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Colored and decorated glass has, of course, been employed for many years for general decorative purposes; yet not until recently has glass taken an important place among the intimate utensils of daily life. Glass manufacturers have called in the aid of real artists in color and form so as to make their wares attractive enough to compete with china, pottery and metal articles for which glass may logically be substituted.
There have been, indeed, many precedents for the use of beautiful glass in the plates and bowls, candlesticks and vases, powder boxes and lamp stands now produced by American craftsmen. Not only Venetian glass, known for its beauty since the fifteenth century, but also the more modest products of Colonial furnaces serve as inspirations.
Glassware may now be had for the dining table in complete services. One may have a choice of colors in fine shades, such as amethyst, jade and delicate blue. If the form and color of plain glass are not sufficiently alluring to the hostess, she may choose sets ornamented with a delicately etched design.
Candlesticks in glass, either crystal white or colored, are especially effective when used with other glassware, and lend a new note of richness to the modern table. With the new low form of candlesticks intended for very tall candles are appearing old glass candelabra, their arms adorned with dangling prisms. Color is here also. Some candelabra show a base of tinted glass with arms of crystal. Vases and bowls for flowers and covered jars of various shapes and hues-either old forms or modern adaptations for new uses-may now be obtained.
American glassmakers are proving that they can compete successfully in beauty with the work of overseas craftsmen. That does not mean, however, that European workers and designers in glass have no more exquisite products to offer us.
The most noted glassmaker of Colonial times was Baron Stiegel, who enlivened the community of Manheim, Pa., for ten years with his wonderful glassmaking and his eccentricities. His glass is highly prized by antiquarians today. Another early Colonial glassmaker whose work has come down to us-Caspar Wistar-is noted for his combination of clear glass and one or more colors in the same piece. His works in South Jersey turned out beautiful and useful ware for forty years, until the business depression of the Revolution ended its career. A scent bottle, its form suggesting a sea horse, and a quaint, tall candlestick, the latter now in the Metropolitan Museum, together with other early American glass, suggest something of the products of these early American craftsmen.
For those to whom new designs have not the appeal that the old possess, there is the collection of old glassa hobby to which more and more are succumbing. One may confine one's activities to early American specimens or one may seek the glass of eighteenth-century England. Old Dutch and German glass and ancient Venetian products also lure the collector, once he has started on the quest.
Considerable caution and much knowledge are necessary in gathering glass other than of today. Reproductions, often hard to distinguish from old pieces, are plentiful. Reliable dealers, of course, sell them frankly as modern copies.