Cameo glass is a style of decorative glass.
A Brief History of Cameo Glass
Cameo Glass is the name given to a style of art glassware that dates back over 2,000 years. The production of Cameo Glass involves fusing together layers of coloured glass, creating objects such as vases, and then carving ornate patterns directly onto the face of the piece. The multi-coloured layers result in the production of decoration ranging from scenes of battle to more peaceful still-life.
Cameo Glass is believed to date back to Roman times and is thought to have originally been made between 30BC and 60AD, with a brief revival in the early part of the 3rd Century AD. From these periods, only around 200 fragments and 15 complete pieces still exist today. Many of the complete pieces are viewable in museums, such as the Portland Vase (circa 5-25AD) in the British Museum and the Morgan Cup in the Corning Museum of Glass.
In the late 18th Century, the technique was rediscovered and many European artists set about trying to produce new Cameo Glass, though it was not until the 19th Century that the techniques were perfected. Some of the most notable ‘modern’ Cameo Glass was produced in this period by artists and producers such as Emile Galle in France and Thomas Webb and Sons in the United Kingdom.
A Collector’s Guide
Cameo Glass has become extremely popular with collectors since its 19th Century revival with Galle and Webb glass, along with other period pieces, often proving to be just as popular as newer items.
Collectors interested in purchasing new Cameo Glass may find themselves spoiled for choice, as the technique has only continued to spread in popularity through the 20th and into the 21st Centuries. A few examples of the range available today can be found through sites such as Helen Millard Glass and Jonathan Harris Studio Glass.
There are also a number of websites dedicated to providing information and discussion for collectors both seasoned and new. The Glass Association is a general information site dedicated to a range of collectible glassware, with information about production methods as well as collecting.
Philip Chasen Antiques is a site that, amongst other things, provides detailed information for new collectors on how to get started, what to look for and what price range to consider. Those looking for discussion on art glass such as Cameo may wish to visit the forums at Fenton Fanatics.
A site that provides detailed information, support and discussion is the Art Glass Association. This site prides itself in providing something for anyone involved in art glass, from producers and traders to collectors and hobbyists.
Cameo Glass at Auction
Cameo Glass is often very popular at auction and can sell for a wide range of prices. Notable websites that have hosted sales of Cameo Glass in the past are Heritage Auctions, the Early Auction Company, Doyle New York and even eBay.
Even period pieces can be found at auction for relatively low prices, making this an extremely accessible hobby for new collectors. For example, on 28/11/2005 and 10/12/2009, Heritage Auctions (HA) sold two similar Emile Galle vases for just $119.50 and $262.90 respectively. On 04/12/2010, a French Cemeo vase believed to be over 100 years old was sold for just $597.50, also on HA.
From here, the prices for Cameo Glass rise steadily. An example still in a lower price bracket, from HA, are a Daum bowl, which sold for $1,015.75 and a Webb biscuit barrel, which sold for $2,151, both on 19/11/2011. On 24/09/2009, Doyle New York held a sale of several Cameo pieces, including a Daum tumbler, which sold for $3,750, a Galle vase for $4,375 and a Daum vase for $6,250.
Prices for Cameo Glass can frequently be seen to grow into the tens of thousands. The three highest grossing sales of Cameo pieces from Heritage Auctions were a 19th Century Woodall vase, selling for $13,145 on 17/09/2005 and two more sales from 19/11/2011; a Galle internally decorated vase, selling for $21,510 and a Daum Orchide vase, which sold for $34,655.
This last piece is certainly one of the highest prices that a piece of Cameo glass has brought at auction. In October 2007, however, the Early Auction Company held a sale that included two pieces of Cameo Glass which sold for phenomenal prices. The first was an extremely rare Chien Lung style Webb vase, which was sold for $36,000. Even this price, however, cannot compare to the sale of a William Fritsche vase, which was bought for a staggering $52,500.