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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Selection of Daum Nancy from auction ranged in price from $977.50-$6,037.50. Photo courtesy of Jackson's Auctioneers
Picture a snow-white forest immortalized on a glass vase. Imagine a lifelike, lazy morning fishing village complete with strolling peasants, boats, and windmills fashioned into glass.

That’s Daum Nancy.

Daum Nancy was a 19th century company that shifted from making tavern glass heavy enough for self-defense to delicate art glass. Seems like a stretch. But it was more like inspiration.

Even today, The House of Daum continues to make drinking glasses but none would stand up to a barroom brawl.

There’s something about recreating nature in man made forms that has taunted artists like Daum since the beginning. I’m stopped in my tracks by an artist’s uncanny ability to do that.

I find myself struggling with words at times the way an artist might with a brush, knowing that what seems simple is often incredibly hard.

The Daum Company (pronounced “dome”) started in 1878 when Jean Daum, an attorney with no glassmaking experience took over a rundown watch-glass factory in Nancy, in the eastern French province of Lorraine. Finding it difficult to make a living producing watch glasses, he switched to popular tavern glasses.

After Daum’s death in 1885, his sons Auguste and Antonin took over. They showed their glassware at the Paris International Exhibition in 1889, the same exhibition that launched the Eiffel Tower.

The sons started with no experience and ended up producing exquisite art glass. They mastered complex glassmaking techniques.

A single piece might include etching combined with carving, enameling and engraving. They applied clusters of berries, flowers, and insect designs to breathe nature into each piece.

The company produced acid-etched cameo designs on two-or three-color grounds and used a hammered metal finish. Cameo glass is a type of glass made in layers, usually with different colors and then carved to create raised cameo designs.

Collectors basically refer to two categories of older Daum, the Art Nouveau style, made before the 1920s, and the Art Deco style, made between World War I and World War II. The demand for good examples from both eras is strong.

Fortunately, the majority of Daum is signed, usually engraved or etched with “Daum Nancy” (in capital letters) bordering a cross of Lorraine. For the glass collector, condition is everything and plays a huge part in value.

It’s important to examine pieces carefully before buying for cracks or chips, or for breaks that may have been mended or disguised through polishing.

Breakage is the major problem in owning an art glass collection.

Choosing a piece of Daum Nancy is really a matter of personal taste. Some glass collectors say that Daum’s artistic glass is secondary in quality to its rival Galle, whose name is foremost in the field. But others disagree. In the end, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

On Dec. 1-2, Jackson’s Auctioneers and Appraisers in Cedar Falls, Iowa, featured a selection of Daum Nancy in its American and European fine art auction. Here are some current values.

Daum Nancy

Cameo glass vase; winter scene, barren trees; enameled in dark amber, charcoal and white; cylindrical form; signed “Daum Nancy” with Croix de Lorraine (Cross of Lorraine); circa 1900; 4¾ inches high; $1,495.

Cameo glass pitcher; mushroom decorated; diamond shaped; mottled yellow and amber; enameled in green, brown and red; signed “Daum Nancy” with Croix de Lorraine; circa 1900; 5¼ inches high; $1,725.

Cameo glass vase; tree studded valley, stream and mountains; decorated in robins egg blue glass, enameled in forest green, brown and charcoal; signed “Daum Nancy” with Croix de Lorraine; circa 1900; 9½ inches tall; $2,990.

Cameo glass bowl; tree-lined lake from shore; amber mottling, overlaid with deep magenta; signed “Daum Nancy” with Croix de Lorraine; circa 1910; 10¾ inches high; $3,737.50.

Cameo glass handled bowl; mushroom scene; spherical form; lemon yellow, amber and amethyst with shades of green, crimson and sepia; engraved “Daum Nancy” with Croix de Lorraine; circa 1900; 8¾ inches high; $6,037.50.

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