Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Take a Shine to the Lusters!

Double hung, ruby red with enamel decorations.

Cranberry with white overlay.

English  pink Bristol with painted portraits.

Hand pained English Bristol.

White French Opaline Glass

   Starting way back in the 17th century in France, a single glass prism was called a,"Luster".  Candle holders, hung with prisms in the Victorian days of 1850-1890, were also called, "Lusters".What we all call Lusters today are: mantle or table decorations,or a pedestal vase, hung with prisms. Lusters are elaborate candle holders produced in pairs to set on a mantle,sideboard or table.It's a basic candlestick with a glass bowl that the candle sets in, circled with prisms. In theory the prisms,(lusters), helped to produce more light from the candles. The prisms got there name of lusters, from the colors they would produce when struck by sunlight. Kinda like a rainbow. How many of you remember the movie, Pollyanna? They used prisms to make rainbows and even sold them as rainbow makers.
    It was considered the height of elegant living to own at least one pair of lusters, during the Victorian years. They were always expensive and were usually found in only the more prominent homes. This is still true today, with some of the more wealthy home owners having several pair. ( not always ,as I have several pair and have no money at all).

   Lusters  are believed to have first been produced in the British Isles and New England. Later many other European countries, more spicifically Bohemia, which has a rich history of glass making. The glass bowl is sometimes cut with a variety of designs. Etching and painting were also used to decorate a simple glass bowl. Lusters were produced in both color and clear glass, with red being the most popular.
    Lusters with only one row of prisms are the most common,while the double hung prisms are rarer and usually more costly. I have seen in a museum and several books some lusters with 3 to 5 rows of prisms. I have never seen any for sale. If I had, I  would have robbed a bank to try and buy them.
   Lots of glass makers have made lusters. Moser was one of the more important ones and is highly sought after by collectors today.
   When I had my antique Shop in St.Louis, I always had a lots of lusters for sale. I think the most I ever had at once was 20 pair. When I would sale a pair I would be glad, yet sad at the same time.Kinda like being,"luster deprived". I think the hardest color to find is the colbalt blue. I have had all colors, including, peach,gold,mind green and yellow. I had one customer that came to my shop about once  a year, she was from Colorado and her daughter was attending St.Louis University. She always bought at least one pair and usually 2 or 3. Sometimes you can find them for a pretty good price. I remember finding a pair of Robin egg blue ,Bristol ,ones at a country flea market. I almost didn't stop, as it looked like junk. But right there set those blue luster. Bingo.

Unusual cut prisms.

Beautiful enamel work.

    I have managed to keep a few pair for, my Old Historic house. My favorite are pink English Bristol. I would love to have a cranberry pair, but they are among the hardest to find and usually cost the most. I do have a pair of cranberry with white overlays that I am very proud of. I had them in the shop, and when I was going to close it, I took them home. They are not the oldest in the world, but are very pretty. You can kinda tell the newer ones, as the glass is thicker. The older ones are very thin. But then, the cut glass ones are thicker, as the glass had to be thick to cut. Years of experience will make all this easier.
   Lots of glass makers produce lusters today. They have molded glass prisms, instead of hand cut. The glass is thick and heavy and for some reason, they never get the scale right. They are usually very expensive and it is almost cheaper to look around for and old ones. You might expect to pay any where from $150 to $1600 a pair of old lusters. I have seem some for even higher prices, but I doubt they really sell for those prices. If you are in doubt about a pair being old or not, learn to trust the dealer.

   I have never been afraid to use my lusters. I find the best way to use candles in them, is to place a small glass votive cup with a votive candle inside. This protects the luster from the candle heat and also keeps the wax out. Now days  there are those battery  candles, that would work just fine, I for one, can not make myself use a fake candle. I would rather do with out. Sorry, if you like them, I say go on with yourself. I have also used them as flower vases many times. I simply place a smaller vase inside to hold the water. looks really pretty. Especially with a pair on a mantle or dining table.
   I hope you enjoy my lusters and this little history lesson. Please drop by for a tour anytime. I will leave the lights on and Sissy Dog will meet you with a jump and a kiss.I have ended todays post with a few more shots of my garden. Every thing is so lush this season. ENJOY!

I have this pair of white Opaline French lusters for sale in my gift shop. I can sell them for $185.99 plus $15.00 shipping.

This pair is for sale in my gift shop,"Richard's Great Stuff".

Front garden.