Monday, May 29, 2017

The King of Glass

QUESTION: I have a beautiful green glass cordial set that belonged to my great grandmother. It’s been passed down to me. I just love this set and would like to know more about it. I was told that it was made by the Moser Glass Company in Czechslovakia. What can you tell me about it?

ANSWER: It’s difficult to tell if your cordial set is in fact made by Moser. It’s definitely in its style but other company copied it. Moser was one of the only Bohemian glass companies to sign some of their works. Usually the signature is in gold enamel somewhere on the piece, but many pieces remained unsigned.

Of all the Bohemian glassmakers of the 19th century, Ludwig Moser, known as the “King of Glass,” is probably the most famous. The company was well known for its heavy and intricate gold enameling. But Moser wasn’t the only glass decorator to adorn blanks with this type of decoration. Glassmakers copied each other in an effort to get their share of the market. Like many Bohemian firms, Moser sold blanks to other companies for decoration and decorated blanks bought from other companies, such as  Loetz, Meyr's Neffe and Harrachov, so it can be difficult to tell if Moser indeed made a particular piece.
Ludwig Moser was born in 1833 and began his apprenticeship in the glass business at age 14. From there, he became a skilled engraver. In 1870, he opened a refinery in Karlsbad, Bohemia, today Karlovy Gary in the Czech Republic, and employed other glass cutters and engravers who decorated glass blanks purchased from other companies. The firm's work earned Moser international recognition for his engraved drinking glasses.

By 1880, Moser was making the intricately enameled glass that’s most often associated with him. He designed them for the Oriental market, intending them to resemble the work of Arabian goldsmiths. In 1893, he took over a glassworks factory in Meierhofen bei Karlsbad, employing 400 workers, under the name of Karlsbaderglasindustrie Gesellschaft Ludwig Moser & Söhne and where his sons Gustav and Rudolf also worked. Here he produced shaded transparent engraved glass. Within a short time Moser’s company gained the reputation as the most prestigious producer of crystal in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

Because of the excellent quality of his work, Emperor Franz Joseph I appointed Moser as the exclusive supplier of glass to the royal family. He won numerous awards at the World Exhibitions in Paris in 1879, 1889 and 1900, and the World Exhibition in Chicago in 1893.

The firm also introduced pieces with applied glass flowers and fruits. These remained popular through the 1920s and marked Moser's departure from the intricately enameled luxury glass he had made earlier. By 1922, Moser Glass became the largest producer of luxurious drinking and decorative glass in Czechoslovakia. Moser's son, Leo, who had taken over the firm upon the death of his father in 1916, sold the firm in 1938. When the Communists took over Czechoslovakia, the government took over the Moser glass works but continued to use its name.

Moser glassware commands top prices, so collectors need to know their glassware or purchase pieces from reputable dealers to avoid paying top dollar for similar work by a less famous firm. Cups and saucers run about $300 a set, with larger pieces or those with unusual forms hovering around $2,000.

Prices for Moser engraved glass run about the same. Amethyst or green en-graved miniature rose bowls run around $275 to $350. Larger, more detailed pieces command more money. An amethyst intaglio engraved perfume and stopper runs about $650, a covered box about $800, and a tray about $500. Vases run $600 to $1,000 and up, depending on size and design. Green and crystal enameled pieces, which date anywhere from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries sell for under $200.

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