What Is Favrile Glass?

pretty iridescent favrile glass pot

Favrile glass is a brilliant invention characterized by luxurious, opalescent hues distinctive from earlier, hand-painted forms of iridescent glass. The innovation was an instant success among art enthusiasts worldwide, and it remains a highly sought-after antique glass today.

Tiffany Favrile Glass History

Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of the Tiffany & Co. luxury jewelry brand, developed and patented Favrile glass in 1894. He took his inspiration from a trip to Europe in 1875, where he admired Roman and Syrian medieval and iridescent glass. He sought to create a modern, high-quality stained glass version that could not peel off or fade over time.

When Tiffany returned home to New York after his travels, he started experimenting with different types of glass to create a colorful stained glass with varied colors and textures. He finally came upon the perfect formula using cheap colored glass bottles cured using metal oxides to create glass that changed color under distinct lighting conditions.

Happy with his invention, he trademarked the glass Favrile, derived from the French word “fibrils,” which loosely translates to "handmade.” After securing the patent, he started manufacturing Favrile glass objects at his Corona, Queens, factory and studio, Tiffany Glass Furnaces.

Evolution of Designs and Patterns Over the Years

Louis Comfort Tiffany's Favrile glass creations featured various nature-inspired designs and patterns:

  • Aquatic life such as fish and seaweed
  • Insects like butterflies, dragonflies and spiders
  • Flora, such as flowers, leaves, trees, vines and grass

Milestones in the History of Favrile Glass

Between 1878 and 1933, when Favrile glass production was still active, Tiffany unveiled numerous notable creations using Favrile glass:

  • A stained-glass window used in his penthouse at the Bella Apartments in New York City won the grand prize at the 1900 Paris Exposition.
  • The Dream Garden Favrile glass mosaic mural installed by Tiffany Studios in 1916 for the Curtis Publishing Building company headquarters in Philadelphia was the largest and most significant Favrile glass creation, now owned by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts.
  • After winning his election, President Chester A. Arthur commissioned Tiffany to redecorate the White House reception rooms before he moved into the home in 1882. Tiffany installed an elegant, elaborate floor-to-ceiling Favrile glass screen with flag and eagle motifs in the entrance hall.
  • Favrile glass lined the famous interior clock on Detroit's landmark skyscraper, The Guardian Building.

At the Tiffany Glass Furnaces factory run by skilled glassmaker and English immigrant Arthur J. Nash, artisans used Favrile glass to create various other elegant art and interior decor pieces, including:

What Made Tiffany's Favrile Glass Special?

What Made Tiffany's Favrile Glass Special?

Tiffany's Favrile glass is an unforgettable sight to behold, thanks to its stunning visual effects that are superior to any iridescent glass ever created. Favrile glass boasts a spectacular interplay of color and light due to its rich, deep and dynamic tones.

Instead of coloring the glass using enamels and paints, Tiffany melted different inexpensive colored bottles at 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit and mixed them while molten to produce random colors, textures and densities. He used metallic oxides to increase color absorption and ingrain iridescent surface effects into the glass. The changing hues on this glass were also a result of impurities and uneven thickness of the cheap glass bottles.

Favrile features various unique colors, including "Gold Lustre," "Mazarin Blue," "Samian Red," "Aquamarine" and “Tel-el-amarna," or turquoise. Authentic Tiffany Favrile glass pieces also include Tiffany's signatures, such as “L.C.T. Favrile” and “L.C. Tiffany,” which you can use to verify if a piece is original.

Tiffany's Favrile glass pieces were authentic and highly valued because they mimicked the free-flowing design of natural objects and reflected light like no other stained glass version. The skilled artisans at Tiffany Studios also took their time to handcraft unique Favrile glass shapes that mimicked natural motifs, such as water, flowers and insects.

Innovative Glassmaking Techniques

The Tiffany Studios team used various glass molding techniques to create decor items and architectural installations from Favrile glass. The primary methods in the Favrile glass process included the following.

  • Mold casting: A glassmaker would place molten glass at the end of a pipe and blow it into a wooden mold. Then, they would press it to the sides of the mold until it took on intricate designs and patterns.
  • Surface manipulation: An artisan would pour molten glass on a surface and use hand tools to shift and twist it, creating the desired patterns. Sometimes, they would pour the glass onto existing pieces of colored glass to combine different colors and hues.
  • Copper foil technique: The most popular Favrile glassmaking technique involved wrapping the ends of glass pieces with thin copper foil strips to intricately bond the glass together without noticeable joints or heavy lines. Glassmakers also used beeswax and muriatic acid to bond the pieces, ensuring the final product was sturdy and resilient.

Artists sketched most of these Favrile glass designs on paper and then transferred them onto plaster before assembling them into three-dimensional objects.

Sell Your Favrile Glass at Auction With Fontaine's

Do you own an antique Favrile glass piece you'd like to sell to another collector? Consign with Fontaine's Auction Gallery in Pittsfield, Mass. We are a full-service auction gallery that specializes in buying and selling antique items, including authentic Tiffany Favrile glass items.

When you consign with us for free, we'll help you authenticate and date your Favrile glass item before preparing the appraisal paperwork. Our specialists will also guide and advise you throughout the process to ensure you get maximum value for your items. Consigning with us will help you save time and money while maximizing your antique item's sales potential.

Get an auction estimate of your Favrile glass item by completing our consignment form or visiting our gallery.

flowy, floral favrile glass pot