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Is It Lalique?

by Geoff Bateman
Our British Correspondent

I think you'll like a little tale I have to tell you because it concerns how I sometimes manage to make a dull day at an antique fair a whole lot brighter. And you, perhaps, might see in my story a mirror that may even reveal you to yourself, either as a collector or a dealer of glass.

But before I tell my story, a bit of background is necessary. Everyone, of course, is familiar with the famous French glass maker Lalique whose products are highly prized and correspondingly expensive. The English firm James A. Joblin & Co. may be less familiar, however. This company was formed in 1921, but its roots go back to 1885 when Joblin acquired the bankrupt firms of Henry Greener and James Angus whose partnership began in 1858. My story concerns these French and English glass houses.

Now, Joblin was an enterprising chap and in 1931 he produced a type of glass similar to glass made in France by Lalique. It was a blue opalescent glass with what they called an inner golden fire, and they shamelessly called the look-alike Lalique "OPALIQUE." Collectors of American glass may compare it somewhat to Fenton's blue opalescent art glass.

Well, here's my story.

Some time ago, I purchased a Joblin's Opalique Bowl with birds embossed around it in a smoky blue color with the birds' breasts opaque bluey white. It cost me 25 pounds after some negotiation with a dealer who told me he had had a bad day and needed money to buy petrol so he could get home to his wife and several children, or so he said. He wanted 50 pounds for it, but accepted my take-it-or-leave-it offer. Dealers should know better than to tell other dealers that they've had a bad day.

Normally, I buy only 19th-century pressed glass, but although the Joblin's bowl was a 1930s piece, I knew it was worth more than 50 pounds but not how much more. Close examination at home revealed that on the bottom of the bowl where there should have been a registration number there were only the letters REG. What should have appeared was "REG. No. APPLIED FOR," but it had been pressed improperly so all the lettering was missing except for "REG."

I took the bowl to the Newark Antiques Fair and placed it in a prominent position on the stall without a price label.

A young attractive lady approached the stall, picked up the bowl, examined it, then clutching it to her bosom looked around frantically for someone. She ignored me entirely. "She likes it," I said to myself, "will try for 60 pounds." She put the bowl down and walked across to join a young man who was inspecting another stall. He then approached my stall and, without so much as a glance at me, picked up a celery vase. I remembered him from the Glass Fair, when he told me he had read a book on Georgian Glass and all he was interested in was 18th-century blown glass. Pressed-glass for him was the bottom end of the market. He came from Bath, pronounced Baarth by those who live there. He was now examining a sugar bowl, then another celery vase.

It's the bowl she's interested in," I muttered to myself," so you don't have to go through that routine with me."

He now had turned his attention to the bowl, out came the little lamp.

"Ah, they think it's Lalique," I thought. "Will try for 75 pounds."

He set the bowl down and walked to the lady. Long conversation. Now she is coming back. "They no doubt think they will get a better deal if she flutters her eyelashes at me. Might try for 80."

Just as she approaches the stall again, along comes Richard, a glass dealer from Newcastle. She now looks directly at me, and I thought "Finally, she is ready to talk."

"Is this bowl by Rene Lalique?" she asked.

"Not by Rene. It's by his brother." I said.

"I've never heard he had a brother?" said she. Richard the while was ear-wigging the conversation.

"Oh, yes," I rejoined. "Very little known but Rene had a brother and if you look at the bottom of the bowl you will see that it is signed REG, short for Reginald. It is very rare and it is 100 pounds best." She looked into the bowl.

Richard started to laugh and said, "He's pulling your leg, madam. It's not Lalique. It's by Joblins of Sunderland."

Bang! Down went the bowl and off she stormed.

"Richard, you spoilt my little game. Why did you do that?"

"Because I want it. You said 100 pounds? Will you take 80?"

"Eighty-five pounds cash and it's yours, my good friend," I said, instantly forgiving him.

"Wrap it" he said, peeling notes off a thick wad, and away he went.

"Good old Reggie, 35 pounds more than expected. Now we can afford to eat," I thought.

The sun came out - or was that the beam of my smile?