By the time you read this somebody out there has paid as much as $90,000 for a rare cameo glass vase, created by Émile Gallé (1846-1904.) On February 16, the A.B. Levy’s Palm Beach Gallery offered a group of Gallé glass items. Opening bids ranged from a low $1,000 for a 10” high enameled and etched vase. And then, there was the “orchidees” vase. Slightly over 13” tall, the bidding opened at $40,000. However, it was estimated to go for as much as $90,000. Made in 1898 it is considered a rarity, using a variety of Gallé techniques.
Historically, Gallé is a magic name in glass, since he began experimenting in his father’s glass Company, in 1867. His earliest pieces were on vivid blue. As he progressed he became more interested in the decoration than the color or shape. His motifs of flowers and insects, part of the Art Nouveau movement at the time also included Japanese designs also popular at that time. These pieces used gilding and enameling on white, amber and transparent green glass. By 1884, still working with nature motifs, he created one-of-a-kind pieces. These are the most pricey and sought after pieces today.
By the 1890s he began mass producing his sork. The designs were cut by acid rather than with a wheel. They are now known as “cameo glass.” It used a technique similar to that used in 18th century scent bottles. Those designs were cut with acid through layers of opaque glass. These mass produced pieces were made for both the European and Middle East markets.
CLUES; Problems for beginning collectors are the many imitators. Over the last 20 years many faked Gallé cameo glass vases have come to market. The bases are molded rather than having polished and ground pontil marks. What was originally signed as “cameo, Gallé type” will have the word “type” removed. Carefully check for a depression near the signature where the word was removed. To further confuse collectors are a variety of signatures and marks used on authentic Gallé glass. Some resemble Japanese calligraphy. Other times the signature can consist of unrecognizable scrawls. Pieces made after his death are signed with a star beside “Gallé.”
Check out the many books on Gallé before spending too much. Research is a must.
PHOTO CAPTIONS (1) Gallé signed “Orchidees,” vase, c. 1898. (2) Gallé signed vase, c.1890. Enameled, acid etched.
PHOTO CREDIT: A.B. Levy’s Auctions, Palm Beach, FL.