The art of successful investment is good diversification. One of the most appealing ways to achieve this is to acquire stylish antiques which in time should show a healthy return. Unlike share certificates and online nominee holdings, they form a tangible asset which can be enjoyed over the years.
Next Friday, the Harrogate Antique Fair opens in association with the British Antique Dealers’ Association. This is the premier annual opportunity in northern England to meet expert dealers – 48 plan to exhibit – and to discuss price and style movements.
Period glass carries obvious visual appeal. Like all good antiques, if well chosen it should show good appreciation. Unlike, say, antique silver, the stock is reducing as it is fragile and frequently used by collectors.
“The strongest sellers are the finest and rarest glasses,” tips Tom Osborne of dealers Delomosne & Son. Such glassware is likely to be in far more limited supply and future demand enhances the price.
Glass collecting developed in the 1918-39 era, inspired by academic research, and often stayed with the same families until the 1980s. Outside the UK, period wine glasses are sought after in Australia and South Africa whilst the Boston ‘Amelung’ makers of pre-1800 and 20th century studio glass are notably popular in the US.
David Hickmet, of Hickmet Fine Art, says art deco glass from makers like Lalique has jumped 150 per cent in 10 years. He is bringing to Harrogate a signed Lalique frosted Palissy vase of 16cm height showing a raised pattern of snails (£2,350) and a signed Galle flowing vase in banjo form, c1890, with a light pink background and etched green flowering cameo design (£1,195, which has doubled in price in a decade).
Daum is another factory tipped by Hickmet. A winter scene pillow vase, c1900, etched and enamelled and signed with the cross of Lorraine, is one of four seasonal designs that are much in demand (£3,350, up from £1,700 in a decade).
“Cameo glass is sought after for its rarity and intricacy,” says Janet Kehoe, of Solo Antiques, who will exhibit a rare signed 10cm rectangular example c1900 by Daum, showing wild orchids and spider webs (£4,000, up from £2,500 in 10 years). She warns that there are Chinese, Czech and Romanian copies although some eastern European examples are engraved ‘Gallé TIP’ which means Gallé type.
Glass car mascots appeal to a wide clientele. Hickmet and Kehoe will be bringing examples including a frosted glass naked beauty in animated stretched pose of 14cm height c1930 (Hickmet £8,950).
The Georgian era is regarded by many specialists as the high point in English glassmaking. A good review illustrating one man’s collection compiled over 20 years makes an excellent introduction: The Golden Age of English Glass 1650-1775 by Dwight P. Lanmon (Antique Collectors’ Club £50).
Mark West, a noted dealer in this field, will be bringing a pair of decanters to Harrogate which commemorate the Hebble & Calder Navigation. Dating from c1780, the decanters are 28cm in height. “No other examples of these decanters are known,” says West, who has priced the pair at £3,000. They are engraved with typical late 18th century calligraphy.
Glassware engraved with specific dates is unusual. Bonhams sold a mixed twist wine glass dated 1754 which was probably intended as a toasting glass to support Sir John Pole in the Taunton by-election. Simon Cottle of Bonhams says the date is “very significant” as collectors can now date opaque-twist glasses from then. It realised £1,300 in May.
Avoid single glass mid-Georgian candlesticks unless they have an appealing stem, such as opaque twist or baluster. Whilst a single c1770 baluster costs around £800, a pair is likely to be £2,000 (up from £1,500 in 10 years).
Irish antique glass took off in 1780 when, unlike Britain, the tax was removed. It is currently out of favour which make Cork decanters from 1790-1805 and also boat-shaped bowls look good value.
‘Jacobite’ glasses – invented by those who wished to see the Stuart monarchy restored – continue to be sought after. Supporters of the Stuart cause showed their furtive allegiance by such symbols as a rose, often with two buds. Since many engravings were copied in the late Victorian age, only buy from a specialist. A small, multi-spiral airtwist stem with heraldic rose, two buds, an oak life and the term Fiat, c1750, has jumped from £800-£900 to over £1,500 in a decade, says Osborne.
Bonhams in Edinburgh has sold several Jacobite glasses. A pair of firing glasses with thick bases for toasts with a six petalled open rose and the term ‘Redeat’ (meaning ‘May he return’) was expected to make £3,000-£4,000 but realised £5,860 last month. A light baluster wine glass c1750 with a rose to represent Bonnie Prince Charlie and a family crest sold for £4,160 (estimated at £1,500-£2,000).
Avoid the reproductions made by the Edinburgh & Leith Glassworks in the 1920.
Colour twists with either a good stem or fine engraving, c1770, are still popular. Cottle says prices have jumped 15-20 per cent in three years. Bonhams sold a mixed yellow twist for £11,250 last November.
The Beilby family of engravers from Newcastle-upon-Tyne but originally from Hull were incredibly skilful, notably for their armorial glassware but also for hunting and shooting scenes, exotic birds, classical ruins and Chinese pavilions.
A Beilby Thompson goblet was discovered on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. Bonhams sold it for £15,600 in 2005 and the same one under three years ago for £38,400.
A Beilby enamelled and gilt goblet depicting Prince William V has twice come under Sotheby’s hammer: unsold at £9,000 in 1975 but then sold for £7,700 in 1982. It realised £109,250 last year at Bonhams. Bought privately, it is on loan to Temple Newsam in Leeds.
When selling glass, capital gains tax may be chargeable, computed as the difference between the net sale proceeds and total purchase price. Tom Roseff, senior tax manager at Harrogate-based Saffery Champness chartered accountants, says no gain would be charged on disposals costing less than £6,000 unless the proceeds before the sale costs exceed this sum.
n The Harrogate Antique Fair is at the Harrogate International Centre and opens September 28 (2-8pm), 29-30 (11am-6pm), October 1 (11am-6pm), October 2 (11am-5pm). Admission £7.50 including catalogue.