Dear Helaine and Joe:
My mother received this Baccarat vase as a gift when she married my father in Paris in the 1920s. It is19 inches tall and is extremely heavy. It is decorated with carved silver bands around the top and base, with another band around the shoulder. It is gorgeous but not practical for me since I am in my 70s and it is too heavy for me to lift and clean. I would love to sell itbut have no idea of its worth or to whom to sell it. Can you advise me?
Your help is appreciated.– S. S., Aventura, Fla.
Dear S. S.: We totally agree that this is indeed a gorgeous piece, but we will tell you upfront that finding a value has been difficult because this piece is so uncommon.
Baccarat, which is considered by many to be the most famous and prestigious French maker of crystal, was founded in 1764 and was a royal project of King Louis XV. Located in the town of Baccarat in the region of Lorraine, the owner of the new glass works was the Bishop of Metz, Louis-Joseph de Laval-Montmorency (some references say it is Montmorency-Laval).
The initial name of the glassworks was Verreries Renaut & Cie because Antoine Renaut was the director, but the name was changed in 1768 to Verreries de Baccarat. Over the years, the factory had various owners and names, but in 1823 it became Compagnie des Cristalleries de Baccarat, which is still the modern designation.
Baccarat started making crystal in 1816 and over the years has added such things as agate and opaline glass (1823), millefiore (1846), sulphides (1848) and colored glass (after 1867). Millefiore literally means “thousand flowers,” and sulphides refers to an opaque silvery or whitish looking three-dimensional medallion (often a portrait) encased in glass.
While Baccarat made all of these beautiful things, clear crystal glass, which was often cut and/or engraved, was its most important product. Crystal is technically a high quality glass that has a lead content (sometimes obtained from calcined or ground flint) of at least 24 percent. This is called half-lead crystal, while glass with 30 percent lead is known as full-lead glass or cristal superieur.
The Baccarat piece in today’s question is beautifully and elegantly cut with long flutes. The base is covered with beaded silver that is very pleasing to the discerning eye, while the mouth of the base has a silver rim in a design that suggests a neoclassical garland. But the glory of the silver is around the vase’s shoulder where interconnecting roundels create a frame for stylized leaves.
As for selling this piece, we feel a private sale might not be in S. S.’s best interest but would suggest a reputable upper-end auction company. The competition for this piece in such a setting might drive the price up, but that is only speculation.
As for the value of this piece, S. S. needs to be guided by the auction company she chooses, and she needs to get more than one opinion. We feel this piece has an insurance replacement value of at least $1,200 to $1,500, but she may get half that when she sells it.