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Looking for clues . . .getting serious about whimsies

 

By Arthur Schwerdt

Most glass objects (about 70 percent) that we find in antique shops are not signed or otherwise marked for identification, so we have to use other methods to identify who made them.
There are plenty of resources—old company catalogs, collector books and pattern books. But sometimes you still have to take an educated guess.
That’s what I had to do to respond to and email from Bill S. who sent an attached picture of a pair of beautiful ruby glass swans. Someone had told him they were made by Gillander of Philadelphia, but he correctly thought they might be from Clevenger Glass of Clayton.
The key clue was the rough pontil mark on the underside of each bowl. A pontil is the rod attached to an object by a glassblower to hold it in place while he works on a piece.
When he is finished, the rod is broken off, leaving a scar. At some fancy art glass companies, glassblowers would take the time to polish down the pontil mark.
Clevenger was a glass blowing company that made colorful glass with rough pontil marks. Gillander made mostly clear or frosted (acid washed) pressed or molded pattern glass objects and gas light fixtures.
Another clue was the shape. Glass swans were very popular from the late-1920s through the early 1940s. Some manufactured by Cambridge Glass have become quite valuable. Gillander was in business in the late 19th Century. Clevenger started out in the late 1920s.
These swans are probably whimsies—created by a glassblower at the end of the workday for his own amusement or profit. This is a tradition in glass houses going back to colonial times. Blowers (also called gaffers) made end-of-day glass canes, chains, banks, paperweights and animal figures, among other items.
As whimsies, these swans are unique. And if you are familiar with Clevenger glass, you’ll know that ruby was one of their finest colors and also one of their rarest. So, I would estimate the value of this pair at about $300.
This year’s Kips Bay designer show house in New York City featured 32 young interior designers exhibiting their talent in decorated rooms for the benefit of the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club in Manhattan.
This year, the New York Times reports, all the designers incorporated antiques into their showrooms, which hadn’t been the case in the past few years. The number of antiques on display was significant enough for the Times to note that it indicated, finally, a movement away from the stark minimalism that had characterized interiors recently.
If you have never experienced one of these decorator show houses, you should really treat yourself. The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts runs one annually in Cape May.
This year it will be at 511 Franklin Street starting June 26 and continuing through November 1, 7 days and 6 nights a week. Tickets are available at the door, the MAC kiosk in town, or at the Physick Estate on Washington Street. Call 884-5404 for more information.
—Arthur Schwerdt, a certified appraiser, is the author of “The Antiques Story Book: Finding the Real Value of Old Things,” and co-owner of The August Farmhouse Antiques on Route 9 in Swainton. Send your comment, questions and appraisal requests to aschwerdt@cmcherald.com.

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