Tiffany Not The Only Name in Town
By Wes Cowan and Maureen Buri
Louis Comfort Tiffany was not the
only glassmaker producing gorgeous American art glass during the turn of the
20th century. American glass manufacturers such as Steuben Glass Works, Quezal
Art Glass and Lustre Art Glass Co. were equally as influential in the production
of high quality decorative glass. The art glass by these makers is often just as
beautiful and certainly more moderately priced compared to Tiffany art glass,
making it a great place to start collecting.
Some of the most widely
available and collectable pieces of American art glass are the beautiful shade
forms. A pair of Steuben or Quezal art glass shades will generally run between
$500-$1,000 depending on condition and decoration.
The Art Nouveau movement
(ca. 1890-1920) conveniently coincided with the nation's rush to electrify homes
and businesses. Versatile and highly decorative shades were created to adorn the
ceiling fixtures and wall sconces being installed in homes throughout the
country. Collectors today seek art glass shades to be used as originally
intended and as choice cabinet pieces for display.
The Art Nouveau focus on
decoration and organic; natural design can easily be seen in the color and
patterning of the glass shade forms. The pulled feather, the leaf & vine,
and the drag loop, or King Tut swirl, were some of the most common and
recognizable decorative patterns seen in American art glass shades. These
patterns were usually produced while the glass was still molten and often pulled
on a solid opaque ground with an iridescent interior.
Next to Tiffany,
Frederick Carder's Steuben Glass Works was one of the most innovative glass
houses of the early 20th century. Carder created many types of lustrous lead
glass, but is best known for his Aurene glass. Steuben Aurene glass was
available in a variety of colors with an iridescent finish. Gold and blue Aurene
were the most popular and most common. Other colors include red, brown, yellow
and green. Carder felt that blue Aurene was strong enough to stand unadorned,
which explains why there are very few decorated blue Aurene forms.
Quezal Art Glass and Decorating Company produced shades in every color and
nearly every decoration, form and size. There are more Quezal art glass shades
available on the market than any other manufacturer due to large production
numbers. Like Steuben, Quezal shades incorporated decorative patterns on an
opaque ground with an iridescent interior as well as decoration embedded in
Glasshouses like Lustre Art, Durand, and Fostoria also produced
glass shades during the period. While their pieces were very similar in coloring
and pattering, the quality did not compare to those produced by Steuben, Quezal
and certainly Tiffany.
Pieces with similar or identical features can
sometimes be identified by the presence of a signature. Steuben glass vases and
perfumes were often signed "STEUBEN" in small block letters; however, the shades
were signed with the trademark silver fleur de lis on the rim. Most Quezal
pieces were signed with an engraved or acid-etched "QUEZAL" signature at the
rim. Lustre Art shades were signed with an engraved "Lustre Art" script
When choosing an art glass shade, personal taste should always
come first. Look for consistency in color in the exterior decoration. If the
interior is an Aurene or iridized glass, the finish should not be flaking or
have excessive wear. Also, be sure to check for chips or cracks. A high quality
art glass shade exhibits a high level of craftsmanship and brilliant
About the author: Wes Cowan is founder and owner of Cowan's Auctions, Inc. in Cincinnati, Ohio. An
internationally recognized expert in historic Americana, Wes stars in the PBS television
series History Detectives and is a featured appraiser on Antiques Roadshow. He can be
reached via email at email@example.com. Research by Maureen Buri.
Pair of Quezal ribbed gold Aurene pulled-feather shades and signature, est.
Four-arm Arts & Crafts style
electric chandelier with pulled feather
gold Aurene shades, est. $1,000-$1,500.