The Carny’s coming to town

carnival-glassCarnival glass is moulded or pressed glass, with a patterned shiny metallic, or ‘iridescent‘ surface shimmer. The keys to its ‘appeal’ were that it looked superficially like the very much finer and very much more expensive blown iridescent glass by Tiffany, Loetz and others and also that the cheerful bright finish caught the light even in dark corners of the home. A wide range of colours and colour combinations were used but the most common colours accounted for a large proportion of output, so scarce colours can today command very high prices on the collector market.

According to Wikipedia: Carnival glass has been known by many other names in the past: aurora glass, dope glass, rainbow glass, taffeta glass, and disparagingly as ‘poor man’s Tiffany’. Its current name was adopted by collectors in the 1950s from the fact that it was sometimes given as prizes at carnivals, fetes & fairgrounds.  But how does it get its iridescent hue? It is largely from the application of metallic salts while the glass is still hot from its pressing. A final firing of the glass brings out the iridescent properties of the salts, giving it the distinct shine it is known for.

Carnival glass is highly collectible. The most popular colour is now known by collectors as ‘marigold‘ although that name was not in use at the time. This has a clear glass base and is the most easily recognizable carnival colour. The final surface colours of marigold are mostly a bright orange-gold turning perhaps to copper with small areas showing rainbow or ‘oil-slick’ highlights. The highlights appear mostly on ridges in the pattern and vary in strength according to the light.

Other base colours include; amethyst, a reddish purple; blue, green, red and amber. These basic colours are then further delineated by shade; depth of colour; colour combinations such as ‘amberina’; patterns such as ‘slag‘; special treatments such as ‘opalescent‘ and finally luminescence such as that given off by ‘vaseline glass’ or ‘uranium glass’ under ultra violet light (blacklight).

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