Founded 1878


The famous Daum glass factory dates back to 1878 when Jean Daum, a lawyer with no glassmaking experience, took the Sainte-Catherine glassworks in Nancy as payment for an outstanding debt. His two sons soon became partners in the business, August in 1879 and Antonin in 1887. Auguste’s management and Antonin’s creative talent gave the business a new economic and artistic dimension, production broadened from simple tableware and drinking glasses to acclaimed and highly coveted decorative art glass pieces. There have been four major eras in the art glass produced by Daum, namely Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Crystal, and Nouveau Pate-de-verre. Each change in style coincided with a new generation of the Daum family taking over, and keeping the company abreast of current taste and fashions.

The factory originally specialized in watch glasses, window glass, and glassware for taverns. In the last decades of the 19th century production shifted to pieces with a variety of colors, techniques, subject matter, and theme. No two pieces were alike. Acid-etching, gilding, and carving was used to ornament drinking glasses, sometimes employing all three techniques in the same piece. The Daums also started producing light green, pink, and brown glass at this time. Images on the glasses were sometimes accompanied by text, known as “verrerie parlante” or “talking glass” with historic or Lorrain themes, such as thistles or the fleur de lis.

The 1889 World Exposition and the objects exhibited by Art Nouveau master Emile Gallé, also working in Nancy at the time, greatly inspired the Daum brothers. The brothers founded Daum Frères later that year and assembled a creative and esteemed team of designers, artists and artisans to produce colored glass in a naturalistic style similar to Gallé’s. While Auguste managed the administrative and financial needs, Antonin, a trained engineer, oversaw production and a team of skilled artists; Jacques Gruber (from 1894 to 1897), Henry Berge (from 1900), and Amalric Walter. The team created pieces with Japanese inspiration, using asymmetric, organic forms with subtle colors. The factory also incorporated newly developed techniques into their production of chandeliers, lamps, vases, and other art objects in innovative and creative ways.

Cameo, or overlay glass, was one of these new techniques and involved casing glass with one or two layers of a different color and engraving the design on the surface. Another, pâte de verre, used later, was produced by mixing glass crystals with metallic oxides and an adhesive, and fusing them by firing in a mould. The resulting glass was waxy in appearance, with exciting color effects, and could either be polished to a subtle translucency, or left matt and opaque. Alméric Walter, employed by the Daum’s, was one of the most successful exponents of the technique. Charles Schneider also designed for Daum and developed intercalaires, or inclusions of colored flecks and streaks between two layers of glass, the firm patented the technique in 1899. Soon a sophisticated and singular repertoire of shapes and finishing techniques emerged: 'martelage' (a hammered finish effect), `jaspe' (mottled glass), `intercalaire' (decoration between layers) as well as pate de verre (fused glass made from crushed glass granules). The firm developed a distinctive color palette, with emphasis primarily on the autumnal range: ochres, oranges, sepias, and burgundies.

By 1893 the Daums' lamps, directly inspired by Emile Gallé, were produced in acid-etched cameo. These lampes-fleurs, displayed at the 1900 International Exposition, gained critical acclaim and established the firm as innovators in the art glass market. The lamps display two dominant themes in the Daum oeuvre: insects and night-creatures, here to for considered distasteful for use in the decorative arts, and flowers including marguerites, crocuses, gentians, columbines, hyacinths, and umbels.

In 1901 Gallé founded the École de Nancy, the brothers soon became members and the glasswork produced by the firm helped establish Art Nouveau as a new era in decorative arts. Antonin became the Vice President and treasurer. When Galle died in 1904, the firm became the leaders of Art Nouveau style. Auguste Daum passed in 1909. The firm, now under Antonin’s control, continued making Art Nouveau designs, closing during the occupation of WWI. After the war Art Nouveau began to fade and the new style of Art Deco took hold.

During the Art Deco period the factory produced characteristically distinguished glass. Thick-walled vessels in vivid colors with molded stylized designs were a specialty. Lighting was in its infancy as an art form and Daum collaborated with designers of metalwork such as Edgar Brandt and Louis Majorelle to produce creations of appropriate verve and originality. Lamps made entirely of molded glass with round or cylindrical bases and mushroom-shaped shades were typical Daum products during the 1920s.

Pierre D'Avesn was employed by Daum to design and supervise production of the Croismare Glassworks near Luneville which Daum took over in 1927 and renamed Verreries D'Art Lorrain. The purpose of buying this factory was to compete with Lalique and others for the lucrative market of Department Stores and large-scale retailers, particularly in the USA.

Art glass produced by Daum for this market, either at the Lorrain glassworks or another one called "Verreries de Belle-Etoile" was signed either "P.d'Avesn" or "Lorrain" or "Val" (company initials), or "Verreries de Belle-Etoile" (if it came from the other factory). Antonin Daum died in 1930, leaving the factory to be run by the second generation of Daum nephews. Pierre D'Avesn stayed with the firm until Daum closed their Lorrain factory in 1932 due to the slump in the US market and the impact on art glass sales caused by the depression.

Styles changed again after the Second World War and the factory turned to heavy colorless lead crystal shaped into figures and vessels. Their lead crystal glass was very high quality, and their art glass emphasized the flowing qualities of clear glass. On the whole they did not incorporate cutting, engraving, or any other form of surface decoration. This kind of glass was popular for some 25 years, until the 1970s.

In 1965 another generation of Daum's took over, and in 1970 took the bold step of reintroducing pate-de-verre. They invited a number of famous sculptors, designers, and master glass artists, to design special limited editions for the company. Salvador Dali was the first, Cesar the second, and the series has been an outstanding success. The company is still successful today, operating since 1962 as a public company under the name Cristallerie Daum. They make all kinds of figurines in pate-de-verre and crystal glass, as well as their high quality tableware.

Daum art glass remains highly collectable today. A Daum overlay glass lamp made in collaboration with bronze maker Louis Majorelle fetched $1.76 million at Sotheby’s New York in a 1989 auction. Like many collectible antique glasswares, there are very few of the highest-quality antique Daum pieces, and even fewer in prime condition. Most dealers identify two principal categories of Daum: the Art Nouveau style, which includes all artistic and most multicolored ware made before the 1920s; and the Art Deco style made between the First and Second World Wars.

Related items:

Cameo Glass Vase by Daum
Daum — G-17419
"Winter Scene" Glass Vase by Daum.
Daum — G-18298
French Art Nouveau "Winter Landscape" Vase by Daum Nancy
Daum Nancy — G-18301
French Art Nouveau "Nénuphars" Cameo Glass Vase by Daum
Daum — G-19174