Founded in 1888 by René-Jules Lalique, the French jeweler and glassmaker had by 1890 opened his first workshop in Paris’ Opera District at 20, Rue Thérèse. From this new location he experimented with glass and enamel fused with diamonds and gold to create some astonishingly beautiful statement jewelry.
He usually stamped his Art Nouveau creations with the distinctive sword and “RL” motif.
During his years of study at Paris’ “Ecole des Arts Decoratifs” and continued studies in Sydenham, SE London, Lalique’s apprenticeship included providing design services to companies such as Cartier.
By 1905 he had become very well known for his jewelry and opened a retail shop at 24, Place Vendôme. The new store was adjacent to that of Francoise Coty, the noted Corsican parfumier. Lalique started making perfume bottles, in the Art Deco style, for Coty’s broad range of products including “Ambre Antique” “Heliotrope” and “Styx”.
In 1921 Lalique, opened his glassworks in Wingen-sur-Moder in the Eastern French Province of Alsace. From here he further developed his signature style through the contrast of combining clear and frosted glass manufactured using the “cire perdu” or “lost wax”technique.
Between 1925 and 1931 Lalique’s new factory focused on glass car bonnet ornaments. These wonderful frosted glass mascots, which could be illuminated for maximum effect, graced the bonnets and radiator covers of cars designed by Hispano Suiza, Bugatti and Bentley.
The Breves Gallery in London’s Knightsbridge was retained by Lalique to sell to British customers and they subsequently acquired commercial rights to Lalique mascots for the world. The name “Breves Gallery London” was stamped on each mascot’s mount.
The mounting rings offered by the Breves Gallery meant that the car’s owner could add to the aesthetics of their already beautifully styled cars by the addition of these trophy mascots.
During this era, a range of twenty-nine designs were made available including the famous “Sirene” (“Mermaid”) statuette, which was available in two sizes.
Lalique also sold the same products mounted on a metal or glass base as paperweights.
“La Grande Libellule” (the Large Dragonfly), “Five Horses” – the first mascot to be commissioned in 1925 for use on the Citroen’s 5CV – “Victoire” (“Spirit of the Wind”) – which originally sold for £2-12/6 – “Vitesse” and “Chrysis” are personal favourites.
The base of each genuine Lalique glass mascot is signed with a stamped, molded or etched signature that usually simply reads “R. Lalique”.
Seven of the original designs continue to appear in the current Lalique catalogue. These include “Chrysis”, “Eagle’s Head” and “Cock’s Head”. Lalique & Co, which ceased to be in family ownership in 2008, still sells these designs as paperweights.
Inevitable Heath and Safety concerns have weighted heavily on the car mascot market. Since 1968 in the USA and 1974 in Europe, cars have had to conform to rigorous rules governing exterior projections that are fixed to their bonnets.
Rolls Royce invested heavily and devised a retractable solution – see our earlier piece on the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy here – The Spirit of Ecstasy – Mercedes-Benz also developed a spring-loaded flexible mount that folds on impact.
Image Credits – R Lalique et Cie, Maison Coty and Wartski.
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