Art glass keeps value despite poor market

What's It Worth?August 11, 2013 

Of all the things people collect, the area where prices have fallen the fastest and collector interest has faded the most in recent years is glass.

Even fine pieces of patterned pressed glass and beautiful cut crystal from the American Brilliant Period of 1876 to 1916 have dropped dramatically in value.

And, there is no sign that the market for those items will recover any time soon.

That said, there are a few exceptions to the “glass isn’t worth much or very interesting to collectors these days” rule of thumb.

In today’s What’s It Worth? we answer a reader’s question about her small piece of art glass, an item that not only has retained value and collector desirability but actually has increased in price during the past few years.

Q. I have a little glass item that I really don’t know too much history about. This belonged to my great aunt and is a glass jewelry box. On the bottom it has some markings, but the only one I can read is Kelva. Could it possibly be Chinese? Can you tell me anything about it? — Anna Mae in Kennewick

A. I can see where the jade green color of the base of your box could look Chinese. However, this is an American piece made more than 100 years ago. Here’s the story of Kelva glass.

In 1880, a man named Charles F. Monroe started a business in Meriden, Conn., selling imported glass items. His little shop soon expanded to become an art glass manufacturer.

By 1886, the business had evolved into the C.F. Monroe Company. They became renowned for elegant and finely decorated Victorian opal glass known as “Wave Crest.”

Monroe’s two other speciality lines were called “Nakara” and “Kelva.” All the glass featured similar floral designs and, many times, like this little dresser jar, additional enamel details.

All three types of glass reflected the Art Nouveau design aesthetic. Monroe was very successful, until Art Nouveau fell from favor and the company went out of business in 1916.

Since it only was produced for a relatively short time — about 1904-16 — values for good examples of Kelva have held up well in recent years.

Depending on where it were to be offered for sale, this 3-inch-diameter box would be priced between $125 and $250. Most pieces are completely unmarked.

- Terry Maurer, Tri-Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by email to tchwhatsitworth@gmail.com

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