ART GLASS generally refers to Decorative & Utilitarian items made of Glass that exhibit strong aesthetic qualities, either in their form (shape) or color. The most prized glass objets d'art destined for decorative purposes or display are made individually by specialized artisans or Art Glass Studios. However, many are molded or mass-produced and those are usually sold at lower prices in Dept. Stores and other outlets, yet it is essential to mention that some factories still employ a large number of designers & artisans. Examples of artistically important Art Glass that has been produced at a semi-automated organized setting yet are practically hand-crafted, include Tiffany, Loetz, Daum Nancy, Quezal and many others.
At times, Art Glass is combined with decorative elements or assembly parts made of other material, for example silver overlay on vases or brass mountings as in the case of Lamps. Most companies tend to specialize in one type of material and commission the other parts to various businesses. For this reason, you may notice that certain parts will have different makers' marks. In general, the most artful and well-designed part will be the dominant or most significant base element and usually determines the overall brand. Items made as highly collaborative works, where a few artisans made significant contributions to their creation, are somewhat rarer and of course enjoy higher prices at auction or galleries, for example Wierner Werkstatte and many others.
Although glass making has been in existence since ancient historical times, most artifacts found at excavation sites are of a functional nature, but many have beautiful colors or shapes destined for use by women of antiquity in Greco-Roman times. Art Glass as we know it today, where the appreciation of its beauty is by far its most central element, begun as early as 16thC during the Renaissance and reached its peak around mid-to-late 19thC when techniques for larger sturdy objects were invented and employed in several countries, initially in Europe and soon thereafter in the USA.
The Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements impressed their mark and influence on many glass artisans & studios ca 1890s - 1930s, and in some respects many collectors seem to appreciate examples from those periods as the most graceful and attractive. Stylish Modernist Art Glass interpretations around mid-20thC, followed by the exuberant Abstract or Post-Modernist decades, paved the way to the extravagant and flamboyant designs of today, which tend to also be massive and almost sculptural, for example Dale Chihuly.