ST. CHARLES, Mo. – Four important collections of American brilliant cut glass – the rare and often colorful decorative glass pieces made mostly in this country between 1876 and 1916 and highly sought after by collectors – will be sold at auction on Saturday, May 31, at the St. Charles Convention Center, starting at 9:30 a.m. The sale will be held by Woody Auction of Douglass, Kan.
One collection in particular figures to stand out from the rest – that of Bill and Alta Barnett of Colts Neck, N.J. The couple has been collecting American brilliant cut glass (ABCG) since the late ’80s, he because he considers each piece “an artistic technical marvel,” and she as someone who appreciates the art form. The Barnetts’ collection comprises more than 200 pieces, in a variety of categories.
The anticipated star lot of the sale is this solid apple green “White House” wine glass, cut in the “Lincoln” pattern.
One piece especially is expected to attract intense bidder interest, both for its rarity and beauty as well as for its historical significance. It is a 4 1/2-inch solid apple green White House wine glass, cut in the Lincoln pattern. Seven re-orders were issued for this item after the initial order was submitted by Mrs. Lincoln in 1861. The Lincoln wine glass will be sold with a modest reserve price.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of this glass,” said Jason Woody of Woody Auction. “First, its lineage can be traced to the Lincoln White House, making it a true piece of American history. A letter indicates the glass was purchased from the estate of a high-ranking naval officer who fought in the Civil War. Also, the glass is green, not the customary red. I know of only one other such example.”
Four companies have filled cut glass orders for the White House. Dorflinger is believed to be the cutter for the Lincoln wine glass. A red version sold at auction in March 2004 for a reported $22,750 (less the buyer’s premium).
American brilliant cut glass enjoyed a 40-year reign, until right around the outbreak of World War I. In her book Antiques Roadshow Primer, Carol Prisant wrote, “The finest moment for American cut glass was the period from 1880-1915, when large, elaborate and brilliantly sparkling punch bowl sets, odd-shaped relish trays, mustard jars, bowls, lamps and novelty items were made.”
The audience for these decorative beauties was “a newly wealthy and innocently ostentatious middle class,” Ms. Prisant wrote, adding, “How better to reflect those nouveau riches, after all, than to spread one’s tabletop with glassy diamonds?” America led the way in the manufacture of brilliant cut glass, although the genre also includes pieces crafted in England, Belgium and France.
Each piece of ABCG truly is an engineering feat. It is made by carving a free-blown or mold-blown shape into geometric patterns with variously sized, power-driven sandstone or limestone wheels and grinding with a mixture of water and sand. As a precursor to ABCG, a great deal of American cut glass was produced from 1810-1850, especially in the strawberry diamond pattern.
The Barnetts’ collection comprises 37 wine glasses; 52 bowls (bowls, punch bowls, rose bowls, comports and nappies); 21 vases (to include flower centers); 28 servers (trays, plates and salad sets); 34 vessels (decanters, jugs, jars, carafes, pitchers and a tantalus set); 11 cabinets (like sugar and creamers); 24 drinking items (minus wine glasses) and 12 other pieces.
Another piece with historical cache will be offered: a signed Hawkes two-part punch bowl, related to a hospitality reception for then-President Theodore Roosevelt at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in 1904. An accompanying letter copy, indicating it reached its destination at the same time as the punch bowl, is included. The bowl is strawberry diamond, with clear split vesica, star motif and superb blank (clarity).
Also expected to wow the crowd is a Stevens & Williams green cut-to-clear biscuit jar, made in England, with engraved floral and rococo design and matching embossed sterling hallmark (1895) lid and bail. “This is one of my favorite pieces,” Mr. Barnett said. “The silver lid has the same basic pattern as the glass. It’s quite beautiful.” The jar graced the cover of a hobbies magazine in 1991.
Two extremely rare pieces will certainly draw bidder interest. One is an 18 1/2-inch signed Libbey pedestal basket in the Premier pattern, elegant in shape and with outstanding blank and handle. The other is a 12 3/4-inch by 10-inch humidor set in oak and brass, signed by the maker Dorflinger and with a locking case. The beautiful set, in the Marlboro pattern, features a signed sterling collar.
Rounding out the rest of the best are as follows:
A fine 2-inch by 9-inch low bowl by Libbey, in the Lennox pattern (aka Comet); a beautiful 4-inch by 9-inch Tuthill bowl in the Wild Rose pattern, with great blank and cutting; an 8 1/2-inch Tuthill water pitcher with six signed tumblers, in the Primrose pattern; a rare 16-inch signed Tuthill cylinder vase in the Wild Rose pattern; and a signed, rare 13 1/2-inch by 10-inch Tuthill Easter-shaped basket in the Rosemere pattern.
Also featured will be a 7-inch Hawkes glass plate in the Festoon pattern, with superb quality cutting; a high-quality, must-see 8-inch signed Libbey cider pitcher in the Poppy motif, with pattern cut base and handle; and a 5 3/4-inch by 10-inch signed Hawkes two-handled ice bucket with matching 8 1/4-inch underplate, in the Gladys pattern, with triple-notch handles and great blank. All items (except the Lincoln wine glass) will be sold without reserve.
A preview will be held on Friday, May 30, from 2-6 p.m. A 5 percent clerk’s fee will be added to all sales (waived for bidders paying by cash or check). Absentee bids will be accepted, by deadline, with a written statement indicating the amount of bid. Absentee bids will be charged a 10 percent buyer’s premium.
For more information on the upcoming May 31 multi-estate sale of American brilliant cut glass, visit www.woodyauction.com.