Mark Chervenka: Libbey Silhouette - A Menagerie of Stemware
inJune 21, 2012 - 1:22pm
In 1933, Libbey introduced a line of stemware it called Silhouette which featured stems in the shapes of various animals.
Each of the 11 Silhouette shapes has a different stem. All clarets, for example, have a bear stem. Both champagnes, a hollow stem and regular champagne (Fig. 1), have squirrel stems. Cocktails have a kangaroo stem; sherry, a monkey; sherbet, a rabbit; wine goblet, a cat; cordial, a greyhound. A 10 inch bowl has an elephant stem or base; the six inch compote has a giraffe stem; candleholders have a camel stem. Stems were available in opaque black or opalescent clear glass which Libbey called Moonstone (Fig. 2).
All the pieces are hand crafted of at least three separate pieces: the stem, the bowl and the foot. The hollow stem squirrel champagne and the camel candleholder have an additional hollow bubble connector between the top of the stem and the bottom of the bowl.
Each piece of the Silhouette line is marked with a lightly acid etched Libbey trademark (Fig. 3) on the bottom of the base. The authentic mark is about one-quarter inch in diameter. Original marks can be hard to find but should be there. Most Silhouette pieces were treated like art glass—something to be placed in a lighted cabinet and admired—rather than to actually use in a table setting while dining.
All the Silhouette pieces are relatively scarce due to the short two-year production window. Black stems are slightly harder to find than the opalescent stems. The elephant bowl and camel candleholder is scarce in either color. Be sure to examine any Silhouette stemware very carefully for damage. Original rims have a very slight roll to their top rims which provided strength. Chipped rims which have been ground will not have the original rolled rim. Also carefully inspect the bowl/stem joint and base/stem joint for glue. Due to their beauty (and original cost) very few of these pieces were thrown away when damaged. The original owners almost always tried to glue broken bases and bowls back onto the stems.
The 1933 series was designed by A. Douglas Nash, a previous employee of Louis Comfort Tiffany at Tiffany Furnaces in Corona, Long Island. Nash was recruited because Libbey management decided the company should re-introduce a fine line of luxury art glass.
Silhouette was part of the so-called Libbey Nash series produced for only about two years before succumbing to the collapse of luxury glass brought on by the Great Depression. And luxury priced it certainly was. Libbey Nash stemware in 1933 ranged from $15 to $2,500 per dozen. Adjusted for inflation, the stemware would cost $265 to $44,150 per dozen respectively in 2012 dollars.
Fig. 1 squirrel.jpg The Libbey Nash series Silhouette regular champagne with Moonstone opalescent squirrel stem. Another authentic version of the Silhouette squirrel champagne has a hollow connector between the stem and the bowl.
Fig. 2 squirr_cu.jpg Silhouette stems were made in opalescent Moonstone, shown here in close-up on the squirrel champagne, and in opaque black. The black stems are slightly harder to find than the Moonstone.
Fig. 3 libbeymark.jpg All genuine Libbey Silhouette stemware is marked with this round acid-stamped Libbey trademark. It appears as gray frosted lettering on the bottom of each piece.
By Mark Chervenka