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  Starting Up Your Collection


If you’re reading this the chances are that like me the glass-collecting bug has bitten you. Either that or you're just looking for that little bit of knowledge to get you on your way to starting a collection of your own.

 

When I started collecting I had hopedthat a little snippit of information like this would come along to give me some hints and tips on the dos and don’ts, when collecting such a wonderful and tactile art form.

 

Collecting glass can be a real challenge. As you will have no doubt noticed a lot of glass pieces when you handle them are not marked or labelled so attributing them to a specific designer and maker is difficult. In this short starter guide I aim to give you a few handy hints in order to help you identify a likely maker.

 

The amount of glass produced and the factories that produce art glass are wide and varied. From England to Scandinavia, Czech Republic and back again, art glass pieces have style and form that reflects fashions and trends from all over the world. 


Let The Collecting Begin

Where do I start? When choosing a place to start your collection or growing one that has already begun, you should consider the reason why you’re collecting. My advice is to only ever buy what you can afford and think about the condition.

The condition of a piece of glass is an area, which is really in the eye of the beholder. If you see a piece of glass, which you love but is damaged, then the price you pay should reflect the damage and also how much you value and want the piece. Remember that damaged pieces of glass will achieve a lower resale price should you ever wish to sell your piece at a later date.

Colours of glass can have a major effect on how common they are and what date they were produced. Colours such as the Whitefriars Ruby are very common where as the “Sage green” and "Lilac" which was only produced for 1 year, are much harder to find and therefore much more valuable.

Lots of factories much like today produced sets of different patterns. Different colours in these patterns also making for some wide variations in the sets that you can collect.

I would suggest that you buy for your taste. Think about what you like and stick to it.

Factories To Look Out For

 

Scandinavian Factories

Riihimaki (Riihimaen Lasi Oy)

 

Riihimaki is a collective name for glass that was produced at the Riihimaen Lasi Oy factory in Finland. The factory was founded in 1910 and continued with art glass production until 1976 when the factory was sold on. In 1977 they ceased production of glass. Top pre and post war designers have produced glass in the factory leading to the wonderful shapes and patterns of a vintage and pop art retro era. Names such as Helena Tynell and Tamara Aladin became household names with their pieces commanding some large prices in the current market. The more intricate pieces seem the most popular to collectors in this country as some were only available in Finland and were not produced for the export market. The reverse is the case for the more standard mass produced pieces. These command quite a high price in Finland at the moment as they were produced to be exported, and as such are not as readily available there.

Produced in a wide variety of colours Riihimaki really shows the retro colour palette off. Blues, reds, greens and oranges, all vivid and stunning give the impression of a “swinging sixties” feel to the period they were produced


Spotting and identifying Riihimaki glass can be extremely difficult. Some pieces, as pictured in the Scandinavian gallery, still have labels which are visible displaying the paw print and logo of the factory. Others which do not display identifying features like this are the tricky ones to identify. When you suspect a piece to be Riihimaki have a look at these key features.

 

Cased Glass

Cased glass is a production technique that is widely used across the glass-making world. It gives the sense of quality and care. The colour of the glass appears to have been encased in a protective shield of clear glass. Riihimaki use this technique in their glass production.

Drawing upon well-educated and trained designers. Riihimaki had some of the most highly regarded designers from Scandinavia working for them over the course of their history. Sweeping curves and quirky shapes their forte. From Dice shaped vase of Erkkitapio Siiroinen to hooped vases of Tamara Aladin. Country house collections of Helena Tynell, they all have a shape that tells the story of their influences.


Orrefors

 

Orrefors, or Orrefors Glassbruk to give its full name, is a Swedish glass firm that was founded in 1898 originally making windows. Becoming one of the largest glass producing factories of the inter war period Orrefors glass is distinct for being made out of very high quality crystal.

Both cased and full lead crystal (FLC) pieces come in all shapes and sizes. Vicke Lindstrand is a prominent designer who designed art glass pieces for Orrefors creating a rare form of cased glass where different colours are cased between each other, whilst still retaining there own brilliant colour.

 

Holmegaard

 

Holmegaard glass works was formed in a small village in Denmark beginning production 187 years ago. They are widely respected and collected the world over. Holmegaard glass is particularly well collected in America. The factory ceased production in 2009 after a lengthy battle to stay open.

 

Per Lutken, Jacob Bang and his son, Michael Bang are probably the most well known designers. Per Lutken had a massive impact on the factory changing their vision for the future of there glass production. His designs graced the factory from 1942 until 1998 when he died

 

Jacob Bang produced gorgeous and vibrant colourful decanters in green and blue. Kettle shaped decanters and matching drinking drinking glasses are extremely rare pieces to come across. One was found at a car boot sale for just £8 and is worth far more.

 

Suncatchers became a very popular and cheap designer item in the 1960s. Michael son of Jacob produced a series of glass discs which have patterns and pictures stamped into the glass while it is still hot. The most common and collected of these are from  series called “Noahs Ark”. The “Noahs Ark” series consists of a series of animals stamped in pairs above an ark. One of the discs has a picture Noah.


Kosta Boda

 

Kosta Boda or Kosta Glasbruk is probably the most common of the Swedish glass making manufacturers. With designers such as Vicke Lindstrand who was artistic director from 1950 to 1973 the factory has produced some iconic pieces of glass.

Kosta Boda merged with glassworks from the area known as the “kingdom of Crystal” called Afors and Orrefors and is still producing glass under the Kosta Boda name today.

 

British Factories

Whitefriars
 
Probably the most respected and collected of the British glass firms, Whitefriars are known for their quality pieces that reflect the era they were made. The iconic “Drunken Brick Layer”, “Banjo” and "TV" vases, are extremely collectable and command a very good price today. Whitefriars have such a diverse selection of glass. Textured pieces, trailed art glass to smooth curved, cased marvels, they have produced it.

 

Probably the most renowned of the Whitefriars designers is Geoffrey Baxter. Baxter is responsible for some of the most iconic glass of the 1960s and 70s. Geoffrey Baxter produced the textured range for Whitefriars after studying at the Royal School of Art in 1954.

 

Wedgwood/Dartington

 

Wedgwood, carrying the name of the great British pottery maker is possibly not as well known as a glass manufacturer. Producing a lot of cut glass, Wedgwood brought in the design expertise of Frank Thrower from Dartington, another popular maker from Britain, to produce some of their art glass pieces.

Wedgwood produced a nice variety of glass animals such as elephants, otters, snails and owls of various different colours. Animals are fairly easy to come across and can produce a wonderful collection. Look out for animals that have the Wedgwood name stamped or acid engraved on the base.

Dartington, famous for it's "Greek Key" and "Daisy" designs also became a popular glass manufacturer with Frank Thrower as the main inspiration.

 

 

Value and Condition

This brings me onto value and condition. Many of the pieces are 40, 50 and 60 years old.  Being the material that it is, glass does exceptionally well to survive intact. If you do find a piece which you fall in love with, here are the signs of damage to look out for.

 

Chips/Flea Bites and Nibbles

These can come in all shapes and sizes. The areas that are most common to suffer from damage like this are at the top rim or base. Running your finger around these areas will let you feel for any roughness.

 

Slices and Flaking

Damage such as this can be much harder to find. Flaking is where an area of glass has lost a sliver or slice of glass from the top layer. Due to it only being the top layer, identifying the sliver point is tricky. Again run your hand over the whole glass surface as these can occur anywhere on the piece. Uneven feeling spots are a clue of possible flaked areas.

 

Bruising

Bruising is an area of damage which can be difficult to spot. A bruise is an internal crack which cannot be felt necessarily from the outside surfaces. A bruise consists of a series of small, tiny and in some cases, cracks that have been caused by an impact of some description. The best way to look for such damage is to hold the glass up to light source and examine from all angles. Bruises are near impossible to have restored.

 

Cracks

A crack can be large or small but is best observed when holding up to a light source. The crack will disrupt the light and show up clearly.

Restored/ repaired

Some people do not class this as damage but others do. It is really a question of opinion. The repaired or restored item has been altered no matter how slightly from the original designers final production. Yes, the piece is now free from cracks, chips, slices etc, but it is now different from the final manufactured state. It would now be in the eye of the beholder to class this as damage or not. It is worth bearing in mind that a restored or repaired piece will have a reduced value to one in perfect condition.


I hope this short piece of information has been of some help to you. If you have any questions about identifying a piece of art glass or you just want to share your findings, please contact us and we look forward to hearing from you. CW


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