual shapes or examples with forms that surround the globe are popular as are those domes with internal moving or musical parts.

One of the joys of collecting snow domes is that you always have a white Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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Holmegaard Glass

The Holmegaard Glassworks was established in 1825 in Denmark by Countess Henriette Danneskiold-Samsøe, her husband Count Christian had initially sought permission from the King in 1823 to set up the Glassworks but unfortunately died before the decision to allow such a venture was received by his wife in 1825 and courageously acted upon.

Originally the Glassworks only produced green bottles but production quickly thrived and advanced and by the 1830s they were making clear and pressed glass bottles as well as tableware. Much of the Holmegaard’s early work is of little note, but the factory became a shining star in the 20th century. This transformation has much to do with the designers employed by the Glassworks
including Jacob E Bang in the 1920s and later his son, Michael in the 1980s as well as the great Per Lütken who was considered a pioneer designer and huge asset to Holmegaard Glass.

Per Lütken was a perfectionist and well known for making high demands on his glass blowers, never settling for second best. He began working for the company in 1941 and the quality of his designs became a benchmark for Holmegaard, securing their position as a leading Glassworks.

His early work in the 1940s and 50s focused on organic forms sometimes referred to as the plasticity of glass. The vases took inspiration from shapes like teardrops and flower buds and the majority of pieces were made in subtle colours like grey and pale blue known as smoke and aqua.

Later in the 1960s and 70s, he favoured the more robust, geometric designs, famously introducing the thicker, ‘lip-friendly’ everted or outward rims in his glasses in ranges such as No. 5 from 1970 and Ship’s Glass from 1971. Per Lütken worked for Holmegaard until his death in 1998.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Loetz

The Loetz company was established in 1840 by Johann Loetz in the Czech Republic and after his heirs sold it on, it eventually came under the leadership of Max Ritter von Spaun in 1879 who guided it to international fame and recognition. During the 1880s and 1890s, Loetz iridescent glass designs typified the Art Nouveau style.

Often referred as ‘The Austrian Tiffany’, Loetz was actually just producing Tiffanystyle glass made and marketed at much lower prices after realising there was a real market for it. Indeed some of their work was barely distinguishable from the real Tiffany available at the time. Tiffany patented their iridescent favrile glass designs in 1894 and Loetz was not far behind obtaining patents for their iridescent glass with a ‘metallic shimmer’ in 1895 and 1896.

Loetz, however, didn’t want to be merely remembered or acknowledged for making excellent copies of others’ work and set about creating its own designs of which their most famous and highly-acclaimed series, Phanomen, was to be born.

Phanomen pieces are characterised by their trailed combed threads or bands, often referred to as rippled or featherlike and their metallic iridescence. This clever design, where by hot glass threads were wrapped around the hot molten base and then pulled onto the object’s surface to achieve this wave effect while the glass was still malleable, was patented in 1898.

A Loetz Medici Glass Vase with Silver Overlay
A Loetz Medici Glass Vase with Silver Overlay

Other key characteristics of Loetz design include blue colour iridescence as well as what is often described as a gleaming oil-on-water effect and many of their motifs follow stylized Art Nouveau examples such as plants, feathers and nature in general.

The company become insolvent in 1911, but was re-established in 1913 as Loetz-Witze until closing in 1948.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website