The Expert Eye: Stephen Milne discusses Frederick Carder at Steuben

Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff

Now through the end of May, an exhibition of over 400 pieces of vintage glass designed by Frederick Carder is on view at the Steuben flagship store on Madison Avenue in New York City. All the objects date between 1903 and1933, when Carder was manager of the Steuben Glass Works in Corning, New York. The colorful display was curated by Steuben dealer and author Tom Dimitroff, and all of the pieces are for sale-ranging in price from $400 to $43,000.

We asked Stephen Milne, a noted authority on Carder Steuben, to highlight a few of the works in the exhibition and to share some points of connoisseurship with us:

Blue Aurene Vase, c. 1913. Height 12, diameter 11 inches. Price: $18,000
This piece of Aurene iridescent glass made by Steuben, was marketed in direct competition with the Favrile glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Production of Gold Aurene was begun in 1904. Blue Aurene was introduced a year later, followed by various colors of decorated Aurenes. At the time, blue was less popular, less was made, and today it is generally more sought after. The piece shown here is shape no. 2683-a classic Chinese shape that Carder introduced in many glass types and finishes-making it one of Steuben’s early signature shapes. Typically, Aurene glass was signed with diamond point engraving, or it could instead have had a paper label. This one is in excellent condition, which is a paramount concern for a collector. Flaws such as chips (serious) and cracks (fatal) should be avoided, unless the piece is an extremely rare type of glass-such as Moresque, which was unstable-prone to breaking so most surviving examples are in the Corning Museum of Glass. Scratches are not appreciated either but will depend upon the piece, and a collector will have to weigh them against rarity and desirability.

Acid-Cut Back Vase, “Dragon” pattern, c. 1925. Height 14, diameter 8 inches. Price: $43,000

This is an example of a double-acid etched vase in which two layers of glass are cased together and acid-etched twice, to reveal both the dark outer layer of the dragon and the inner scroll pattern on the blue. It is both a labor-intensive piece, and a complex design. This form was typically sold directly to lamp manufactures like Crest Lighting in Chicago and is generally found drilled as a lamp, as in this case.

Gold Ruby Over Green Cluthra Vase, “Acanthus” pattern (variation), c. 1928. Height 12, diameter 8 inches. Price: $12,750
This art deco patterned vase is an uncommon example of Cluthra glass that has been acid-cut. Records of Steuben’s production numbers have been lost, however to give a sense of overall rarity-in some instances a only a single run of twelve pieces could have been made. This is not the case here and there are significant condition issues-the top is roughly and unevenly ground, and on the base where there is a chip, it was drilled as a lamp, and this drilled aperture is wider than typical -but someone might consider it a fine shelf vase.

Yellow Jade Vase, “Acanthus” pattern, c. 1925. Height 12, diameter 9 inches. Price: $34,000
This yellow jade piece-my favorite in the exhibition-is the classic Acanthus acid-cut pattern with portrait medallions on the shoulder. The unusual color was achieved using salts of uranium during production and the color is appealing. Dating to the mid 1920s, Steuben made fewer pieces of yellow jade than other jade colors. This piece is also noteworthy for its scale-it is large, very nicely detailed, and it’s also in great condition. If signed, this type of piece would bear an acid-etched Steuben fleur-de-lis symbol or a paper label. Regardless, it is identifiably Steuben so a possible lack of mark does not affect its value.

All works designed by Frederick Carder and made by Steuben Glass Works, Corning, New York. Images courtesy of Steuben.