Carnival glass is pressed glass that has been coated with a sodium solution and fired to give it an exterior lustre. First made in America in 1905, it was produced until the late 1920s and had great popularity, for unlike costly art glass produced by Tiffany, carnival glass could be produced at a small cost. Antique carnival glass has been highly collectible since the 1950s and has been reproduced for the last twenty five years.
The earliest production - Classic Antique Carnival Glass - was made in the United States from 1907 to around 1925, where the major makers were Fenton (which is still in production today), Northwood, Imperial, Dugan-Diamond and Millersburg.
Its popularity, even then, did not go un-noticed by glass companies outside of the U.S.A, and from the 1920s to the 1930s Carnival glass was also made around the world. England, Scandinavia, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Australia, India and South America all produced their own versions of now Antique Carnival Glass.
Essentially, Carnival Glass is patterned glass that has been press-molded (or in some cases, blow-molded), and sprayed with metallic solutions to produce an iridescent effect. Whilst the pressing was a mass-produced, mechanical process, it was performed by hand, and items were subsequently fashioned into their final shapes by glassmaker craftsmen. Because of this, almost every piece has its own unique characteristics.
What Carnival Glass shapes are the most familiar to collectors? For most people, the answer would probably be a carnival glass bowl, a plate, a vase and a tumbler. If you had to name other Carnival shapes, then possibly water sets, table sets and boudoir items would be mentioned - possibly also tobacciana shapes such as cuspidors, ashtrays and even humidors.
The real Antique Carnival Glass has a unique and magical harmony of color, pattern, shape and iridescence - a legacy from the master-craftsmen of a past era.
Because of the way that the glass is manufactured, no two items are quite the same - if you place two dishes or vases of the same pattern, shape, color and size from the same manufacturer, side by side, you will notice subtle differences. One may seem more blue than purple, or have a section which gleams gold, or maybe have a pink or green tinge. A single item of carnival glass on display is beautiful - a collection, especially if illuminated by spotlights, or perhaps placed in a north-facing window (away from the danger of the sun's rays which could trigger a fire), makes a stunning spectacle.
Patterns were given names which usually echoed the design, such as leaf and beads, starfish, pineapple and bow, beaded cable, peacock tails, Persian medallion, open rose and fluffy peacock. Flowers, fruits, leaves were especially popular designs - pansies, roses, water-lilies, blackberries, grapes, cherries, oak and vine leaves. Sometimes horses' heads, dragons, birds, or kittens were featured. Geometric shapes or abstract patterns are found too, and are shown to perfection by the iridescence which catches the light as the piece is turned, emphasizing the various facets.
Variously called "Pompeian Iridescent", "Venetian Art", and "Mexican Aurora" when originally advertised for sale in the early 1900s and subsequently "Nancy glass", "Baking Powder glass" and "Poor Man's Tiffany" by collectors, Carnival Glass is now the accepted name for this astonishingly beautiful, highly sought-after and internationally collected form of art glass.