From its rustic beginnings in the late 1700s in Eastern France to today, Baccarat crystal remains one of the finest crystal houses in the world. Recognizing a copy from the original is difficult: Identifying etchings and marks changing over the years. Viewing the strong cuts etched into the crystal patterns and the colorless transparency is one clue to identifying a piece as Baccarat. Knowing the distinguishing characteristics of specific patterns and having a legitimate crystal retailer look at the piece improve your chances of identifying true Baccarat crystal.
The Baccarat factory didn't start identifying its products with a registered trademark until 1860, nearly 100 years after beginning production. This paper label depicted a single circle surrounding a wine glass, decanter and goblet, with the words Baccarat and France written at the top and bottom in uppercase letters. Over 150 years later, finding one of these first Baccarat items with the paper label is almost impossible. Antique Baccarat crystal is best identified in the hands of an expert, such as those found at Sotheby's and Christie's fine art and auction houses.
Etching a piece of crystal with the Baccarat mark began in the 1930s with a double circle surrounding the three traditional images. The words Marque de Fabrique were etched above the circle and Deposee etched below. Millefleur paperweights, a popular Baccarat item in the mid-1800s, featured an etched B and the year it was made within the design. However, stemware remained un-etched until the 1930s.
After the end of World War II and with the expansion of the Baccarat stemware and art-glass product line, a newer etching was introduced. The circle surrounding the pictured items was hashed, and the words Baccarat and France enlarged. Items carrying this mark are easily identified today, with the etching on the underside of a piece of stemware, glassware, art-glass and perfume bottles.
A scripted Baccarat identifies more modern pieces, including stemware, paperweights and decanters. Gone are the illustrations and circle along with the place of manufacture. Finely drawn, this marking is on the base of the glassware and is easily seen using a magnifying glass.
Traditional glass patterns and fabrications, which dominate the Baccarat catalog, are used to identify not only the pattern but the era in which it was made. Over 250 years of craftsmanship are behind each Baccarat piece, and raising a glass to the light reveals crystal perfection, both in the shaping and cutting of the pattern. Wheel and free-hand engravings are precise and exact, and gilding is still applied to select pieces.
If the price is too good to be true, then it most likely isn't Baccarat. Even if it carries the Baccarat etch, the piece may be counterfeit. Avoid fake Baccarat by buying crystal stemware, decanters and art pieces from a reputable dealer authorized to sell Baccarat. Many retailers employ an expert who can evaluate a piece for authenticity. Looking at a Baccarat collection is the best way to familiarize yourself with the various patterns and Baccarat quality when shopping for this elegant crystal. A collection of different patterns arrayed on a dining table adds interest and sparks conversation. Just know that by buying reputably, the bottom of the stem carries the true Baccarat mark.