Posted 5 years ago
Hello friends! It's been a little while, but I have some hopefully useful insight into the discussion about how to tell an original from a copy, and in this case I will use an example from a discussion we were having on Facebook's Art Glass Collector's group.
We will discuss Steuben glass, and in particular the Red Rouge Flambe glass candlesticks. The example on the left is the item in question, and the one on the right an authentic Steuben piece. My arguments are based on my experience as an art glass collector, and as an engineer, and in particular on manufacturing techniques used for molding and producing glass objects. First a little bit about Steuben glass.
As we all know, Steuben has always been a 1st rate and top quality glass house, and they have always used the finest and most detailed methods of glass production, and have never sold anything but the very best. This means that they don't cut corners, or use methods that look to reduce costs, if that means sacrificing quality. This means they always finish their pontils, instead of just grinding the sharp edge which saves one very expensive step; finish polishing. Even if polishing runs the risk of higher defect rates they just add these into the cost of the item, which is why they cost and command higher prices. That's what the customer has come to expect.
So, looking at photo 1, notice the example on the left (subject piece) has a thicker neck, a larger radius at the top, and a thicker top flange disk. All of these qualities are consistent from a manufacturing standpoint to produce the item with much lower defect rates, making it cheaper to produce in mass quantities. The second photo shows a ground but unpolished edge on the pontil, and a taper and larger radius at the corner/edge. The taper makes it easier to remove from the mold, as does the thicker neck and top flange, and the larger radius between the neck and top flange; meaning that less pieces break when removing them from the mold. Again, these features are all consistent with lower cost, less defects, and an overall lower manufacturing cost.
Steuben did not worry as much about this, and conversely looked to maximize their quality while keeping defect/reject rates manageable. Their products cost more mostly because they are of higher quality and cost more to make, and this did result in more breakage and rejects. It was all figured into the retail price. So they ALWAYS polished the pontil, even though it cost more and ran the risk of more rejects. They also made their necks and flanges thinner, their radii tighter, and all their features finer, even though it meant they would break more pieces removing them from the molds.
This is what made them such high quality, fine pieces of Art Glass. and this is the place where you can tell a copy all the time. If they went to the trouble and expense of making them just as fine then they would have had to cost the same. Quality is never cheap, and no shortcuts can be made if you want to be the best!
Thanks everyone, I welcome your comments/feedback. Also I want to thank Bill Bennett for the photos and Facebook posting that started this discussion. Peace!