How Steuben Transformed the Art Glass Industry

Steuben Blue Aurene Vase. Sold for $2,970 via Cottone Auctions (November 2005).

A striking piece of art glass can make for an ideal wedding present, and so it should come as no surprise that Queen Elizabeth II received such gifts in celebration of her marriage in 1947. What is noteworthy, though, is that three of these glistening gifts were examples of Steuben glass, one of the most acclaimed American glass makers of the 20th century. Throughout the era, the Steuben Glass name was known for its exceptional quality and cutting-edge styles. Steuben glass continues to be a favorite among art glass collectors, with the works of its nearly century-long tenure consistently achieving substantial prices at auction.

Steuben Glass: A Brief History

This legacy began in 1903, when Thomas G. Hawkes convinced his British associate Frederick Carder to relocate to Steuben County, New York. Steuben Glass Works was officially established later that year, and innovation happened immediately. Carder had an unyielding desire to experiment with different colors and treatments for glass that he fed into his early designs at the head of the company. These styles, including the iconic Gold Aurene glass, proved incredibly popular and allowed Steuben Glass Works to thrive.

The onset of World War I, however, brought prosperity to a halt. With the start of the war, access to essential glassmaking materials was so limited that Steuben could not keep up production. In order to save the brand, Hawkes sold the company to Corning Glass Works in 1918, leaving Carder at the helm – and thus also colorful glass at the forefront – of the new Steuben division of the larger corporation.

Group of Steuben Aurene Calcite. Sold for $200 via Cottone Auctions (May 2018).


Carder proliferated work as a designer and embraced emerging trends, but by the early 1930s and the beginning of the Great Depression, demand for his creations waned. The year 1932 brought about the installation of Arthur Houghton as president of the company (and thus the ousting of Carder). This change in command shifted the company’s production from various colored glass styles to clear, streamlined designs. Houghton had his eye on the modernist trends of the day, and his insight into the glass market resulted in even more indelible Steuben styles, such as the ‘Balustrade’ design or the celebrated Gazelle Bowl, envisioned by Sidney Waugh in 1935 and featuring the motif of repetitive gazelle profiles that formed a band around the vessel.

Artist Collaborations

Innovation remained at the core of the Steuben mission. In addition to a collaborative endeavor in the 1940s with leading modern artists ranging from Henri Matisse to Thomas Hart Benton, a bevy of notable designers, from Massimo Vignelli to Kiki Smith, worked with Steuben’s team to create fresh and compelling wares. That spirit persisted until the very end of the company’s tenure, and the introduction of the brand’s “hand cooler” sculptures in the 1990s caused another frenzy for Steuben glass. Steuben’s progress began to slow after the turn of the 21st century, leading to the sale of the Steuben division to Schottenstein Stores, a conglomerate that later shut down Steuben’s production completely in 2011. Though the production of Steuben Glass has come to a standstill (there are rumors that the Corning Glass Museum might revive some production), the legacy of the brand as one of the 20th century’s greatest producers is cemented in history. Read on to learn of some of the key categories of Steuben Glass in the market today.

Detail of Steuben mark on base of a Steuben Blue Aurene Glass Compote. Sold for $500 via DuMouchelles (June 2017).

Steuben Aurene Glass

Steuben’s Gold Aurene glass was one of the company’s earliest successes and showcased Carder’s talents with luminescent color. Carder wanted to complete with the concurrent success of the iridescent designs of Tiffany Studios’ Favrile glass, and it is clear his efforts paid off: Tiffany Studios took Steuben to court in hopes they could force Carder to cease production. Tiffany’s efforts ultimately proved unsuccessful, in part because Carder had patented the technique soon after he had developed it. The beauty of Steuben’s gold Aurene pieces was the pairing of luminous color along with Art Nouveau design aesthetics that still held a natural flair. Steuben Gold Aurene glassware is some of the most coveted by collectors today, but Blue and Green Aurene pieces also have shown similar success.

Steuben GlassImage 1: Steuben Green Aurene Vase
James D. Julia, Fairfield, ME (June 2009)
Estimate: $7,000-$9,000
Price Realized $15,525

Image 2: Steuben Glass Works Aurene Vase
Sotheby’s New York, NY (March 2015)
Estimate: $7,000-$9,000
Price Realized $11,250

Image 3:  Steuben Blue Aurene Vase
James D. Julia, Fairfield, ME (November 2009)
Estimate: $2,500-$3,500
Price Realized $4,312

Image 4: Steuben Blue Aurene Vase
James D. Julia, Fairfield, ME (November 2009)
Estimate: $1,000-$2,000
Price Realized $3,450

Image 5: Steuben Aurene Blue Glass Vase
Morphy Auctions, Denver, PA (August 2014)
Estimate: $300-$600
Price Realized: $780

Steuben Tyrian Glass

Another of Carder’s iconic creations, Steuben Tyrian Glass was developed between 1916 and 1917. It takes its name from the ancient Phoenician land of Tyre and was renowned for its various shades from purple to green. Tyrian Glass was one of Carder’s more difficult styles to produce because its variations in color were conjured during the process of heating the glass vessel. Tyrian Glass was produced for only a short time and was also recorded as being more “volatile” (that is, easier to break). Those examples that still exist today, however, are particularly in-demand and often come embellished with Aurene accents.

Steuben GlassImage 6: Steuben Glass Tyrian Vase, c. 1916
Heritage Auctions, Dallas, TX (November 2014)
Estimate: $12,000-$18,000
Price Realized $13,750

Image 7: Steuben Tyrian Vase
James D. Julia, Fairfield, ME (June 2009)
Estimate: $10,000-$15,000
Price Realized $10,925

Image 8: Rare Steuben Tyrian Glass Vase
Brunk Auctions, Asheville, NC (July 2010)
Estimate: $1,000-$2,000
Price Realized $6,800

Image 9: A Steuben Tyrian Blue Glass Lamp Base
Bonhams, Los Angeles, CA (April 2007)
Estimate: $3,500-$4,500
Price Realized $4,200

Image 10: A Rare Steuben Tyrian Fan Vase
Dirk Soulis Auctions, Lone Jack, MO (November 2017)
Estimate: $3,500-$4,500
Price Realized $2,100

Steuben Gazelle Glass Bowl

One of the highlights of Houghton’s tenure over Steuben Glass Works was Sidney Waugh’s creation of the Gazelle Bowl, a vessel whose motif channeled equal parts of the historic Classical era and the modern Art Deco age. Featuring a cascade of stylized gazelles that dash around the circumference of the translucent vessel, Waugh’s Gazelle Bowl was immediately popular and holds high respect today from both market and museum perspective: the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is one of few institutions to have a version of this bowl-like vase in its collection.

Steuben GlassImage 11: An American Glass Gazelle Bowl and Stand and Three Other Bowls
Christie’s New York, NY (September 2009)
Estimate: $1,000-$1,500
Price Realized $18,750

Image 12: Steuben (Sidney Waugh) Gazelle Bowl
Doyle New York, NY (October 2007)
Estimate: $6,000-$8,000
Price Realized $15,000

Intarsia Glass

Though the name Intarsia Glass was applied to various Steuben forms over the course of the company’s production, the most popular form was that developed in Carder’s later tenure and that involved a layer of colored glass sandwiched between two layers of clear or colorless glass. Taking its name from the classic technique of wooden inlay, these Intarsia Glass vessels were splendid in their detail. At the same time, and to illustrate the various applications, Steuben developed vases and lampshades that paired Aurene Glass with an ‘Intarsia’ pattern as a rim accent to great effect.

Steuben GlassImage 13: Steuben Intarsia Vase
James D. Julia, Fairfield, ME (June 2014)
Estimate: $10,000-$15,000
Price Realized $14,580

Image 14: Steuben Glass Works
Sotheby’s New York, NY (March 2007)
Estimate: $12,000-$18,000
Price Realized $14,400

Image 15: Steuben Shade with an Intarsia Pattern
Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Oak Park, IL (June 2014)
Estimate: $2,500-$3,000
Price Realized $4,062.50

Image 16: Steuben Glass Shades, including Intarsia (5pcs)
Charlton Hall, West Columbia, SC (December 2014)
Estimate: $700-$1,000
Price Realized $2,300

Click here to explore Steuben glass.