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What is Opalescent Glass?

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Opalescent Glass

 

From its inception in the 1880s opalescent glass has enjoyed a widely receptive audience, both in England where it was introduced and here in America where a young but growing market was ready for any touch of brightness and beauty for the home. 

 

        Inverted FanBeaded DrapesOpen Edge

Inverted Fan & Feather by Northwood

Beaded Drapes by Northwood

Open Edge by Fenton

Vaseline Card Tray

Vaseline footed Bowl

Vaseline Bowl

 


The Factories

 

Early American makers, such as Hobbs, Brokunier and Company (1863 1888), Buckeye Glass (1878 1896), LaBelle Glass (1872 1888), American Glass (1889 1891), Nickel Plate Glass (1888 1893), and of course, the Northwood Glass Company in its various locations (1888 1924) were the primary producers, especially in the early blown opalescent glass production.  There were many others also, including: Dugan (1904 1913), Dugan-Diamond (1914 1931), and Jefferson Glass Company (1900 1933), they all added their talents in all sorts of opalescent items in both blown and pressed glass.  

 

The major production covered 40 years (1880 1920); however beginning shortly after the turn of the century the Fenton Glass Company of Williamstown, West Virginia, joined the ranks of opalescent manufacturers and has continued production off and on until the present time.  Their production from 1907 to 1940 is an important part of the opalescent field.  The Fenton factory, along with Dugan and Jefferson glass, produced quality opalescent glass items long after the rest of the companies had ceased operations, primarily in pressed items in patterns they had used for other types of glassware.  

 

        Fenton OpalescentFenton OpalescentFenton Opalescent

Cranberry Hobnail by Fenton

Blue Hobnail by Fenton

French Hobnail by Fenton

Cruet

Jam Jar w/spoon

Mini-Ruffled Bud Vase

 


Producing Opalescent Glass

 

To understand what opalescent glass is has always been easy; to explain the process of making this glass is quite another matter.  If you think of two layers of glass, one colored and one clear, that have been fused so that the clear areas become milky when fired a second or third time, the picture of the process becomes easier to see.  It is, of course, much more complicated then that but for the sake of clarity; imagine the clear layer being pressed so that the second firing gives this opal milkyness to the outer edges, be it the design or the edges themselves, and the process becomes clearer.  It is, of course, the skill of the glassmaker to control this opalescence so that it does what he wants.  It is a fascinating process and anyone who has the privilege of watching a glassmaker at work can testify to it being a near-miracle.   

 

        JacksonWheel and BlockMany Loops

Jackson by Northwood

Wheel & Block by Dugan

Many Loops by Jefferson

Blue Bowl

White with Goofus square plate

Blue Bowl

 

Collecting Opalescent Glass

 

Today, thousands of collectors seek opalescent glass and everyone has their own favorites.  Current markets place blown opalescent glass as more desirable, with cranberry leading the color field, but there are many ways to collect, and groupings of one shape or one pattern or even one manufacturer are not uncommon.  When you purchase this glass the same rules apply as any other glass collectible; (1) look for any damage and dont pay normal prices for damaged pieces; (2) choose good color as well as good milky opalescence; (3) Buy what pleases you! You have to live with it, so buy what you like. 

 

To care for your glass, wash it carefully in lukewarm water and mild soap; never put old glass in your dishwasher! 

 

Lined Heart

Lined Heart by Jefferson

White Opalescent Vase

 

This information was abridged from the Standard Encyclopedia of Opalescent Glass, 2nd Edition. By Bill Edwards.

I highly recommend that this book be purchased as a reference and price guide for Opalescent Glass.

 

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