Right or Wrong – Lessons in Art Nouveau and Art Deco Glass

Right or Wrong – Lessons in Art Nouveau and Art Deco Glass

When you start collecting glass it is of importance that you do it from the hart. Not because it is fashionable or a good financial investment. No, collect because of the beauty of the object. You should fall in love with it and consider it the most beautiful piece in the world. Should it not be so that you can admire it with tender loving care and conserve it for coming generations ?

Once infected with the virus of collecting glass, your life is enriched with a fulfilling pastime. Weekend are dedicated to finding that one missing piece. On holidays potential sources are visited with the hope of encountering that one piece that is missing. Finding that rare piece is an ever lasting adrenalin kick one seldom forgets. A collection is never complete and is always subject to improvement. That is the trill of collecting. In your hunger for pieces that compliment your collection be aware off not purchasing pieces that are not worth the value of the raw material alone. In this article I have outlined some pitfalls for the novice collector that should be noted when buying art nouveau and art deco glassware.

First question that you must ask yourself: is the signature authentic?  Let us have a look at a vase made by Emile Gallé. Emile Gallé is one of the most famous French art nouveau artists who lived in Nancy from 1846 to 1904. He designed vases, but did not produce them himself. His craftsmen followed Galle’s instructions and when the vase was made to his satisfactory, they signed the vase for Emile Gallé. Working with different craftsmen means that signatures differ from each other, but nevertheless should be considered as original. For a novice it could be very difficult to identify whether a signature is original or not. To an expert, who has inspected thousands of vases, identification is easy. It is experience and knowledge that counts.

How has it been engraved or has it been acid-etched? Does this correspond with the period and the type of vase, etc , etc. Many questions to answer, which eventually determine the authenticity. Is the signature placed where it should normally be, on the top or the bottom? Is the size of the signature correct, small or large ? Is it an early piece made around 1880, 1900 or even around 1920 after his death. After the death of Emile Gallé in 1904, production was continued under the guidance of his widow Henriette Galle-Grimm. In 1936 the factory was eventually closed.

For a layman the only way to determine if the signature is original is to compare it with similar vases. Does the piece have the same signature positioned in the same place in the same size? Is the signature engraved, acid-etching or enamelled? Take your time and compare it with examples in books.

Two original Daum vases, made in 1900 in France, the right one cut at the bottom.
I had to make this condition report for a client of mine to get his money back from a bad person.

The second question you should ask your self  : Is the piece in perfect condition ? A crack is easy to identify. Inspect the vase by daylight, preferably outside, and let the daylight do it’s work. Cracks will break the light and turn “white” when you look in the vase. If cracks are present you should then determine whether the crack goes through all the layers of glass, or just through one layer, often caused by the tension of the glass when cooling down.  In that case the object was “born” with the crack. Sometimes I make an exception for this type of crack. It depends how rare the vase is and how much I want to have it.  This of course influences the price.

Same 2 Daum vases
Look how diminished the foot is.

Chips are a total different story. They are caused through careless handling of the object and should be avoided. What to do with those objects ?  No one should want to buy such a piece, especially when a lot of money is involved. To fool the less experienced collectors, the object is altered, as illustrated in the following pictures.

Close up of the foot which was “treated”

A client of mine had bought this vase at auction at a very low price, but he was misled. The vase has been altered so badly that it is not original any more and therefore worthless. As you can see the base of the vase on the right has been cut-off. The vase on the left is in perfect condition, as it should be. So always look whether the vase has not been cut on the top or the bottom to disguise chips or bruises. As mentioned before, compare your potential buy with examples in illustrated books.

Scheider Lamp foot , which some people will try to sell as vase.

Is the piece complete ?
The third question you should ask yourself : is the object complete? This sounds like the second question, but it is not. Take for example lamps which have lost their lampshade and have been altered into vase, pitchers that lost their handles, perfume bottles that lost their stoppers or boxes without a lid. Just a few examples to illustrate whether the object is complete as it should be. Not uncommon is that the lampshade is broken and substituted with a lampshade of an other lamp. Details that are very difficult to detect if you are not a seasoned expert. Here again it comes down to experience and your sixth sense. A Golden-Rule that is applicable in all cases : When in doubt….do not buy.

Le Verre Francais box without the cover. Luckily this is just an example; I still have the cover top.

How it should be, complete. Le Verre Francais object in perfect condition.

Last, but certainly not least are the FAKES. Is the object original or a fake?  And how can you tell the difference?  Regretfully there are many fakes in the market! Millions, because millions of Euro’s are involved. Emile Gallé, Daum, Schneider, Walter, Argy-Rousseau, all these great artists have been copied. Forgers, shady dealers or so called ‘innocent’ family members of deceased grandparents, will present you with an unverifiable provenance in the line of the object having been in the same family for years. The auction catalogues are also to be read with great caution. Descriptions like ‘in the art of’, ‘signature of…,  are identifications to be wary of.
Phrases that may lead to misinterpretation.  My advice : always ask for a written guarantee of authentication mentioning at least the year the piece was made, the maker, etc.

Fake le verre francais vase somewhere in France put up for sale on a market.
Same fake le verre francais. It is very difficult for me to take pictures of these vases, because when people know me, they know I will put a bad report on their products. So they do not want me to take pictures of their fraude.

How to recognize fakes? Some years ago in Romania they made reproductions of Emile Galle vases which were signed : “tip Galle”. Even for a novice it was apparent it concerned a reproduction ‘Galle Vase’. With dentist tools the ‘Tip’ was erased and pieces were sold as an ‘original’ Galle. The acid-etching was however not as delicate as the original and the glass was less fragile than original Galle glassware which was made with of higher percentage of crystal. Besides that the colours were different as was the actual shape of the vases.

Fake Galle signature on fake vase

Fake Daum vases are easy to identify as most of them are made of heavy glass, poorly etched with hideous landscapes. More difficult to identify are fake Schneider and Le Verre Francais pieces.  The forgers have mastered the skill of making quality replicas and have improved them selves considerably. Especially pieces in blue, orange and yellow are difficult to identify as forgeries.

Fake Walter, sold at an auctionhouse for more than 1000 euro! Real value: 30 euro?

With de ‘pate de verre’ pieces of Walter and Argy-Rousseau  luckily it is still easy identify misleading fakes. No refinement, no lining of colours and many big air bubbles reveal them as replicas, as you can see in the picture below.

Art nouveau and art deco glass is beautiful. The beauty of an original piece in perfect condition will bring you joy for many years.

© Tiny Esveld


This book explains what you should look for before purchasing French cameo glassware.  With over 550 photographs the book guides you through the possible pitfalls and gives you insight in how to recognise forgeries, marriages and objects which are no longer in their original state.

Altered and fake Gallé, Daum and Schneider  pieces are illustrated besides authentic pieces in order to illustrated the differences between the two. Authentic pieces are further more identified with a green dot and the forged and altered pieces with a red square.

Glass made Transparent – A practical guide to French art glass by Gallé, Daum and Schneider will be published as a hardcover book as well as an e-Book, suitable for all e-Readers including the iPad and the Kindle.


: Glass made TransparentA practical guide to French art glass by Gallé, Daum and Schneider
: Tiny Esveld
: Francois Le Tacon, eminent Gallé expert
: 176
: over 480
: € 32,50
: € 14,95


  1. Dear Tiny:
    Excellent comments and very brief, but pithy. One thing is the frequency that a certain form, like a vase type or name like Gallé, keep appearing over and over again in searches. These glass pieces were produced in limited editions. If you add up let say Gallé’s table lamps on some auction sites, and come up with a good thousand, be sure that mostly, the lamps are fake. And last is the connoisseurs insights, a piece of glass, could have great forms, but total effect, color, composition and proportion do not add up to that expected bravura of experience. It is wise to leave it behind, the body is there, but the soul is absent. Another well made fake. Good luck like with the search.

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