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Crystal Ashtrays

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

(continued from page 2)

Lalique
"Cannes" - $550
"Cuba" - $400
"Aladdin" - $975
"Aruba" - $410
"Soudan" - $470

Founded by René Lalique in 1885, the Lalique Co. has been manufacturing glass commercially since 1910, when it opened a small works near Paris, and has produced glass on a significant scale since 1921, following the opening of a factory located in the town of Wingen-sur-Möder in the Alsace region of France, close to the city of Strasbourg.

Throughout its history, the company has pursued a policy of exclusively manufacturing the designs of family members. Designs by René Lalique, who died in 1945, are widely considered the company's finest work, and many examples, including more than a dozen ashtrays, are still in production. Since the Second World War, the firm has been headed by Marc Lalique, René's son, who was replaced by his daughter Marie-Claude Lalique, following his death in 1977. The majority of the designs by Marc and Marie-Claude are in the familiar, high-lead-content glass with contrasted areas of frosted "satin" finish and polishing, a style that has become synonymous with the Lalique name.

The Art Deco taste of many Lalique designs affords a period flavor to much of the glass, which is reinforced by several apparently obsolete models, such as letter seals and rocker blotters that are still in production. The ubiquity of the smoking habit during the interwar years is also still evident in Lalique's extensive range of 46 ashtrays. At least 10 ashtrays are suitable for cigars, a fact which may relate to Marie-Claude Lalique's own cigar smoking habit, and if these were not enough, Lalique also makes a number of shallow bowls that appear to be ashtrays in disguise.

Lalique's cigar-ashtray designs include the model entitled "Nina," one of a series of six molded with images of historic sailing vessels, which were originally introduced as decorative plates in the late 1930s and later modified by Marc Lalique. Another Marc Lalique design from about 1950 is the model "Cannes, which is typical of the evolved René Lalique style. The work of Marie-Claude Lalique, which has been produced for about 30 years, is more fluid and asymmetric than that of her father. Her recently introduced design entitled "Aladdin" typifies a modern trend toward innovation and whimsy.

Saint Louis
"Firmament" - $840
"Caravelle" - $328

The town of Saint Louis is located in the Alsace region of France and is close to the Lalique factory. Glass has been made on the site of the Saint Louis glassworks since at least 1586, and the firm has operated under the impressive title of Cristalleries Royales de Saint Louis, following a decree of Louis XV in 1767.

Saint Louis, owned by Hermés since the late 1980s, specializes in the manufacture of ornate, heavily cut and richly ornamental crystal-type glass introduced before the French Revolution, most of which has a distinctively French flavor and evokes the splendor of European royalty. Like Baccarat, Saint Louis enjoyed a period of immense prosperity during the conspicuous consumption of the second half of the 19th century, and many of its modern wares date in design origin or influence from this gilded age.

Among the specialties of Saint Louis are overlay, or "flash" glass, wherein one or more layers of colored glass are applied over a clear ground, which is revealed by pattern cutting. This technique has been common since the middle of the 19th century and widely practiced by Bohemian (Czech) glassmakers. The impressive Saint Louis ashtray model "Firmament" is a good example of the "fancy" style and features the royal or cobalt blue overlay, which is a Saint Louis favorite. "Firmament" can literally and metaphorically be described as "gilt-edged." Another imposing Saint Louis ashtray is the large model of "Caravelle" (also in two smaller sizes). The fluid, lava-lamp taste belies its design origin in the early 1970s.

Nicolas M. Dawes writes frequently about glass.


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