Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Another Exceptional Cut & Engraved Masterpiece From Seneca Glass

           The magnificent Sanssouci pattern, Goblet 8.25" (21cm) Stem #4816

                                                       Another view

                                   Sanssouci Champagne 6.875" (17.5cm)

The Sanssouci pattern is very fine engraving and precise mitre cutting. Circa 1930, it has, as many of Seneca's top patterns do, cutting to the edges of both base and lip rims. The engraving has been polished by hand in parts and left unpolished or "gray" in others. In over 20 years collecting glass, these are the only examples I've ever seen.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


There will be many upcoming posts regarding identification of piece types, uses, manufacturers and patterns.

Here's one that most online people don't get right; the Hawkes piece below is a French Dressing Bottle, not an oil and vinegar cruet as it is usually called.

Hawkes engraved French Dressing Bottle 7.5" Patented 1916 with matched neck and stopper numbers

Saturday, April 13, 2013

HAWKES #6015 VS. TIFFIN #17431

One of the most confused pattern identifications is between Hawkes #6015 and Tiffin's #17431. Both have bucket-form bowls, both have square bases, both have a jewel knob in the stem.

But look carefully; Tiffin's stem is square, Hawkes' is hexagonal. Tiffin's jewel is just above the base, Hawkes' is mid-stem.

Hawkes never made a stem like Tiffin's, although the literature shows Tiffin, having acquired the molds and patterns of Hawkes after they closed, may have produced something like their 17431 and called it Hawkes.

                               Hawkes Vernay Goblet #6015 circa 1930 7.75"

                               Tiffin Pristine Goblet #17431 circ 1960  7.625"

Monday, April 8, 2013


While most advanced collectors of American luxury crystal know the names Steuben, Hawkes, Sinclaire, Libbey, and Pairpoint, very few look at some of the more mainstream companies' high end products. One of the most under-appreciated companies is Seneca of Morgantown, West Virginia. Before WWII, they had some master glassmakers and some very memorable designs.

Like Libbey however, to survive the post-war era, Seneca began making a lot of cheap, pretty horrible glass because tastes had changed, the world had changed, it was a time of dumbing down quality that spiraled unchecked. It was a time when the emperor's new clothes prevailed in many disciplines; art became a display of the components of art, architecture became simple boxes, and stemware, even the best, became very, very plain. I will discuss that further in a future post because while the changes were dramatic, they were not intrinsically bad.

I will show two of Seneca's most lavish stemware patterns today, but their work will factor into many posts to come. The second pattern has something exceptional––the glass is cut to the very edge of the lip and base rims, or appears to be; it's possible that parts of these were done in very fine molds. If not, the glass cutters were true masters––visualize a cutting-wheel spinning at 750rpm cutting the rim and not breaking it, it's almost unimaginable!

Like Libbey Nash, Seneca numbered all of their patterns, but unlike them, only named a few. Here are examples of those:

               Seneca Berkeley stem #4805, engraving #779, Water Goblets 8.375"

           Seneca Windsor stem #1934 engraving #777 Water Goblets 8.25"


While the Cathay pattern was extraordinary, dramatic and masterwork, the Lucerne stems are light-hearted, convivial and striking in their own simple way. The stem is molded to mimic art deco architecture. But the engraved bowls are all fire and champagne bubbles––evoking the great nightclubs, El Morocco, 21, The Rainbow Room, The Cotton Club––dancing and drinking till dawn.

Lucerne is very collectable and was produced in sufficient quantities that you can probably assemble a service today with some dedication. And they won't break the bank. In 1932 they didn't break the bank either, they retailed for $2.39, not the extravagant unrealized $100.00 per stem for the Cathays.

Still, Lucerne was not found just anywhere, it was and is still a luxury crystal. Given their shape and the changes we've made in our libation vessels, I use the water goblets as champagne flutes. The cocktail glasses, while I like to romanticize martinis with Nick and Nora Charles, are far too small for the mega martinis we enjoy today.

                                        Libbey Lucerne Water Goblet 7.375"

                                          Libbey Lucerne Cocktail Glass 5"

Sunday, April 7, 2013


A. Douglas Nash, chief designer at Tiffany, designed 80 patterns of luxury glass for Libbey in Toledo, OH in 1932. Some were stock items and can be found fairly easily today. Others were never produced in any quantity and are the Holy Grail of glass collectors everywhere.

I have been fortunate over the years to accumulate a few of the patterns, one in particular, Cathay, exemplifies the extraordinary master craftsmanship of the Libbey Nash line.

Rumor has it that the goblets were going to be retailed for $100.00 per stem in 1932 dollars. In the midst of the Great Depression, apparently upper management decided to pull the production after 12 dozen were made. Imagine paying $3,600 back then for a dozen three piece place settings! You could buy several regular cars for that amount.

Supposedly, they were never sold and were taken home by the managers. The dozen I purchased were from the estate of one of those managers. Other pieces in the pattern were made as well, champagnes and clarets have been seen over the years. The last time I saw any, there were 10 clarets and 10 champagnes and they sold for $10,000.00!

Cathay is described in the Libbey Nash catalog of 1932 as follows, "From a Far East mythical realm comes the inspiration for this goblet. Allegorical motifs––the dragon, the flame, the torch––are all suggested. The introduction of color into the stem, however, makes this piece definitely Chinese in spirit." That said, the motifs, done in copper wheel engraving, appear to be griffons, flowers and torches. They are so finely done, you can see the irises and teeth of the griffons! The color refers to special order pieces that changed the ball connector from clear, and could be had in red or blue. There are examples of these in the Toledo Art Museum, but they were most likely samples.

Here are a few pictures of these amazing pieces––they stand nearly 10" high and weigh over a pound each. Please click on the pictures to see them full size. Notice the domed fold-over foot, and there's even cutting on the hollow ball connector and the squat one above the base.