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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Vase; Ceylan; opalescent glass; signed in wheel-cut lettering: R. Lalique; 1924; 9 1/2 inches high, $6,037. Photo courtesy of David Rago and John Sollo
If you have tenderness for glass like I do, Lalique is a type of glassware that can stop you in your tracks.

So fluid, subtle, and smashable. Yet, pieces have survived unharmed for almost 100 years. It’s like they survived as an affirmation to craftsmanship and the human spirit at its best.

Makes me think about all the extraordinary things the human hand creates when it’s inspired and also destroys when it’s threatened.

Rene Lalique was a French jewelry designer who turned glassmaker extraordinaire. He did it by the time he was 30.

Contemporary taste in 1894 called for jewelry design with brazen gems in bland mounts. Lalique, on the other hand, used semi-precious stones, carved ivory and enameling to take design to the next level.

He wasn’t designing jewelry so much as he was designing objects d’ art which incorporated mythological themes and nature.

The actress Sarah Bernhardt asked Lalique to create jewelry for her classical stage roles, and royalty as well as courtesans at the turn of the century were photographed wearing his pieces.

Despite his success, Lalique was a restless soul. By mid-life he turned to glassmaking.

Two things intrigued him: fine glassware and mass production. He saw the two coming together.

Lalique validated his theory when he designed perfume bottles for his friend Francois Coty. He wanted each bottle to express the personality of the fragrance. His bottles forever changed the way perfumes were packaged, presented and sold.

From perfume bottles Lalique moved to artistic glass objects that could be a part of everyone’s life. Vases, figurines, plates, goblets, ceiling lights, powder boxes, paperweights and glass hood ornaments are some examples.

From his flowing, romantic, art nouveau images to his streamlined, geometric art deco ones, Lalique’s elegant simplicity was always in the forefront of decorative art styles.

Even though his shapes were mass produced, the coloring varies. Many pieces were blown of colored glass. But many pieces were also hand-colored and wiped with stains or enameled.

Lalique marked nearly all of his pieces “R. Lalique.” Lettering styles changed over time, and in one trademark, he omitted the initial.

Lalique was widely copied. Many similar but not identical pieces came from Czechoslovakia beginning in the 1950s.

You can tell the difference by looking at the original 1932 Lalique catalog, which some libraries and museums have in their collection.

Sought after pieces include multi-colored examples in green, amber, black and blue. Condition is also critical factor in valuing pieces.

Good, original condition is important. That is, no cracks, flaws or scratches.

On Oct. 20, David Rago and John Sollo presented their second annual Lalique auction in Lambertville, N.J. Most of the pieces in the auction came from one, large private collection.

Most had not been seen in the marketplace since the 1980s. Here are some current values.

Lalique Highlights

Wine glasses; Hagueneau; set of 12 art deco clear glass examples; stenciled or engraved R. Lalique France, circa 1924; each 7½ inches high; $2,300.

Hood ornament; Sirene; clear frosted glass nude woman; engraved R. Lalique France; circa 1920; 3¾ inches high; $2,875.

Vase; Davos; amber glass; engraved R. Lalique; circa 1932; 11½ inches high; $3,737.

Vase, Formose; emerald green glass; engraved R. Lalique France, circa 1924; 6½ inches high; $5,405.

Vase; Ceylan; opalescent glass; signed in wheel cut lettering, R. Lalique; circa 1924; 9½ inches high; $6,037.

Statuette; Source De La Fontaine Calypso; clear and frosted glass; robed woman holding flowers; signed in wheel cut lettering R. Lalique; rare; circa 1924; 27 inches high; $23,000

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