Bohemian Glass Basics
Bohemian glass, also referred to as Bohemia glass, is a broad term applied to the fine crystal made primarily in the Czech Republic and surrounding areas. The tradition of fine cut and decorated glass in the region goes back to the Renaissance and archeological excavations have even found evidence of glass making as far back as 1250.
The type of Bohemian glass most people are familiar with are the colorful hock glasses that feature colored glass cut to clear in ornate patterns. These remain popular to this day and makers such as Ajka produce some of the finest examples. Other items to be found are vases, decanter sets, barware of various sorts, and elegant bowls and plates.
Not surprisingly, there are nuances to know before making a purchase of a vintage piece. As with any glass, condition is paramount since even a small chip will clobber a piece's value. Also, certain colors such as cobalt and ruby are more desirable than others such as amber. Makers are important as well... expect to pay a premium for pieces by makers such as Ajka and Val Saint Lambert versus lesser known makers. Even within a given maker, certain patterns and forms will command a higher price. A good example is the set of champagne flutes pictured above, which are in Ajka's most desirable pattern called Marsala. And within that pattern, the champagne flutes are the forms that command the highest price among the stemware. So, if you are looking to buy for resale, a basic working knowledge of these nuances can pay big dividends. One other tip: avoid decanters missing their stoppers and those with stoppers that are mis-matched.
Lastly, beware of reproductions. On occasion you will find new pressed glass made to look like true Bohemian crystal. The tipoffs there will be mold seams, no "ring" to the glass when flicked on the rim by a fingernail, and generally lesser glass quality. True Bohemian glass is lead crystal, both hand made and hand cut.
Like most everything else, the prices for Bohemian glass have come down considerably in the past few decades. The good news is that this means truly wonderful pieces of crystal can be had for surprisingly modest sums. Put the above tips into practice, do a little homework, and then start prowling your area resale and thrift stores... you may be amazed at the deals you can bring home.
Bryan H. Roberts is a professional appraiser in Sarasota, FL. He is a member of the Florida State Guardianship Association and currently serves on the board of the local FSGA chapter. He is a past president of the Sarasota County Aging Network, a non-profit that provides grants to other non-profits benefiting seniors in need and is also a board member of PEL, an area non-profit whose resale store profits support programs and scholarships for at-risk and disadvantaged youth. He is certified in the latest Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice (USPAP) Equivalent