Antiques Column with Michael Dowse: From stylish copies to classic designs

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The Loetz company was established in 1840 by Johann Loetz in the Czech Republic and after his heirs sold it on.

It eventually came under the leadership of Max Rittervon Spaun in 1879 who guided it to international fame and recognition.

During the 1880s and 1890s, Loetz iridescent glass designs typified the Art Nouveau style.

Often referred as ‘The Austrian Tiffany’, Loetz was actually just producing Tiffany-style glass made and marketed at much lower prices after realising there was a real market for it.

Indeed some of their work was barely distinguishable from the real Tiffany available at the time.

Tiffany patented their iridescent favrile glass designs in 1894 and Loetz was not far behind obtaining patents for their iridescent glass with a ‘metallic shimmer’ in 1895 and 1896.

Loetz, however, didn’t want to be merely remembered or acknowledged for making excellent copies of others’ work and set about creating its own designs of which their most famous and highly-acclaimed series, Phanomen, was to be born.

Phanomen pieces are characterised by their trailed combed threads or bands, often referred to as rippled or featherlike and their metallic iridescence.

This clever design was patented in 1898.

Hot glass threads were wrapped around the hot molten base and then pulled onto the object’s surface to achieve this wave effect while the glass was still malleable, .

Other key characteristics of Loetz design include blue colour iridescence as well as what is often described as a gleaming oil-on-water effect and many of their motifs follow stylised Art Nouveau examples such as plants, feathers and nature in general.

The company become insolvent in 1911, but was re-established in 1913 as Loetz – Witze until it closed in 1948.