Sunday, November 2, 2014

"Is the glass half full, or half empty?

It depends on whether you're pouring, or drinking."

      ~Bill Cosby

That applies to an antique-translated into whether you're buying or selling.  I thought it was interesting to read this comment in Kovel's recent collector newsletter ..."Cut glass offered at a Michigan auction sold for high and higher prices. A green-cut-to-clear punch bowl with 12 cups and a ladle sold for $132,000. The bowl is 14 inches in diameter and was made by Dorflinger in the Montrose pattern. Other cut glass pieces sold well over estimate: $39,000 for a Turkish-style coffee pot in the Harvard pattern and $20,400 for a clear Hawkes punch bowl and cups in the Queens pattern."  Now, based on 10 or so years ago, those prices are not outlandish.
Many years ago at auction the "cut to clear" was a phrase heard often and prices were strong, but then that look was no longer in vogue.  Maybe "pretties" are coming back, or maybe it is just a holiday buzz.  Still that is a reasonable price for a set like that.

Based on my research, cut glass can be traced to 1,500 B.C in Egypt, where vessels of varying sizes were decorated by cuts made by what is believed to have been metal drills. Artifacts dating to the sixth century B.C. indicate that the Romans, Assyrians and Babylonians all had mastered the art of decoration by cutting. Ever so slowly glass cutting moved to Constantinople and on to Venice.  By the end of the sixteenth century it was in Prague, and Czech glass still reigns supreme.

Apparently the art did not spread to the British Isles until the early part of the eighteenth century.

Although glass making was the first industry to be established in America at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1608, no glass is known to have been cut in the New World until at least 160 years later. Henry William Stiegel, an immigrant from Cologne, Germany, founded the American Flint Glass Manufactory in Manheim, Pennsylvania, and it was there in about 1771 that the first cut glass was produced in America.
For the next sixty years the "Early Period" of American cut glass, our wares were virtually indistinguishable from English, Irish and continental patterns, and little wonder, for most of the cutters originally came to this new country from Europe. About 1830, which historians label the beginning of the "Middle Period," American ingenuity began to influence the industry, and a national style began to develop. This came into full flower about the time our country was preparing to celebrate her hundredth birthday and what is now termed the "Brilliant Period" began. From about 1876 until the advent of World War 1, American cut glass craftsmen excelled all others worldwide, and produced examples of the cut glass art that may never again be equaled.
The outbreak of World War I dealt the final blow to brilliant cut glass. Lead oxide – an essential ingredient in glass made for cutting was needed for more urgent uses, and by the time the war ended, the few factories that had managed to survive used their resources to produce less costly glass. Thus ended an era of Yankee ingenuity never to return because American ingenuity seems to go with cheap.
Cut leaded crystal (or cut glass) has three distinguishing characteristics: a bell-like ring when gently tapped with the finger, a clarity and brilliance unmatched by pressed or molded imitations, and weight noticeably greater than the same sized piece made of unleaded glass. America's Brilliant cut glass is appropriately named, for that is literally what it is. The cutting is brilliant because it is sharp and deep, reflecting light from highly polished surfaces. It is deep because it was made from leaded crystal that was beautiful in its clarity even though thick enough to be cut in high relief.

So, if you would like a touch of elegance, check out cut glass.  It is reasonably priced these days, and it really would make a statement on a holiday table.

A fine glass vase goes from treasure to trash, the moment it is broken. Fortunately, something else happens to you and me. Pick up your pieces. Then, help me gather mine.” 
Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration


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