Rene Lalique (1860-1945) was a French “art nouveau” jeweler and sculptor who became interested in glass in his 30’s and rented his first glassworks at the age of 49 (in 1909) near Fontainbleu in France. Over the next thirty years he became the world’s leading art glass designer of the art deco period.
In the 1920’s and 30’s his work inspired glassmakers around the world, and it has probably been copied more than any other glass designer. His contemporaries in France who produced glass which they advertised as “au style Lalique” included Sabino, Etling, D’Avesn, Genet & Michon, and others.
Overseas some of the finest hand-pressed glass made during the 1930’s used patterns based blatantly on Lalique’s designs. Two of the best examples were the Phoenix Art Glass Company’s “Sculptured Art Glass”, from Pennsylvania and James A Jobling’s “Opalique” from England.
Lalique opened his first retail salon in Paris in 1905 selling jewelry and decorative pieces, next door to the Coty perfume premises. Coty commissioned perfume bottles from his friend Lalique, and these commissions soon grew into a thriving glass business for Lalique.
At the Paris Exposition des Art Decoratifs et Industriels (source of the name Art Deco) in 1925 Lalique won several medals and had a whole marquee displaying his glass in the “new style”.
Lalique glass is a collector’s dream. It is ALWAYS marked in or on the glass. There is no such thing as “unmarked Lalique”. Also, the glass made during Lalique’s lifetime can be easily distinguished from later Lalique because it is marked “R. Lalique” as opposed to the post 1945 mark “Lalique”. Some early “cire perdue” pieces were marked with Lalique’s thumbprint in the glass.
Rene Lalique’s opalescent glass was very popular and commercially successful. It has a very subtle blue color when light is shining onto the piece, but takes on a beautiful “honey” color when light shines through it (hold it up to the light). See our page on opalescent glass.
You can still buy new Lalique glass made to many of the original designs, using very high quality crystal glass, both in clear and a limited range of translucent colors. It is expensive but you can find it on display in high-class glass departments and stores worldwide.
When buying glass marked “Lalique”, remember that you may be able to buy the same piece new, and check out the prices. Further down this page you will find a list of some prices obtained at auction for Lalique glass.
Most of Lalique’s output was uncolored clear glass, his next most popular coloring being opalescent, and a smaller number of pieces were colored glass. He produced statues, vases, friezes, perfume bottles, car hood ornaments, lighting panels, and table glassware.
Lalique made some stunning glass pieces using the “lost wax” technique, where carving it out of wax makes the original design. This carved model was used to make a mold (usually in something similar to plaster of Paris) and then the wax was melted out of the mold (hence lost wax) and hot glass poured in.
Normally these molds were destroyed in order to remove the glass, so a “lost wax” piece (in French “cire perdue”) is usually unique. Sometimes however, Lalique used the lost wax technique to produce a more permanent reusable mold, because of the fine detail that could be carved into the wax. So not every Lalique “cire perdue” item is unique.
Most of the Lalique glass we see was made from the more conventional methods of carving the design into a metal mold and using that mold to make numerous identical pieces. Lalique had improved the technology for making pressed glass (using a “stamping press”) to enable him to produce designs with deep and intricate indentations. Some of his vases have patterns about an inch deep.
Ranges of hand-finishing techniques were applied to these pressed glass pieces, including polishing part of the design, applying color washes, and sand blasting.