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( Originally Published 1963 )
Spangled glass was achieved by adding flakes of lustrous metal, usually mica but sometimes gold or silver, and gaycolored bits of glass to the batch. They added bright color and sparkle to a dark background glass. Some pastel pieces were made, in which case mica flakes usually were used (mica was most effective in pale green, for example). Again, methods of manufacture differed in New England and the Midwest. Hobbs, Brockunier and Company in Wheeling, West Virginia, made a cased glass lined with opaque white, and usually added mica flakes for spangling. Boston and Sandwich Glass Company made spangled glass without a white lining. The body of their pieces was a solid, and often a dark, color that was covered with a layer of thin glass to which metal flakes and bright-colored glass were added. Some spangled glass pieces had clear glass handles or an applied deco ration such as a bunch of cherries with the fruits in red glass, stems and leave in clear glass.
Spatter glass usually displayed less con trast than spangled glass, although the background also might be fairly dark. Colored glass broken into small pieces was incorporated for this art glass.
Vasa murrhina, which was first made by the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, generally was dark although it was flecked with gold, silver, mica flakes, or metallic particles in various colors, which gave a variegated effect. Usually the background glass was so dark that it appeared to be almost opaque, although the whole outer surface was covered with clear glass. Vasa murrhina pieces were likely to be heavy. Some of them were blown, some pattern-molded.
The striped glass that was produced in the late nineteenth century by the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company copied a style of old Venetian glass. It is sometimes called Lutz glass because it was made by Nicholas Lutz (earlier he worked for C. Dorflinger and Sons in Pennsylvania). Striped or Lutz glass is thin, with colored and twisted stripes in it.
Mary Gregory, who worked for the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company in the 1870's or 1880's, was another artist who gave her name to an art glass. Her specialty was painted decoration, always in white on transparent glass, both clear and colored. Her style was distinctly individual. Her children are reminiscent of Kate Greenaway's. A pair of vases might have a girl on one piece, a boy on the other, in harmonious but not identical compositions. She also reputedly did miniature landscapes in a similar style. Vases, lamps, toilet sets, and knickknacks such as match-holders were the chief pieces ornamented with Mary Gregory decoration, as well as a few water sets. A good many firms produced painted glass, but Mary Gregory's style of painting was the most distinctive.
Black glass vases with enameled decoration in white and color, artist unknown, can be handsome. On the whole, the black vases are more distinguished than the white or lightcolored glass that was painted with fairly naturalistic flowers and fruits. Considerable foliage often was used in these painted or enameled decorations, and often sprays or garlands of foliage were touched with gold. Painted vases were made in all imaginable shapes-cylinder and footed cylinder, square, vase, and some that can only be described as bulgy.
One of the most sought-after types of decorated glass is the Bristol-type which was made briefly in this country. Bristol, England, had been a glass-making center from the seventeenth century, and from the middle of the eighteenth century became known for an opaque white glass and a dark blue glass. An opaque white glass with blue decoration based on florals and birds was perhaps the best-known of the Bristol glass. So-called American Bristol, however, was neither opaque nor blue and white but a frosted glass, either white or pastel colors, with decoration in colored paint or enamel and gold. Flowers and foliage, often quite naturalistic, were popular and sometimes they were worked into an over-all design that included scrolls and geometric tracings. Vases are most often found nowadays, and some of them are lovely. Miniature hats, potpourri jars, some lamps, and miscellaneous pieces also were made of American Bristol glass.
Colored glass with painted decoration and sometimes frilled edges was dear to the hearts of Victorians, but much of it is undistinguished and has little appeal today, even for collectors. Vases, pitchers, and cruets were common examples and are not at all rare now. An exception is bride's baskets, which were a specialty of midwestern factories. The name came from the fact that they were so widely given as wedding presents between 1880 and 1900. These bride's baskets, usually round and of good size, were colored glass with heavily frilled and rippled edges. Some of them had glass handles in a contrasting color; others came with a silver-plated stand or holder into which the base of the glass basket fitted. In the latter case, the handle also was plated silver and attached to the stand. A ruffled bowl without a handle that is found now may well have been a bride's basket that fitted into a stand. With or without stand, they are salable.
Bride's baskets averaged 6 to 7 inches high and were at least 4 inches in diameter. Most of them were pastel colors, although they also were made in cranberry, amber, and occasionally an art glass. Many had white linings. Ruffles often were clear glass, applied.
Crackle or ice glass was originally produced by the Venetians in their early days of glassmaking fame. It was natural that this old process should be copied during the art glass decades. The Boston and Sandwich Glass Company produced, for a short period, a crackle glass that is better known as overshot glass. It had a smooth inner surface and a sharply rough, outer one that had almost a crystalline look. This Sandwich overshot glass is recognizable almost instantly by its surface. There was no real pattern to it although the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company made it in a full line of tableware, in addition to a few ornamental pieces.
A considerable amount of crackle glass was made by glasshouses in Pennsylvania and the Midwest. It is interesting, but its quality is not comparable either to the old Venetian and later European crackle glass, or probably even to the crystalline overshot of the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company. Other firms made crackle glass in colors, mostly attractive pastels such as green and shades of pink. Sometimes applied decoration in clear and colored glass was added to pitchers and vases.
Iridescent glass was a natural goal for late-Victorian glassmakers. The lovely and priceless iridescence on ancient glass was not originally a color or an intrinsic attribute of the glass. It was the result of corrosion after centuries of being buried in the earth, and showed up on these old pieces when they were displayed in museums. But iridescence added so much beauty to the simplest pieces of glass that its achievement was irresistible to Victorian glassmakers. There were many unsuccessful attempts to produce even a passably iridescent art glass. Kew Blas, made at Union Glass Works, in Somerville, Massachusetts, obtained its name by a scrambled spelling of the name of the factory manager (W. S. Blake). It was a sort of iridescent, opaque, colored glass that depended more on staining of color for effect than sparkling iridescence. The effect is more opalescent than iridescent. Kew Blas, which is often so marked on the base, did have a smooth finish similar to satin or milk glass.
It was not until almost 1900 that a truly iridescent glass was produced. The best pieces were made for some years thereafter. Louis Comfort Tiffany produced after much experimenting his glowing Tiffany or Favrile glass. By 1904, Frederick Carder had perfected Aurene, another iridescent glass, for the Steuben Glass Works in Corning, New York.
Tiffany and Aurene both were of exceptionally fine quality, magnificent shadings of color and unmatched iridescence. Both were expensive glass to produce and to sell. Aurene was made for a much shorter period and in smaller quantity than Tiffany glass. Most of the pieces of Aurene were ornamental. The range of blues from peacock to purple was notable.
Louis Comfort Tiffany had established his own factory on Long Island in 1878. He would have gained honors for his stained glass windows, in which he endeavoured to reproduce Medievalquality stained glass. But he is remembered chiefly for his ornamental iridescent pieces, which resulted from his experiments with leftover lots of his wonderfully colored glass for windows.
Tiffany or Favrile glass was smooth and characterized by a magnificent blending of colors plus true iridescence.
Blues, greens, and golds were particularly fine. His gold shades and cobaltblue are probably the most famous. Favrile, which means simply "handwrought," is used as often as the name Tiffany for this glass. All pieces, incidentally, were signed either with Louis Comfort Tiffany or with his three initials.
Tiffany produced an enormous and varied number of ornamental pieces from the 1890's until about 1918. Lamps that burned oil and lampshades for gas and electric fixtures became immensely popular. So did his vases, some of which were in the shape of flowers. Realistic flowers, leaves, and vines were incorporated in many of Tiffany's ornamental pieces.
Many bowls and vases, compotes of various sizes, smaller footed dishes, and other ornamental pieces were as varied as they were glowing. His factory also produced a limited amount of tableware such as plates, dessert dishes, and drinking vessels. Tiffany was not above making colored glass panels for screens and windows. In addition to his glass windows for churches, he also made some other religious pieces.
Reaction to Tiffany and Aurene glass is always definite. A person either likes and admires it, or can't stand the sight of it. Like cut glass, Tiffany glass was consigned to cupboards, cellars, and attics in the late 1920's and disappeared from sight for many years. Now, although it's not genuinely antique, it is arousing collectors' interest.