Since I wrote an article about “Real or Fake Galle” glass in 2018, I have been getting questions from all over the world.
A reader sent me this image from Santa Barbara. So in this column, I update the latest on “Real or Fake Galle” glass. If you love a fake, and are not paying authentic prices, go ahead! Some of the fakes are older themselves (1990 Taiwan) and kind of nice.
If you love Galle furniture glass or ceramics, go to France to the Musee de l ’Ecole de Nancy.
Failing that, here’s the skinny. The average price paid for an original Galle vase is $500-$2,000 with some going for much more.
Fakes lately are made in China and Romania. Paying a high price will not guarantee authenticity. A good dealer will have a catalog of shapes, and an online service (firstname.lastname@example.org) can help for free.
The world of art and design has loved Galle art glass for 150 years, because Emile Galle (1846-1904) was the first to produce glass as art. When we say “art glass,” it is because of him.
He was a polymath, brought up in his father’s art and ceramics factory. He studied botany and Islamic design.
His creations have been valued highly because he was at the forefront of the new look — art nouveau — in France, which featured organic shapes; flora and fauna, insects, and graceful scenic views.
Young, he established his own art glass factory in Nancy (a center for glass — think of Daum Nancy Glass) and made glass for the Paris Exposition in 1878, for which he earned the Grand Prix. The value of pieces designed for shows are valued higher than the factory (industrial) vessels.
Unlike other art glass, the provenance (who owned the piece before) is not as value-creating as why a vessel was made.
If Emile designed a piece for a show himself, that is the value-enhancer. The bad news was that he died young at 58 years, and after that, his wife took over production, signing his name with a star.
After her, the son in law, not born a Galle, produced Galle glass, and signed as his father-in-law. His role in the concern was from 1904 to 1914, because the factory closed during World War I, opening again only after 1919, closing again in 1936. This is a formative period in the history because the so- in-law mechanized the production.
How? Well, his artists blew the glass shapes (mostly vases and lamps) into a mold, then layered the glass with two or three layers of other colored glass. The basic color was clear glass, overlaid with varying degrees of green. Then it was “acid etched.”
The term is cameo glass. Three or two-fold encased glass layers were subjected to a burin ( a sharp pointer) that would etch a design layer by layer. Then the vessel was sunk into a hydrofluoric bath. The longer it stayed in the bath, the deeper the design would “bite.”
If the vessel had a dark overlay of two tones, say, of brown, by gradations in time of the acid bath, you could pul out the vase when it had a shadow of a brown, and so on. Shine a light, and you will see a faint hue of what laid before. The depth of color shines in light.
The factors in the valuation of original Galle glass are condition (you can’t disguise a crack) and the degree of “the artist’s hand” in the creation of the piece. Emile Galle and his talented designers often created custom works, as differentiated from the factory works, which by the 1920s were being bought by the general public.
A feature of the art nouveau movement was that pieces that were unobtainable by the general public were commissioned for the rich. Another major factor in value is the location of the design. If it is Lake Como and has architectural elements, it is worth a bunch. If the vase has flowers, what flowers were they? Galle was a botanist, so certain flowers and fauna are more valued.
Here are clues that it’s a fake:
— Newer reproductions will be signed with a raised signature.
— Look at the rim and feet. The rim should be rounded and polished, not rough and ground flat.
— Look at the base. The base should not be too smooth or too flat. (The piece should look like it’s blown glass.)
Vases@galleartglass.com will evaluate for free and will also accept text messages at 763-360-3608.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart’s “Ask the Gold Digger” column appears Mondays in the News-Press.
Written after her father’s COVID-19 diagnosis, Dr. Stewart’s book “My Darlin’ Quarantine: Intimate Connections Created in Chaos” is a humorous collection of five “what-if” short stories that end in personal triumphs over present-day constrictions. It’s available at Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara.