Magazine article The Spectator

Plafonniers and Station Platforms

Magazine article The Spectator

Plafonniers and Station Platforms

Article excerpt

Christmas is almost upon us and you still haven't sorted out that significant present for the woman in your life who has everything. And there's the rub. She already has the jewels, the houses, the horses, the cars, the shoes and furs and more cashmere dressing gowns than she could possibly ever want. Knowing the way she's capable of burning through your money, you'd like to give her something under the tree that will at least hold its value, and perhaps become a family heirloom. So does she have, I ask you, any Lalique plafonniers?

My first thought was that a plafonnier was something to do with platform shoes, although admittedly platform shoes made from antique French glass would be pretty outrageously special. Actually, a plafonnier is a chandelier, and if she likes gems and strong colours and Art Deco aesthetics, and if on top of all that you have fairly deep Christmas pockets, then you should consider popping over and placing a bid in the Lalique sale at Christie's in New York on 18 December. One of the highlights is an opalescent glass plafonnier from 1921, designed by René Lalique and decorated with two seductively naked sirens gently swirling around its butterscotch-yellow rim.

Lalique worked with liquid glass cast in moulds, and his genius lay in the refinement of his materials and in the superlative graphic and sculptural skills that he brought to bear in creating forms and decorations. According to Jeni Sandberg, the glass specialist at Christie's in New York, this plafonnier is very rare and in extremely good condition. 'The yellow colour is very unusual and sought after and it's in gorgeous shape. It would appeal to the really hardcore Lalique collectors and to people who love Art Deco things.' The estimate is $30,000-$50,000. In recent years the market for these kinds of pieces has been fairly stable. But because 1920s Art Deco glass pieces are so fragile, as time goes by there will be fewer of them in good condition. 'I can't guarantee that Lalique pieces will appreciate, but they will hold their value. And the very best pieces, of which this is one, will go up in value.

But buy what you love and you will do well.' While you're busily considering the Lalique plafonnier for her, she may be wondering what to get for the significant man in her life. If he is a small boy at heart, then here is an idea. On 20 December, again in New York, Christie's will be selling, with their new online link-up, a collection of model trains, complete with their scale track, detailed scenery, stations, platforms and accompanying landscapes. There are more than 500,000 collectors of model trains in the United States, spending over $500 million every year on their toys. In Britain there are thought to be well over 100,000 collectors, in their thirties and forties upwards, from Mr Average (many trains are very affordable) to chief executives of major corporations. …

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