By Nicholas M. Dawes
The name 'Lalique' is universally recognized and most authentic works are distinct in style and standard but wide fluctuations in market value demand close attention to detail for accurate appraisal. Fortunately, and somewhat uniquely, René Lalique jewelry and glass is well documented in two catalogues raisonnés, and all serious appraisals should be referenced to them. Lalique's policy of naming and numbering all glass designs has also made reference extremely simple in modern searching, though finding a common design may reveal a bewildering range of color versions and values. The following explanations attempt to clarify a Lalique appraisal. It is important to begin by understanding the three main periods of Lalique production:
- Jewelry and objets vertu by René Lalique; circa 1885-1910.
- Glass by René Lalique; circa 1910-1945.
- Modern Lalique; circa 1947-Present.
René Lalique (1860-1945) began his career as a jeweler in Paris in 1885 working in an innovative style using materials unfamiliar to most traditional jewelers. By 1900 his style had evolved into an extraordinarily robust and daring form of Art Nouveau achieving the highest technical and artistic standards. Original works from this period are rare and most are unique, though some simpler designs were made in series. Typical materials include gold, colorful enamels and Baroque pearls, and many include glass or plique-a-jour elements. Most pieces are stamped LALIQUE in tiny capital letters, often on the outer rim or back, and most are identified in the catalogue raisonné (Barten) or many subsequent exhibition catalogues. Unsigned pieces are unlikely to be by Lalique. At this time Lalique produced all types of personal jewelry, including hatpins and pectoral ornaments for evening wear together with some accessories such as evening bags. This period also saw Lalique producing unique objects of larger scale including chalices, desk items and book bindings using a variety of materials such as horn, ivory, glass, leather, wood and metals. Most are discreetly signed, and well documented. Although small pieces are aided by wearability and practical considerations, jewelry value is determined mainly by the complexity and sophistication of the item. Motifs such as female forms, animals or fish can greatly increase value over floral designs.
Condition is less of a factor in valuing jewelry. Good restoration and later alterations may not result in significant loss to value. The largest consideration in this area is fakery. Even though appearing convincing, modern fakes tend to be relatively simple in execution and lack the quality of manufacture of authentic work. Lalique produced some glass jewelry in the second period, but this genre is valued extremely lower than early work.
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