Vol. 3 Issue 7
Opalescent glass is a term that is used for glass that is a clear and semi-opaque pressed glass. It can be cloudy, marbled, and/or accented with a subtle coloring to make a milky opalescence. It will resemble the colorings of an opal gemstone. When held up to the light, it will have a fiery effect.
Opalescent glass was first produced in England in the 1870's. There were many known makers of opalescent glass. It was during the Art Nouveau period that opalescent glass became quite popular. Some of the better known makers are Rene Lalique, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Fenton Glassworks, Northwood and Sabino.
Opalescent glass was first developed by an American artist, John LaFarge in 1879. John LaFarge, with Louis Comfort Tiffany, worked to use glass to create scenes without painting. Tiffany also registered for a patent on combining different colors in opalescent glass.
Rene Lalique was well known during the Art Nouveau period for his varied glass art which included perfume bottles, vases, inkwells, decorative boxes, and bookends. During that period, the designs consisted of fish, dragonflies, foilage, and dancing nymphs. The glass was a combination of crystal and acid-etched relief. Colors were added later on some of his items; made in as many as ten colors. The colored pieces are highly sought after, especially those in black. Rene Lalique died in 1945. Lalique is still in production today.
Fenton Glass Works is well known for its carnival glass which was first produced
in 1907. Fenton known also for its opalescent glass used the technique introduced by Tiffany and LaFarge.
Northwood was founded in 1896 by Harry Northwood. He was the son of a prominent glassmaker. Their most popular product was carnival glass. Northwood also produced a wide array of opalescent glass, decorated and splatter glass. The company closed in 1925 after the death of Harry Northwood in 1918.
Sabino art glass was produced by Marius-Ernest Sabino in France during the 1920's and 30's. He was known for his lamps, vases, figurines, and animals produced in an opalescent, colored, or frosted glass designed in the Art Deco style. Blown and pressed moldings were used. Production ceased during WWII, but was restarted in 1960 making art glass using a special formula in which gold was added that produced a golden opalescence. After his death, in 1971, his family continued to export glass, but was never able to reproduce his formula.
There are several techniques used in making opalescent glass. Applying bone ash chemicals to designated areas while a piece was still hot, then refiring it at extremely high temperatures was one of the ways to achieve the desired effect. Another technique used by many makers was in the cooling process that creates the opalescence effect while holding it up to light. There is also a type of opalescent glass that is made in layers, and by heating and reheating creates the desired effect. Another important part of making the designs was through molds. French opalescent glass molds of the Art Deco period were done by Franckhause. He did work for Sabino, another well known maker of opalescent glass. The French are known for doing most of the finer glass during that period.
Except for Fenton Glass, most of the above mentioned glass makers are no longer in production.
For some examples of opalescent glass:
Collectics-Rene Lalique Glass
Collectics-Louis Comfort Tiffany
Schroeder's Antique Price Guide, 18th Edition
Kovel's Antiques & Collectibles Price List
Warman's Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide - 32nd Edition
Garage Sale & Flea Market Annual - 3rd Edition
Next month's subject will feature Pairpoint.
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