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Favrile Glass

Unusual coloring and finish were characteristics of ornamental or "art glass" production in the United States between 1880 and 1930. Fashioning of such decorative pieces as bowls, vases, and candlesticks called for superior glass making skills. Outstanding among these late art forms of glass is that known as Favrile, a name chosen by its inventor, Louis Comfort Tiffany, from an old Saxon word meaning "hand wrought."

For the glass enthusiast, favrile is an ideal subject to collect since every piece is clearly marked on the base in acid-etched lettering. This reads either "L. C. T. Favrile" or, after 1900, "L. C. Tiffany-Favrile." Production of it began in 1883 and ended in 1930 when Mr. Tiffany at the age of 81 destroyed all the formulas for its making.

The delicate coloring of classic Greek and Roman glass that had become iridescent from being buried in tombs since the beginning of the Christian Era was the inspiration for this glass. Louis Comfort Tiffany was the artistic son of Charles L. Tiffany, founder of the famous New York firm of jewelers. Louis was an accomplished painter and also head of the decorating branch of the family business known as The Tiffany Studios, which executed many important commissions, especially for churches.

Stained glass windows stimulated Mr. Tiffany's interest and, in 1883, he established his factory at Corona, New York, to make iridescent glass for use in such windows. Manned by a group of expert glass workers from Stourbridge, England, it was at first known as the Stourbridge Glass Company and shortly afterward as The Tiffany Furnaces.

Louis Tiffany did not intend to make his glass works a commercial enterprise and at first limited production to single pieces as works of art. Many of these made during the first decade of the factory's existence are now in collections of important museums in America and Europe. Gradually, favrile glass began to appear in many forms trumpet- vases, footed and plain bowls of various sizes, candlesticks, delicate wine glasses, and other decorative accessories, even including shades and bowls for electric-light fixtures.

It was this commercialization of favrile glass that caused its originator to buy back the stock of his principal assistants, to close the plant, and destroy the thousands of formulas developed during the nearly fifty years of the Tiffany glass enterprise. For a few years some of the men who worked in the Tiffany glass house tried to produce glass of the same type, but it was never the same. It lacked the unique depth of color and sheen of the original.

Iridescence is the dominant characteristic of all Tiffany favrile glass. The usual colors are peacock blue, burnished gold, and Nile green. The two latter have more translucence than those of peacock blue and are sometimes further enhanced with flower and leaf decoration. The iridescence was achieved by the fumes of various metal and metal-oxide solutions used in thousands of combinations.

According to tradition, Mr. Tiffany visited his glass works each morning and personally inspected what had come from the annealing lehrs the previous day. Those pieces which he felt were not of Tiffany quality, he let crash to the floor as they were handed to him, in the manner of the great potter, Wedgwood.

The mark "L. C. T. Favrile" on the bottom, indicating that it dates from before 1900. The small footed bowl at the right, made about 1915, is of burnished gold shading to peacock blue at the base. It is marked "L. C. Tiffany -Favrile". Upper right shows a typical mark with production numbers.

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