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Crystal Ashtrays

Nicholas M. Dawes
From the Print Edition:
maduro issue, Winter 93/94

(continued from page 1)

Founded by a royal charter from Louis XV in 1764, Baccarat became widely referred to as the "crystal of kings" during its period of most intense popularity and output in the late 19th century. The firm, which continues to thrive, is located in the northern Lorraine region of France in the town of Baccarat, named after a temple dedicated to Bacchus that was built during the Roman occupation. Today, Baccarat is considered to be the most prestigious and traditional French glass sold in the United States.

Since the Napoleonic era, Baccarat has specialized in clear, highly polished and cut ornamental and table glass with high lead content, and the modern range of ashtrays is typical of the company's legacy. This is particularly true of the designs entitled "Coronas" and "Palma," which are in the traditional style (referred to as "brilliant cut") made popular by Baccarat and others during the second half of the 19th century.

Like Waterford, but unlike most modern glass companies, Baccarat rarely strays far from tradition, and it is not uncommon for designs to remain in production for more than 100 years.


Founded by Jean Daum in the late 1870s in the town of Nancy, situated in the southern part of France's Lorraine region, the firm has grown to become one of the most respected modern glassworks in the world. Daum was under family ownership until recently. The earliest products of the Daum glassworks include traditional, heavily cut glass in the Baccarat taste, but since about 1889, Daum has specialized in ornamental "artistic" wares, particularly vases and table lamps.

The colorful and languid Art Nouveau style established at Daum before 1900 can still be identified in the modern ware, as can the tradition of using innovative techniques and materials, notably the semiopaque and granular "glass paste" termed pate de verre. For more than 40 years, Daum has routinely commissioned artists (including Salvador Dalí) to design ornamental and useful wares, and also maintains a talented team of in-house designers.

The only ashtray currently made by Daum suitable for cigars is the model entitled "Roc," which is the work of the company's design team, and has been in production for about 10 years. The avant-garde taste and combination of clear with colored glass is typical of Daum's work.


The words "Made in Japan" do not normally evoke images of decorative glass, but even the oldest established European glassmakers can learn from the extraordinary success of Hoya Crystal, which has been manufactured for more than 30 years, but has only been available in the United States since 1985. A branch of the Tokyo-based Hoya Co., a world leader in the manufacture of industrial, medical and optical glass, Hoya Crystal has successfully chipped away at the American market with its extensive range of innovative ware.

Following the strategy developed by Steuben and the Scandinavian glassmakers and pursued since the 1920s, Hoya has relied on the exclusive manufacture of high-quality, clear glass for much of its success and offers relatively inexpensive production models together with virtuoso pieces by leading Japanese artists, some of which retail for more than $30,000. Several of the production designs are also the commissioned work of innovative designers, such as the ashtray entitled "Apostrophe," designed by Saburo Funakoshi in the 1980s, which is typically unconventional.

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