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.



Oh, this is beautiful, thanks for the information on prisms...I too have a couple, inherited though. I love opal vases, out of curiosity, how much do they go?, like the ones you're showing here. The house is beautiful and so is the garden! Thanks for sharing. Hugs. FABBY

Thoughtfully Blended Hearts said...

Things are sure looking pretty around your home!!! Thanks for the great info on lusters...I knew exactly zilch about them but I'm loving them now...only thing...I'd wouldn't hesitate using one of the battery candles...since I'm a disaster when it comes to having lit candles...alas...I have set my sleeve afire!!! Have a beautiful week!!!

Bohemian said...

I ADORE dangling Prisms and your collection is magnificent! And the knowledge I always come away from your Posts with is such a Joy! I collect a lot of things but I don't always know the History of the pieces... or much about a lot of the things I'm just drawn to the Beauty of but don't research... so your History Blogs have been invaluable and so interesting and helpful Richard!

And your Garden... WOW... around here only the Public Gardens can boast such luxuriousness because they've got crews of experts tending to them. Your Home and Collections are off the hook my Friend and I so enjoy visiting them.

Thank you for the compliment on my latest creation... this one had a bit of a tight deadline as my Friend will be attending a big Show this coming weekend in California and needed it before she left... now I can relax a short while before I start the next piece...

Blessings and Hugs from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

Barbara F. said...

I love the beautiful furniture where you have these lusters displayed. My grandmother had a pair of them all crystal, I remember them as a child. Your garden is so lovely. I love the wrought iron pieces. xo,

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Richard:
What a treat! Such a lovely collection of lustres, twinkling from every corner of the house. They are all very pretty indeed.

We have a pair of ruby lustres which sit on the dining room table. As you say, it is wonderful when candles are lt to see the reflections and rainbows made by the glass prisms.

Anna at the Doll House said...

Hello Richard

What treasures you have in your home.

I do so agree with you about battery candles. Nothing is so atmospheric in a room than the flickering, dancing flame of a real candle bouncing the light between mirrors and crystals.


Sweet Old Vintage said...

I have been having problems posting comments on many blogs... We were gone for the past 2 weekends and I am playing the catch up game this week.... It is sooooooooooooooooooo hot here.... 97 degrees... ugh... what happened to spring?

xinex said...

Your garden and lusters are all so beautiful, Richard. It would be so much fun touring your home. Christine

Sissysmom said...

I have been searching for a pair lusters in my price range. Your post has made me determined to redouble my efforts.

Your garden is lovely. My Mexican Bird of Paradise bushes are in full bloom and the Sage bushes still have a few blooms left. That's all I have in my garden here in the desert.

Give Sissy Dog a pat on the head from me!

lvroftiques said...

Richard they're sooooo gorgeous!! of course I'm lustre crazy too! *winks* I have a couple of pairs (and a couple singles) that I've managed to find that didn't cost and arm and a leg *winks* but they're super expensive here!
I saw a three tier once, but never 5! I can only imagine how fab they would be! I did find one single (blue opaline) lustre at a garage sale for $20. That's as good as it got for me *winks*
Your pinks are TDF!! I LOVE PINK!! It's always such a pleasure to see your beautiful collections Richard. The best eye candy! Vanna

Maison de lin said...


I love your collection, I have a really good taste. Thanks to sharring this whit us :-)

Greetings from Belgium

for the love of a house said...

ohmygosh... literally 5 minutes ago I was in the basement consulting with Dan who is wiring an antique pair of French bronze & crystal sconces for the barn (he is electrifying them as they are currently candle holders) and I was admiring the one "luster" hanging from the bottom of each (they look just like the lusters on your white French opaline piece) and then I come up to the computer, and decide to come visit you and here you have a whole post on lusters!! 5 minutes ago! small world. But, to be clear I hadn't a clue that they were called lusters until reading this post- so thank you for the information and good timing;)
You garden looks beautiful!!


Diann said...

Do you hear that? That is my heart beating in lust....er.....love for all your stunning lusters! Just gorgeous! Thank you for joining TTF. I hope you have a wondeful weekend!

A Few Pennies said...

Pretty posting; your gardens are beautiful!

PAINTORDIG.blogspot.com said...

Beautiful lusters and your garden is spectacular!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all the pictures and info. I just purchased a pair white with cranberry Glass. very lovely. Your garden is lovely and I too have a dog, Toby a Maltese. I just enjoy looking at my new purchase. April 2012

Michelle said...


I'm so please I visited your website, I have the same red lusters that you have (slightly different enamel pattern), the ones with a double row of hanging lustres. I inherited them from an Aunt and I think they're wonderfull, I didn't realise you sould use a candle in them. My Aunt received them as a wedding gift (1939) from her mother who had received them as a wedding gift in 1902 in Blaenau Festiniog. Don't know anymore about them but it's lovely to see someone else enjoying them as much as I do. PS I also have a Jack Russell Terrier!!

Unknown said...

Hi, Richard,

I was recently lucky enough to be given some house clearance 'junk boxes' and discovered a pair of turquoise milk glass lustres, missing their seven glass prisms, but decorated with a fuchsia garland in an orange & white enamel, I know they were from a home in Swansea, South Wales, and seem to be either French or what is commonly known as Bristol glass..I have been digging for clues, and found this could be a misnomer, but the search goes on, also for those missing 14 prisms..although I did find a vase in the same colour & fuchsia pattern on ebay, to identify it as a sister design to whatever glass blowing factory it was made..yet to be discovered...I have collected vintage china, & depression glass for thirty years, and like your self, can fill several dressers with it..In this detective work I am working on the premise that many French came to U.K in the 1860's looking for work as they were turfed off the land with the advent of the industrial revolution and so would have travelled light, keeping only their prized possessions..It's a theory..of sorts, as it was a similar history to one side of my Grandfather's family...

The search continues..

Jayne in Wales,

Play MO Banjo said...

Your use of commas needs considerable improvement.

Drew1963 said...

Hi Im also crazy about lustres, just bought fabulous pair of cranberry overlay. The gilding is rather worn though-- is this common? Im not sure how to post a pic here---

Unknown said...

I, unlike you, are not brave enough to "use" my lustres! They are very delicate and I would be afraid to clean wax or soot off after
using a candle. If you use a votive or fake tea light, it would require turning them upside down to remove it! That cannot be done!

Unknown said...

Enjoyed your information and photos on lusters. I have several pairs. My mother-in--law collected them and I also had a collection. The one item that attracted my attention was the picture of the unusual luster. One set of my luster has that shaped luster. I have looked all over and have not found any to match mine. Any ideas of any places I could contact?

Thank you for your beautiful presentation of lusters. Juanita