Facts About Libbey's Flower Centers

by Carl U. Fauster

Reprint from The Hobstar, June 1989, Pages 8-9

Empress pattern by Libbey

One of the outstanding Libbey pieces displayed at the 1988 Toledo Convention Rarities Exhibit that was found to be the most interesting was the No. 67 Flower Center, 12", in the "Empress" pattern. This particular shape has always been puzzling because we have never been sure how this piece was used. Some think it was meant to serve as a centerpiece for a floral arrangement for a formal table setting. In order to learn more about this interesting piece, we decided to make a survey of the illustration and listing of the item in the Libbey catalogs in our reference library.

Catalog references to the piece were limited to those printed during the Brilliant Style period, where we discovered that some catalogs used the spelling Flower Centre", while others used the more formal, "Flower Center". The earliest Libbey catalog that illustrated the shape was one dated 1900—1901. The latest dated one is 1906, indicating it remained a stock item for about six years.

The popularity of the Flower Center probably declined because of its high cost. This was greatly due to the length of time it took for the craftsman (or craftsmen) to cut the piece, entailing many hours of work by the most skilled artisans. In support of the reasoning that the Flower Center was one of the most costly stock items, it should be noted that the 1900—1901 Libbey catalog priced the No.211 14" Bowl (with foot) in the "Prism" pattern at $120, while the No 457 15" Flower Center in the same "Prism" pattern was priced at $100.

In an attempt to tabulate information about the Flower Centers in available catalogs, we listed shapes, patterns cut on those shapes, sizes, and relative prices. Sizes of the No 457 shape range from 15, 12, 10, and 8 inches, down to 3 inches. The No. 707 shape was listed in 10, 8b and 6 inch sizes. The No. 537 lists only a 10 inch size.

The patterns cut on these various Flower Centers include the following:

Aztec, Diana, Ellsmere, Empress, Estrella, Kensington, Lorraine, Neola, Prism, Sultana, Senora, Waverly, and Flute and Mitre, with one listed only as No. 25 instead of a name. The prices ranged from a low of $12 to the high of $100 in the largest Flower Center cut in the "Prism" pattern. Libbey Flower Centers are quite rare and seldom surface as an offering by dealers or in an auction sale. As a result of our inquiry, it was learned that the collection of several hundred Libbey items in the Toledo Museum of Art does not include even one example of a Flower Center.

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