Sunday, September 14, 2014

Second post: Who Were the Luxury Glassmakers Between the World Wars?

8.25" water goblet
The Cataract Company in Buffalo NY, founded and run by Alfred Sharpe, was a glass decorating company––they cut, engraved and even etched blank stemware services. They were primarily a good quality mid-range company, but occasionally vered into the realm of luxury.

The water goblet above and following pictures are their 1010-2 stemware pieces. These were featured in a table scene in a 1941 movie, which suggests that they were designed in 1939 or 1940.

What makes them unusual are the cut & polished seven sided stems––which flare into a massive lapidary collar. The blanks are probably from Libbey.

Low Goblet


Iced Tea

Sunday, July 6, 2014

What Piece Type is This Stemware Anyway?

From left to right: Water Goblet 7 3/4"; Claret 7"; White Wine 6 3/4"; Coupe Champagne 6 3/4"; Cocktail 6 1/4"; Cordial 5 7/8"; Sherry 5 7/8"

Here is a group of Hawkes' #6015 shape stemware illustrating the standard shapes and sizes available in a pattern. Most American stemware between, and briefly after the two World Wars conformed to this distribution.

Not perfectly to scale in this assembled picture, but you can see very clearly, for example, that the claret––that is, red wine--is a smaller version of the goblet, the white wine is shorter and narrower than the claret, the champagne's bowl is visibly wider than the cocktail's, the cordial is little larger than a "thumble", and the sherry, always the top contender for most confused, has––with few exceptions––a V-shaped bowl. These shapes were standardized in the late 19th Century (the cocktail being the last to appear) and used into the 1960s.

Today however, few people have any desire or use for any but the water goblets for wine, and maybe one of the smaller pieces for a cordial. 99% of the time online sellers will identify the claret, white wine, cocktail, cordial and sherry as cordials, the champagne as a wine (which of course champagne is, but who would ever say to a guest, "Here's a glass of wine" when they were serving them champagne?) And the water goblets are often called "wines". 

Today of course, simple, undecorated and oversized stemware is the standard, distinguished by the type of wine that will be served in it. Times have changed, foods and libations are nothing like they were even 75 years ago, thus serving them has changed as well. Can you imagine a dinner in 1930 with a guest of today trying to swirl wine around in a claret glass? Um hmm, and then wearing it for the rest of the night!

Many of us collect the old stemware, most to display as objets d'art. Personally, I get great pleasure using my huge water goblets for wine. Later I will show barware and other pieces from the same stem shape. Stay tuned and see the difference between an Oyster Cocktail, an Iced Tea, and between a Highball and an Old Fashioned, or Rocks glass!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Another Fabulous Libbey Nash Pattern, "Symphony"

                          Libbey Nash, Symphony c 1932, 8.75" Water Goblet

This pattern of Libbey Nash design, called Symphony, was made in some quantity, though still quite rare. The Libbey Nash catalog stated: "Since this line is strictly custom-built, the section just above the foot may be had in jade green, lapis blue, ruby or transparent turquoise." The engraving on the trumpet shaped bowl is ebullient, as if reaching a celebratory crescendo. The "ruby" color varies slightly on each piece.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Magnificent Pairpoint "Guilford" Pattern

Pairpoint Guilford Engraved 15" Crystal Vases with Onyx, Gilded and Silverplated Metal Mounts, c 1925

Pairpoint Guilford Engraved 11.5" x 7.5" Compote with Gilt Metal and Rock Crystal Style Mounts, c 1925

Guilford was one of Pairpoint's premium glass patterns and was made in many different piece types.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Moderne Style Libbey 'Modern American' "Monticello" #5700

                                 Libbey "Monticello" Water Goblet 8.75" 1940

Much like the work being done at Steuben just before WWII Libbey embraced the simple elegance of its Modern American line. The Monticello pattern features a fluted columnar stem, a plain flared bowl, and plain foot. The glass quality was becoming more important than the decoration; crystal-clear had a new meaning. All the plastic arts were examining medium as an expression of its own. Figurative painting gave way to fields of color, exploring the tones and brush strokes rather than the content.

The great artistry of the copper wheel engravers was over, it was simply too expensive to produce. Tragically, once the most simple designs in art and glass had been excuted, the off-shoots were often redundant to the point of tautological ennui. How many white on white paintings can you look at and feel anything but duped? Post-war crystal stemware is the same––I actually saw someone advertising Baccarat "Epicure" as "spectacular". Seriously, spectacular? It couldn't be more pedestrian and plain. It could be anything, made by anyone. There's simply nothing "spectacular" about it other than its name and Baccarat's brilliant marketing strategies.

Libbey, like a few other glass companies, survived WWII by stopping its tableware production and manufacturing light bulbs during the war. They proudly advertised that "No Libbey crystal has been blown since Pearl Harbor."

Monticello was designed along with the great "Embassy" #4900 line––which was introduced at the NY World's Fair in 1939––as one final attempt, after 1932's relatively unsuccessful 80 Libbey-Nash lines, to revive their prestige crystal production. Unfortunately cut short by the war, the Modern American line was never made again after the war, so its pieces are relatively rare.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Extraordinary Hawkes Copper Wheel Engraving and Something Else.....

Maginficent circa 1920s Goblets, presumed to be Hawkes, but could also be Sinclaire. One dealer suggested they were from NY State Governor Roswell Pettibone's crystal service, but he died in 1894 and I don't believe there was anything like these made during his lifetime. They are not trademarked, which would be bizarre for Hawkes or Sinclaire given the quality of the workmanship. I also have sherries in the same pattern, devoid of trademarks as well. So the manufacturer is a mystery.

The other feature that is equally puzzling is the treatment of the base and the stem and the lower part of the bowl. At first glance they also appear to be engraved. But when you feel the surface of these areas, they are raised, suggesting etching, or even more unusual, possibly having been part of the mold itself. It may also be that the engraver cut away in the "negative". In any event it represents some of the greatest ingenuity and talent, and worthy of every moment of awe they get.

There are some closeups of different parts of the goblets. Notice the incredibly fine cutting in the large flowers, and the tiniest scales above the upturned "leaves" in the base of the bowl.

Added 1-20-15:

These were confirmed as Hawkes in a series of sales. See the green wine stems below––most were marked Hawkes. Mystery solved!