Dear Helaine and Joe:
My mother-in-law has this vase at her home and asked me to look into finding out if it is worth anything. After looking for information I am just hoping for her sake that it isn’t a fake.
Thanks for any information you can provide.
— K. Q.
Dear K. Q.,
This piece is called a jack-in-the-pulpit vase and has an iridized finish in a golden hue with blueish/greenish/whitish lines crisscrossing the body interspaced here and there with what appears to be millefiori (thousand flowers) oval inclusions. The bottom has a rough, broken-off pontil and is boldly inscribed “L. C. Tiffany Favrile 7141B.”
The broken pontil does not bother us because genuine examples of Tiffany glass can have broken pontils on occasion. A pontil, incidentally, is a scar left on the bottom of a piece of glass when the iron rod — which was attached at that point to provide a handle for workmen to finish the glass — was broken off after the piece was finished.
These areas are sometimes called “punties.” They are often polished away, leaving a slight, smooth depression in the center of the bottom of a piece of glass. Tiffany did a lot of polished pontils, but sometimes they made button pontils, or pontil scars covered up by a thin wafer or “button” of glass. But rough, broken pontils can be found on Tiffany glass.
Our problems with the piece begin with the mark that composes the Tiffany signature. It is clumsy, and it is hard to read both the word “Tiffany” and the word “Favrile” (which is supposed to mean “handmade”). In the photographs the mark appears to be heavily incised, but in our experience most genuine Tiffany signatures are neatly written and easily read, and the signatures are applied with a light, sure hand. That is not the case in this instance.
Another thing we notice is the signature is written so it faces the pontil, while the genuine signatures we have seen are written so they are read from the edge. In other words, we think the signature is upside down and was fraudulently applied.
The rule is, never, never, never trust a signature until you have examined the piece itself and determined the item in question is in the style and quality of the maker whose name appears on the piece. It is our opinion Tiffany would never have made a jack-in-the-pulpit vase like this one. The base glass looks wrong, the iridizing looks uneven, and the internal decoration looks a little off.
We suggest the piece may have been made by a company such as Lundberg Studios or Orient & Flume. Their pieces are gorgeous and collectible in their own right. But they are not Tiffany. We do not know the size, but it looks like a large piece and should probably be valued in the $250 to $350 range.