How To: Find an appraiser for decorative glass

April 11, 2012

Q. I need to find an appraiser with the appropriate expertise to evaluate my collection of 20th-century Orrefors and Kosta glass. I inherited some of it from relatives who were glassworkers in Sweden, and my grandmother bought glass on trips there in the 1950s through the 1970s. I also have a large amount of engraved and cut-glass tableware. I was cleaning the glass today and realized I should probably have separate insurance on it. How do I go about getting the pieces appraised?

Potomac

A. The American Society of Appraisers offers a “find an appraiser” service at www.appraisers.org. For the kind of expert you want, search by state for someone who appraises personal property with a specialty in antiques and decorative arts. (For some reason, the search works best if you leave the other prompt boxes blank.)

Laurene A. Sherlock of Greystone Appraisals in Bethesda (301-320-9277, lsherlock@starpower.net) says that while it’s important to find a certified appraiser who follows professional and ethical standards, it’s not necessary to find someone focused on only a specific type of glass, or even on glass in general. Appraisers do specialize, but often quite broadly — in decorative arts, for example. They expect to do considerable research for each job. Only rarely can they rattle off values based on their general knowledge, though it may look that way on PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow.” “People watching at home don’t know that hours of research go into each show,” Sherlock says.

Unfortunately, careful research and documentation doesn’t come cheap. The hourly fee can be $100 or more, and if you have a big collection, the total bill can be thousands of dollars. So be sure to discuss your priorities and time limits before the work begins. Also, make the most of the appraiser’s time by having all of the pieces in one place when the appraiser arrives.

You might need a formal appraisal to insure your collection or if you donate items and want to claim a tax deduction. But if you just want a general idea of what your pieces are worth, you can look at the asking and sales prices at some of the same sources that appraisers consult: eBay, www.artfact.com and auction records.

University and museum libraries that specialize in art often have auction price guides, or you can do a Web search for the name of the object, the artist and the words “auction price.” But comparing results from individual auctions can be time-consuming. The Smithsonian American Art Museum has a useful guide on researching art pieces on its Web site, americanart.si.edu (search for “How Much Is Your Object Worth?”).

Other potential sources for you are books devoted to mid-century Scandinavian glass, such as the two-volume “Scandinavian Glass 1930-2000” by Leslie A. Pina and Lorenzo Vigier (Shiffer, 2003). One volume, “Smoke & Ice,” covers lightly tinted and clear pieces, and the other, “Fire & Sea,” covers colored glass, including pieces from Orrefors and Kosta.

We live in a three-story townhouse built in 1999. The problem is the lack of soundproofing between our second-story bedroom wall, which is covered in drywall, and the neighbors’ bedroom. We can hear them sneeze! What should we do?

Washington

If the lack of soundproofing is so severe that you can understand your neighbors’ conversations, there is probably a hole in the wall on one or both sides that needs to be plugged, says Gary Ehrlich of Hush Acoustics, a consulting firm in Fairfax. One common place for this to occur is along the bottom of the drywall. To seal it, just spread a bead of caulk, preferably acoustical caulk, between the bottom edge of the baseboard and the floor. If you’re friendly with your neighbors, that’s great, because ideally, you should seal the gap on both sides of the wall.

If you can understand only occasional words, the wall probably lacks insulation or is built incorrectly, Ehrlich says. He recommends cutting a 2-foot-square hole on your side so you can inspect. A townhouse built in 1999 should have a triple wall: a row of wooden studs topped by drywall facing each unit, plus a hidden row of metal studs with a channel that holds another sheet of drywall within the wall. If this is what you find, insulating your side of the wall should help. If you find that the subfloor runs in a continuous sheet from your neighbors’ unit to yours, ask a contractor to make a sawcut to separate the sheets.

If you find that there are no metal studs with drywall hidden within the wall, Ehrlich recommends removing the drywall on your side, then framing in a second wall with studs a half-inch away from the existing studs. Insulate between the studs, then cover the new studs on your side with two layers of 5 / 8-inch-thick drywall. Why not just leave the existing drywall and frame the new wall a half-inch away? Removing the drywall allows for a bigger air space within the wall, which helps prevent sound transmission, Ehrlich says.

You probably don’t need to bring in an acoustical consultant, Ehrlich says. He recommends hiring a standard contractor to do the work.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

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