Baltimore Sun

Glass household adornments likely from former Bohemia

- By Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson

Q: My parents purchased these hurricane lamps possibly around 1950.

In a note they said they had been made in occupied Germany. Might they have any value in today’s marketplac­e?

Thank you.

— B.S.

A: We have several problems with this descriptio­n. The first is the idea that the pieces are “hurricane lamps.” They are not. A hurricane lamp is an oil or paraffin lamp (or candlestic­k) with a strong glass cover to protect the flame from being extinguish­ed by the wind. There is sometimes a perforated metal lid, also designed to protect the flame.

The pair of objects in today’s question are mantel lusters, which are candlehold­ers shaped like vases with pedestal bases — some say the shape resembles a tulip — with the bottom of the upper chalice-like portion being adorned with hanging prisms. These are household adornments that were used as decoration­s and lighting on mantels, sideboards and dining tables.

The word “luster” is sometimes defined as a glow of reflected light, and this does describe what the prisms do on objects such as the ones owned by B.S. Most mantel lusters have one row of prisms, but multiple layers can be found on rare occasions. Two rows of prisms are found from time to time, but examples with as many as five rows of prisms have been reported.

The phrase “manufactur­ed in occupied Germany” has us a little puzzled. Most American collectors are familiar

with items made in “occupied Japan,” and there are pieces marked “Occupied Germany,” “Made in U.S. Zone Occupied Germany” or “Made in British Zone Occupied Germany” and so forth. But we do not believe the pieces were made there or in that time frame (1945-1952).

It is our opinion that at least the glass portion of the pair was made in the former Duchy/Kingdom of Bohemia, which after 1918 became part of Czechoslov­akia. Everything about the glass vessels shouts Bohemia, from the thin layer of dark red cut through to reveal clear glass underneath, to the birds, foliage and “C” scroll decoration.

Bohemian mantel lusters come in an almost mind-boggling variety of colors and designs. They can be found in green (emerald to apple), red (ruby to cranberry with some pink found every now and then) amber and blue (from turquoise to cobalt and a few shades in between).

But the real variety is in the decoration. Some are intricatel­y painted with portraits and landscapes, while some are cut through multiple layers of colored glass. The pair belonging to B.S. is in one of the more common colors and least desirable decoration­s.

Mantel lusters should always be collected in pairs, and singles are often shunned. This pair, which we believe is circa 1930, might sell at auction in the $200 to $250 range and should be valued for insurance at about twice that.

Helaine Fendelman and

Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Do you have an item you’d like to know more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email them at If you’d like your question to be considered for their column, include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus, with your inquiry.

 ?? READER SUBMITTED ?? These candlehold­ers were used as decoration­s and lighting on mantels, sideboards and tables.
READER SUBMITTED These candlehold­ers were used as decoration­s and lighting on mantels, sideboards and tables.

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