The smart collector: Lamp collectors covet fine pieces from the golden age of cut glass

2013-05-26T00:00:00Z The smart collector: Lamp collectors covet fine pieces from the golden age of cut glassDanielle Arnet Tribune Media Services The Smart Collector Arizona Daily Star

Q: Any info on this antique lamp I bought at an estate sale? There was no information furnished with it. I thought it was pretty. It's 27 inches tall, not including the chimney.

A: The reader adds that the lamp has been electrified by a lamp shop.

I'm glad to learn that she bought the lamp because she liked it. Anyone who follows this column knows that liking what you buy is a big issue here. Smart collectors buy what they like, because they may have the item for a long while.

Seen in images sent (thanks, they are very clear), this seems to be an electrified type of "Gone With the Wind" style lamp in clear American Brilliant cut glass. Think of the kerosene lamps seen in films of the Civil War period, where two globes are joined in the middle by a metal font and burner. This lamp has a tall base topped with a single globe.

The golden age of cut glass, known as the Brilliant Period, happened in America. In 1876, American companies displayed a variety of fine cut glass at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. At the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, artisans from the Libbey Glass Company of Toledo dazzled visitors with on-site cutting of leaded crystal.

New technology during the Brilliant Period brought about innovations that made cut glass the preferred gift for all, from presidents to brides. Companies such as Libbey, Hawkes, Hoare, and Meriden vied to outdo one another until around 1904 when high labor costs and changing tastes brought an end to the industry.

This lamp with intricate cutting incorporates several classic patterns. We spot hobstar, star, pointed loop, and swirl patterns cut into the glass.

At first look, the piece looks great. Tall, it looks to be in excellent condition. Of course, with a piece that intricately cut, only a hands-on inspection will reveal nicks and chips.

But there are red flags that can only be resolved by an expert. I invite the reader to visit www.liveauctioneers.com and/or www.worthpoint.com to view sale results of American Brilliant cut glass lamps. A look will be instructive.

The first thing our reader will notice is that companies making lamps had product with a very different look. Top shades were flattened hemispheres that rested on a metal ring above a narrow cut base.

True "Gone with the Wind" shapes were extremely rare. No lamps that we saw online had a base or elongated foot in what looks like two sections. And none was as tall.

We did see a 16 1/2-inch-high cut glass, classic double globe GWTW lamp with an original kerosene font dated 1884 that sold in March this year for $3,000. The original font went a long way to bringing the high price.

Lesser cut glass lamps sold for $50 to $250. Only exceptional, original lamps brought serious money.

In today's market, value on American Brilliant Period cut glass depends on the quality and shape of the blank, the pattern of the cut, the signature, and condition. Collectors are few and they are picky.

Is this lamp signed? Look all over the glass for small engraved script or an etched mark. Use a loupe or magnifying glass; marks are hard to spot.

I'm thinking that the piece is a marriage, an assembly of parts not made to go together. For a definitive assessment, our reader should contact the American Cut Glass Association, Inc. (ACGA) at www.cutglass.org. The organization has regional chapters. Perhaps a local member will look over the lamp for a fee.

FYI: "Identifying American Brilliant Cut Glass: 6th Ed." by Bill and Louise Boggess (Schiffer, $19.99) is a classic source.

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send e-mail to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate

Featured businesses

View more...

Event Calendar

Today's events | Add an event

Most viewed: