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A contemporary of his better-known countryman Jules Barbe – Thomas Webb’s chief designer from 1879 to 1900 – Erard is thought to have left a politically unstable France for the West Midlands sometime in the 1880s.

In the Black Country village of Brierley Hill he found work with Stevens and Williams, excelling (like Barbe) in the art of glass enamelling and gilding, and by 1889 is recorded filing a patent for electroplating silver onto glass. It was probably around about this time that – perhaps retaining a workshop at Stevens and Williams – he established a short-lived company producing profusely gilded and enamelled wares in the fashionable styles of the time.

Although glass scholars have long suspected Erard’s hand in heavily decorated Stourbridge wares in the French taste, only a very small handful of signed pieces are known.

There is a floral decorated ruby vase (in rather poor condition) in the collection of the Broadfield House Glass Museum, but they were understandably keen to bid for a pair of 8 1/2in (21cm) high baluster vases carrying the red enamel mark O.E. & Co that turned up nearby at Fieldings Auctioneers of Hagley on April 3.

These were consigned locally by a private vendor who had family links with the local glass trade, but was unaware of their significance. In addition to the mark they were fine examples of English glass in the Persian style, enamelled in tonal reds, greens and blues, with bands of scrolled floral sprays, beaded and enamelled roundels and collars of Islamic script.

Although the estimate was set at a modest £300-500, Roger Dodsworth, keeper of glass at Broadfield House – who had been tipped off to their appearance at auction two weeks prior to the sale – successfully applied at short notice for more substantial funds from Friends of the museum and the V&A Purchase Grant Fund. With two strong underbidders, they had to go to £3900 (plus 12.5 per cent buyer’s premium) to secure them.

Mr Dodsworth told the Antiques Trade Gazette he considered these documentary pieces that could shed light on Oscar Pierre Erard and the finest examples of Erard’s work that have so far come to light.

The vases can now be seen at the museum in Compton Drive, Kingswinford, West Midlands.