By Carol Sims
OLD GREENWICH, CONN. – The magical ability to transform sand into glass captivated our predecessors, and today continues to provide many useful and beautiful objects. Translucent, transparent, opalescent, or opaque, glass has many faces that appeal to collectors.
The appreciation of fine glass has become an art in itself. When knowledgeable collectors do get together, dealers bring out their finest, as they did when the Westchester Glass Club celebrated its 25th anniversary Glass Show on April 21 and 22 at the Greenwich Civic Center.
For glass connoisseurs, this is a pure specialty show. You won’t find booths of china, silver, or furniture here. Glass, as a category, is broad enough to have its own specialties, either by period, manufacturing process, place of origin or particular manufacturer.
In 25 years, the show manager has always been a member of the Westchester Glass Club. With experts at the top, it is not surprising that the show has become the best early American glass show in the country.
Doug Reed has volunteered his time as show manager for the past six years. You could see club volunteers dressed in light blue club sweaters throughout the Civic Center. It was obvious that they loved helping out, even though only about ten percent of the exhibitors were actually club members themselves, according to Reed. Club members need to be in the area to attend meetings, and most of the dealers came from out of state. There were dealers from California, Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Ohio, Maryland, Indiana, Maine, Alabama and North Carolina.
”The Westchester Glass Club does a superb job at making the dealers welcome. The buyers also are very knowledgeable about glass and appreciate the value of the glass we have to offer. The people that come and support a show like this make it a delightful experience. I have made some real friends and look forward to seeing return customers each year,” said Audrey Smit of Glass Accents, Ephrata, Pa.
Reed takes care to keep the show balanced. If a dealer retires, he fills their spot with someone who carries similar pieces. ”We have the luxury of having a waiting list of dealers wanting to come to the show.”
That doesn’t mean that the show gravitates towards more and more costly merchandise. While there were pieces priced at $32,000 or $60,000, the show had plenty in the lower ranges, with many pieces under $100. ”We are not elitist. You have got to have some low-end or you will turn away new collectors,” said Reed.
Any profit the Club takes in is a result of the gate. This year there were over 1,000 attendees, slightly up from last year, according to Reed. The money from the show sponsors the club’s local and national activities, and some is given to the Bruce Museum in Greenwich.
If you divide glass by period, there was early American, Victorian, Art Nouveau, Depression-era, other Nineteenth and Twentieth Century, and contemporary. Contemporary art glass tends to be signed and dated and is generally well thought of in the glass market. Today’s pieces are by ”tomorrow’s Tiffanys,” as Audrey Smit put it.
Manufacturers included Steuben, Sandwich, Baccarat, Dorflinger, Locke, Heisey, Cambridge, Duncan Miller, Mt. Washington, Tiffany, and on and on.
Manufacturing processes included hand-blown, mold-blown, cut glass, and pressed glass (poured molten into a multi-sided mold and pressed into the mold with a plunger). Glass manufacturing has hundreds of technical processes, and quite a few were represented at the show. Place of origin was predominantly America with some European countries.
American brilliant cut glass could be found in various colors and in clear. The colored glass was formed in layers of colored glass over clear glass, and later hand-cut to clear. Some of this ”cased glass” could have three layers and three resulting colors when cut. Reed said that sometimes makers would stain the outside of a clear glass to imitate the cased glass look.
Pattern glass was huge at the show. ”Pattern” refers to the design cut or pressed into the glass. Popular because it is affordable, it is also eminently collectible because a single pattern can be found in various forms – plates, goblets, egg cups, bowls, etc. Collectors might use a reverse strategy, too – collecting a single form, like a goblet, in as many patterns as they can find. ”It’s a disease,” confided Reed about the compulsion to collect. ”You should see my house,” he continued. Factory-produced series of patterns can often be identified and dated according to manufacturers’ records.
For practical buyers, and those who enjoy using their antiques, there were countless functional rdf_Descriptions that are still in common use today such as salt shakers, stemware, bottles, tableware, vases, candle sticks, pitchers, cake stands, and paperweights.
The show also had its share of rdf_Descriptions that are no longer in common usage. Whale oil lamps; decorative little cup plates (when you poured your tea into your saucer to drink it, you needed a cup plate to set down your dripping cup); and pickle casters (Victorian hostesses kept edibles on the table day-in and day-out) were all at the show. There were spooners (Victorian glasses just to hold spoons); bride’s bowls and apothecary jars.
Brookside Antiques of New Bedford, Mass., had several pieces of Victorian art glass. Makers at their booth included Tiffany, Steuben, Smith Brothers, Wavecrest and Loetz. There were also dozens of contemporary paperweights – signed and dated.
Philip Liverant, Colchester, Conn., had some beautiful clam broth pieces – clam broth referring to the semi-transparent milky-grey color of the glass, tinged with firey-opalescent color in good light. He also had a large apothecary jar with its original glass stopper, a matched pair of Sandwich compotes, a matched pair of tortoise shell vases and a signed Steuben vessel of amethyst color, circa 1890. He enjoyed thumping the hand-blown glass in his booth- clear sounding ”pings” denoting its high quality.
Neale-Schlotfeldt, Bridgewater, Va., brought very rare pieces. Tom Neale had a Galle cameo vase encircled with a with a sweat pea vine design. It was the largest size they made. He also had a Daum Nancy vase with an elegant attenuated neck, circa 1900-1910.
Frank Jedlicka of Boston, Mass said, ”I’m pleased to report that this year’s was very good for the dealers at the top end. One hears of concerns over the stock market and the economy, but the recent Skinner auction and now this show demonstrate that demand for top quality rdf_Descriptions is strong.”
”What interests me is the number of serious collectors who attend – and they were there,” Jedlicka continued. ”It was also gratifying to see young couples who are just beginning to collect.” This was echoed by Frank Renner of R.F.D. Antiques, Reading, Pa.
Jeffrey Evans of Green Valley Auctions spoke to a full room at this year’s lecture. He discussed the impact of the Internet, Martha Stewart and eBay – all helpful to the market, according to Evans. Evans appreciates fine glass, and uses it when entertaining. ”Everyone gets a different wine goblet. If they worry about breaking it I tell them not to worry. It is meant to be used. It makes for good conversation.”
”More of the serious dealers do this show than any other show,” observed Evans. While the uninformed may go on overload when presented with rooms full of glass, the connoisseur sees applied science and craftsmanship and the incredible survival of rare, beautiful and interesting objects. The Westchester Glass Show offers a friendly, casual environment to talk with experts in the field and to find collectible glass in all price ranges.