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The Legend of Bohemian Glass:
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This book offers a comprehensive overview of the history and traditions of Czech art glass. Divided into 12 chapters, the book details the evolution and development of glassmaking as an art form from the earliest times, when the first glass beads appeared in central Europe, to the present.
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LATEST ARTICLE_______________________________________

Collecting Seriously Fancy Glass
by Bob Brooke


The last 30 years of the 19th century witnessed several new types of decorative glass. Referred to as “art glass,” it satisfied the Victorian desire for highly ornate and colorful decoration.

Art glass was, at least in the Western world, an international style, with centers in England, Bohemia and other central European areas. Historians find it difficult to tell
whether it first appeared in Bohemia or England. Both areas, but in particular England, had a strong influence on its development in America.

The first type of art glasses were probably silvered, or mercury, glass, along with opal-decorated glass. A patent for the first commercially practical method for producing silvered girl]] granted to Hale Thomson in London in about In America, William Leighton, an Englishman became superintendent of the New England Works, was granted a patent on 16 January for silvered-glass door-knobs, which he claimed, superior to silver articles.

Many American glasshouses produced opal-decorated wares, more commonly known as “milk” glass, from about 1855 onward. English firms such as W. H. B. & J. Richardson, with their opal-decorated products, had a marked influence on American wares. For example, William L. Smith and his sons, Alfred and Harry, emigrated to America and began working for the Boston Sandwich Glass Company in about 1855. In 1871, William Libbey employed the Smith brothers to operate the large decorating shop established at the Mount Washington Glass Works.

Englishman Frederick S. Shirley, who possessed a vast knowledge of glassmaking and was also a acute businessman, became the agent for the Mount Washington Glass Company in 1874, and under his direction made it into the “American Headquarters for Art Glass Wares.”

The first shaded art glass was Amberina, patented on July 24, 1883, by Joseph Locke, another Englishman, who had emigrated to work for the New England Glass Company located in East Cambridge, near Boston, Massachusetts. This glass shaded gradually from an amber color near the base to a deep ruby or fuchsia red at the top.

Amberina came in a wide variety of forms. Its success was so great that Mount Washington Glass copied it, and after being threatened with a lawsuit by the New England Glass Company, agreed to call its product “Nose Amber,” although their advertisements frequently used the terms “Rose Amberina”' and “Amberina.”

The development of other shaded art glasswares followed rapidly. On December 15, 1885, Shirley received a patent for Burmese glass, an opaque glass containing gold and uranium oxides which produced a glass gradually shading from a delicate pale yellow to a plushy pink color. This glass, too, caught the public's fancy and was a great commercial success. It came in about 250 different forms, available in two finished, glossy and plush, now called “satin glass.” A number of the forms were decorated.

To promote his Burmese glass, Shirley sent a tea set decorated with what he termed the “Queen's Burmese” pattern as a gift to Queen Victoria .She loved it and ordered more Burmese. In 1886, Mount Washington Glass licensed Thomas Webb & Sons of Stourbridge, England, to produce this glass.

Peach Blow was another graduated colored glassware produced by Mount Washington Glass. It shaded from a slightly bluish white to a pink color, and although very attractive, wasn’t a commercial success. Nevertheless, the New England Glass Company emulated it in its wild rose, shaded from white to a deep pink color. Both firms produced these wares in glossy and plush finishes, and both decorated some of them.

Hobbs-Brockunicr & Company, of Wheeling, West Virginia, made their own version of Peach Blow glass which they called “Coral.” It was a cased, or plated, glass, consisting of an opaque-white interior covered with a thin layer of transparent glass shading from a pale yellowish color at the base to a deep orange-red at the top.

Very much like Coral, or Wheeling Peach Blow, except in color was New England Glass Company's Plated Amberina, for which Edward Libbey received a patent on June 15, 1886. It was actually Amberina encasing an opaque-white glass, and is almost always pattern-molded. It was seemingly produced in limited quantities, and is much sought after by collectors.

Joseph Locke, of the New England Glass Company, received a patent on January 18, 1887, for Agate glassware which was simply Wild Rose glass which had been decorated by brownish and purplish stains, usually applied in a random splotched pattern. Glassworkers achieved this by partially or wholly covering an article with a metallic stain or mineral color and then spattering it with a volatile liquid such as alcohol, benzene or naphtha. This produced a mottled effect which became permanent when fired. However, Agata, which was usually found in the same forms as Wild Rose, wasn’t commercially successful.

Widely produced Pearl Satin Ware, or “satin glass,” was one of the most popular types of art glass. Frederick Shirley received a trade-mark for Pearl Satin Ware on June 29, 1886. He achieved the satin-like finish by either exposing the glass to the fumes of hydrofluoric acid, or dipping it in a bath of this acid, for a few minutes. Mount Washington Glass Company licensed Thomas Webb & Sons that same year to produce Pearl Satin Ware.

In 1883 William Leighton Jr. created a spangled glass, made by picking up flakes of mica on an initial gather of glass, then covering them over with a glass of another color.

Two other types of art glass utilizing applied glass for decorative effects were mechanically threaded glass and “overshot” or “ice” glass. The Boston & Sandwich Glass Company, established in Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in 1825, made both types of glasses. Artisans often engraved these mechanically threaded pieces above the threading with marshland scenes or foliate forms.

The production of American art glass declined as the 19th century drew to a close and ceased by 1900.

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