Q: I am sending photos of a glass, 14-inch diameter, mermaid plate or bowl that has a signature on it. I think it reads “Lalique France” — but I am not sure. Any thoughts or estimate of value would be appreciated.
A: The pattern name of this lovely piece is “Calypso,” and it was indeed made by Lalique at its Verrerie d’Alsace (Glassworks of Alsace). It is located in Wingen-sur-Moder, Alsace, France, and was founded by René Lalique in 1922. Alsace is a region in far eastern France with Strasbourg as its capital.
Lalique was born in Ay in 1860, but his family moved to Paris when he was a child. After his father died, René became apprenticed to jeweler Louis Aucoc, but he also attended classes at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs (School of Decorative Arts) in Paris. In 1885, after doing design work for important jewelers such as Cartier and Boucheron, he took over the workshop of jeweler Jules Destape in the Place Gaillon, Paris.
By the turn of the 20th century, some called him “the inventor of modern jewelry.” Along with gold, precious and semiprecious stones, Lalique also used nonprecious materials such as horn, mother-of-pearl, enamel, and after about 1890, glass.
In 1905, Lalique opened a shop at 24 Place Vendome and showcased both his jewelry and glass objects, which were made at his workshop in Clairefontaine near Rambouillet. In 1907, perfumer Francois Coty saw Lalique’s work and persuaded him to start making stylish perfume bottles. This began the transition of Rene Lalique from art nouveau jeweler to art deco glassmaker.
The Verrerie d’Alsace met Lalique’s growing need for factory glass production. Pieces made before his death in 1945 are signed “R. Lalique, France,” but from 1945 to 1977 they are signed “Lalique France,” either with an acid-etched stencil or an engraved signature made by using a diamond point pencil.
There are actually two Lalique patterns, one called “Calypso,” with five water sprites, and another called “Ondine,” with six. You report that the large plate/coupe/bowl was purchased in 1954, which is probably when the piece was made, give or take a year or two. It is opalescent glass (clear with areas of milky opacity), and you also report it is 14 inches in diameter, which helps us determine value.
If the piece is in perfect condition — no cracks, chips or unsightly scratches — it should sell at auction for between $2,300 and $3,000 on the market. Retail value would be higher.
Q: This is a bowl originally acquired by my grandmother sometime in the 1930s — we think. We love the bowl but do not know anything about its history. Can you help?
A: When we first saw the photos of this piece we thought, “Oh! What a nice and unusual bride’s bowl.” But careful examination soon revealed that we were both right and wrong.
“Bride’s Bowls” or Bride’s Baskets” were standard wedding gifts during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They consisted of a frame — usually silver plated — that held a bowl made from some sort of decorative glass. The variety was endless.
As we perused the pictures we noticed first a serial number and then the maker’s name “Christofle” — and we were a little bit flabbergasted. Christofle et Cie was founded in Paris in 1830 (one source says the year was actually 1839) by Charles Christofle, who initially was a jeweler.
In 1842, he and his company purchased the French patent rights for electroplating silver and gold and for the next 15 years they had an exclusive right to that business in France. Later Christofle branched out into making sterling silver and solid gold wares plus some items in bronze, and has always been a premium, luxury maker.
The metal portion of the piece in today’s question is supposed to be silver-plated bronze, but we can see where the plating has been polished off leaving only traces in hard-to-reach places such as the ring that holds the bowl in place. We also believe we can see remnants of the polish embedded in the cherub’s curly hair.
As it stands now, this “skinned” state is a minus in the value equation, but it can be re-silverplated — and if a good job is done — there will be no harm to the overall value. But now we turn to what may or may not be a much more serious problem: Is the bowl that is held within this frame the original?
Glass bowls held in metal frames are easily broken and we often find frames with replacement bowls. In this case, the beautiful blue bowl appears to be in the Bohemian style with Moser style enameling — but a French origin is also a possibility.
Doing our research, we found perhaps a dozen of these Christofle frames and everyone held a clear, cut crystal bowl. You need to take a good look at their centerpiece bowl and make sure it fits tightly into the rim at the bottom of the frame. If it fits snugly, it is probably the original, but if it is even a little bit loosey-goosey and moves around even slightly it is probably a replacement.
As for value — if all original, the retail should be in the $5,000 to $6,000 range. If not, the value plummets by more than half.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques.