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LATEST COLLECTIBLES ARTICLE__________________________

Fine Glassware for the Table
by Bob Brooke

 


Wealthy Victorians set their elaborate dinner tables with crystal glassware. A typical place setting could have as many as six glasses, each for a different use. And though that style of dining didn’t persist too far into the future, the elegance that crystal tableware brought to the table lived on well into the 1950s and 1960s as the American middle class became more affluent.

Augustus H. Heisey founded Heisey Glass in 1896 with one 16-pot furnace, after running the George Duncan & Sons factory in Pittsburgh for several years. He chose Newark, Ohio, as the location of his new company because of the abundance of natural resources. In the beginning, the 30,000-square foot factory employed about 200 people. The factory eventually had three furnaces and employed nearly 850 people.

During its early years, Heisey confined production to pressed ware, much of it of such fine quality and sharpness of design that it appeared to be cut. It also made glassware used in hotels and bars.

The company also produced blown glassware in a wide variety of patterns and colors. High clarity and brilliance were the hallmarks of Heisey glass. Workers highly finished pieces using a process called firepolishing. Many of the pressed pieces appear to be cut crystal on casual inspection, due to the high quality of the glass and the crispness of the molding.



In 1914 the company began to make blown ware which it called “Heisey’s American Crystal.” Not content with traditional pulled stemware, they became the first glass company to make fancy pressed stems.

Heisey was one of the first glass houses to advertise nationally, using its ads to introduce and sell a varied spectrum of colored tableware as early as 1910. By coordinating its pieces to follow decorating trends, Heisey was able not only to make colored tableware acceptable. Heisey ads appeared in Better Homes & Gardens, McCall's, Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal and-National Geographic.

The company’s main competition came from Cambridge and Duncan & Miller tableware and Fostoria stemware, but the Heisey and Fostoria ads never appeared in the same issue of a magazine.

The Heisey Trademark
In late 1900, one of Augustus’ sons, George Duncan Heisey, designed the famous Heisey trademark, an “H” within a diamond. Heisey insisted that all of the company’s glass be marked. But later on, less of it was.

The trademark can usually be found on the bottom of molded Heisey pieces, on 'the necks of cruets and sometimes even in inconspicuous places like under a handle. Some trademarks can be found near the rims of bowls as well as under feet or on the sides of some pieces.

The lack of the trademark on a piece of glass doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not Heisey. The company didn’t begin using this trademark until November 1, 1900, so pieces made in the four years prior to that date had no marks.

Sometimes a piece won't carry the mark because the Diamond H, which was cut into the mold for pressed wares, became worn. Worn molds were replaced, but sometimes without the Diamond H. Also, the process of fire polishing often eliminated all or part of the Diamond H. Heisey trademarked its pieces in the molding process, so handblown wares never had the Diamond H mark.

Heisey Colors
Heisey produced glass in colors, most of which was from 1925 to 1938. The company went to great lengths to produce distinct colors, and Heisey glass may often be identified from specific colors alone. In 1925, it introduced Flamingo, a pastel rose-pink, and Moongleam, a vivid green, producing both in large quantities. Marigold was a brassy gold-yellow color. Sahara, which replaced Marigold, was a soft lemony yellow while Hawthorne was a shade of lavender. Tangerine, a bright orange-red produced from about 1933, was part of a trend to darker, more vivid colors. During this time, Heisey produced a cobalt color which it called Stiegel Blue. The rarest of Heisey colors was Alexandrite, which could appear as a pale blue-green under normal light, but in sunlight or ultraviolet light, it glowed with a pink-lavender hue. The last new color introduced by the company was Zircon, a modern grey-blue.



The company produced some colors, like Amber, to fill custom orders. And it referred to its vaseline glass as Canary. Emerald was a beautiful green, sometimes found in pieces decorated with gold rims. Ivory and Ivorina Verde, both made from 1897 to 1910, were Heisey's names for what’s now commonly known as custard glass. Ivory was the name given to the lightest shades and Ivorina Verde to the darkest.

Heisey also produced glassware in several experimental colors. Black appeared in the early 1930s and possibly again in the mid 1950s. Dawn, produced from 1955 to1957, was a gray color; which looks like amethyst in natural light. Light blue was only produced in limited quantities in 1932. Gold Ruby was similar to cranberry and made only in 1932.

Popular Heisey Patterns
Heisey often used a single shape for more than one pattern. The undecorated wares, or blanks, might be sold as they were, and also etched with one or more designs to make up additional lines. Heisey's Rose and Orchid patterns, for instance, were names Heisey gave to etchings applied to crystal pieces in the Waverly shape. Both were popular with brides-to-be.

Popular pattern names included Crystolite, Greek Key, Empress, Plantation, Ridgeleigh, Stanhope, Old Sandwich, Octagon, Yeoman, and Victorian, a square block pattern found mostly in crystal, among dozens of others.



n the late 1890s, Heisey revived the colonial patterns with flutes, scallops and panels which had been so popular earlier in the century. These were so well accepted that from that time on, at least one colonial line was made continuously until the factory closed.

Heisey made far more crystal than colored glass, and prices for colored pieces are often higher than their crystal counterparts. In addition to adding value, Heisey colors can provide clues for dating a piece, especially when combined with information about when the pattern first appeared.



Though the company closed its doors in 1957, it didn’t shut down its furnaces until May, 1958, in hopes that it might make another go of it. But that never happened. At the time the factory closed, the Imperial Glass Company bought the molds for the Heisey glass production and continued producing some pieces mostly with the Imperial Glass mark until they went out of business in 1984.

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