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Baccarat: crystal barware of kings and aristocrats

The bar at the five-star Baccarat Hotel in New York City is stocked with fine Baccarat crystal barware and breathtaking chandeliers. Photo courtesy of Baccarat

NEW YORK — The perfect French martini is judged not only by the ratio of vodka to pineapple juice but also the cocktail glass in which it is served. Presentation is important in all things, and using antique or vintage Baccarat barware to serve your cocktails can turn your next gathering with friends into a classy shindig, with crystal stemware and glasses that boast beauty, history and character.

Collecting antique and vintage items is always a pleasurable pursuit, but many times collections are relegated to display shelves or showcases, purely to admire but not touch. Collecting barware allows the owner to put collectible objects to practical use.

A lot of 24 Baccarat Harmonie glasses brought $2,250 in February 2019 at Clars Auction Gallery. Photo courtesy of Clars Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers

A well-stocked home bar likely includes cocktail shakers, a decanter, ice bucket and an array of stemware and glasses, along with bar tools such as ice tongs and swizzle sticks. Baccarat has a wide variety of barware to meet every need, such as St. Remy cordial glasses, tall and stylish Dom Perignon champagne flutes, Vega martini glasses with geometric stems shaped like strung-together beads, the vertically ridged “Harmonie” highball and “rocks” glasses, tumblers, wine glasses and more. Many pieces are acid-engraved.

If you happen to visit New York, you might want to stop by the five-star Baccarat Hotel on West 53rd Street in Manhattan, if for no other reason than to admire its 60-foot-long bar. The room’s design pays homage to Versailles with its striking barrel-vaulted ceiling, black and white checked floor, a trio of massive chandeliers and theatrical lighting. “Lauded French curators Stéphanie and Frédéric Chambre assembled the bar’s one-of-a-kind art collection, which spans important aesthetic movements since 1764, the year of Baccarat’s founding,” says the Baccarat website.

A 48-piece Baccarat crystal Harcourt barware group sold for $3,250 at Clars Auction Gallery in September 2018. Photo courtesy of Clars Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers

After receiving a grant by King Louis XV to open a glassworks in Baccarat, France, Baccarat has become synonymous with the highest quality in crystal and glass ,with its renowned craftsmen spending approximately 15 years to master their craft. In 1841, the company developed its popular and long-standing Harcourt pattern, which is still in production. Harcourt is immediately recognizable for its hexagonal foot and flat sides. Baccarat has long embraced innovation, such as perfecting the technique to add color to leaded crystal. Its vintage barware remains highly collectable with strong prices reflecting craftsmanship and rarity.

Highlighting recent auctions are a set of 12 Baccarat crystal stems in the Czar pattern which made $9,000 at Kaminski Auctions in November 2016; a 19th-century French tantalus with acid etched crystal and gilt bronze, catalogued as “probably Baccarat,” containing four decanters and 16 liqueur glasses, earning $13,000 in April 2015 at an auction hosted by Stephen’s Antiques; and a 48-piece Baccarat crystal Genova pattern bar set, orange/amber cut-to-clear, going for $2,800 in September 2017 at Soulis Auctions.

This set of Baccarat Czar crystal stemware went for $9,000 in November 2016 at Kaminski Auctions. Photo courtesy of Kaminski Auction and LiveAuctioneers

Identifying original Baccarat pieces can be challenging for the beginner as the company has changed its marking methods and marks over time. Some pieces have an etching of the company name and a logo, while some early glasses may only have a letter “B” and the year of manufacture. Reference books and online guides can be valuable in comparing marks and determining what years they were in use.

Caring for vintage Baccarat is important to retaining its sparkle. The company offers some tips on its website, including washing glasses by hand instead of the dishwasher. Using warm water and a mild non-abrasive detergent while tilting the glass down is recommended. The company also suggests drying glasses with a lint-free cotton or linen towel and either placing the glasses upside down on a towel to drain or delicately wiping them while holding the glass carefully by the stem.

This pair of Baccarat French crystal and dore bronze-mounted decanters made $4,250 in May 2019 at an auction conducted by World of Antiques, Inc. Photo courtesy of World of Antiques, Inc. and LiveAuctioneers

For decanters, be sure not to leave wine inside for an extended period, and rinse them immediately after use. Otherwise, it might leave a stubborn stain. Decanters should be cleaned with a soft sponge in warm water. Baccarat recommends using gentle care dishwasher tablets for washing by hand. To dry out the decanter properly, place a long piece of absorbent paper towel inside the decanter for roughly 10 hours. Decanters should be stored without their caps to allow air to circulate inside.

Perhaps the most important advice of all is, enjoy your Baccarat barware. Don’t save it just to use on special occasions or holidays unless the pieces are extremely delicate. Baccarat is very well made and most pieces have a nice heft. Their glasses will stand the test of time, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be used along with your everyday china to add elegance to the family dining table.

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