What is Carnival Glass?


Carnival Glass

Carnival Glass is pressed glass which has an iridized surface treatment. It is made by exposing the newly formed hot pressed glass to sprays, fumes and vapours from heated metallic oxides. These form a lustrous coating at the surface of the glass. It looks as if it has rainbows on it, like the coloured patterns sometimes seen when petrol floats on water; like the rainbow colours on the surface of a soap bubble. What you are actually seeing are light intereference patterns produced by constantly shifting wavelengths.

The name "Carnival Glass" was not used originally by the manufacturers, who had all kinds of names for it like "Iridill" and "Rainbow Lustre". When the market for carnival glass slumped in the twenties, second-quality carnival glass was given away as prizes at carnivals, hence the name.

It was first produced on a large scale by the newly-established Fenton Art Glass Company, of Williamstown, West Virginia, in 1908. Carnival Glass was also made by several US companies, including Fenton Art Glass, The Northwood Glass Company in Wheeling, West Virginia, Imperial Glass in Ohio; Westmoreland from Pennsylvania; Dugan(later Diamond) in Indiana, Pennsylvania; and Millersburg, in Ohio.

The rage for Carnival Glass in the US continued for ten years (1908 to about 1918), and the last of the original US producers, Dugan/Diamond Glass Company of Indiana, Pennsylvania, continued production until 1931. But the market for this type of glass had already moved overseas, and US companies were exporting Carnival glass to Europe, Canada, Australia, and other countries during the 1920's. Carnival Glass was not, so far as we know, produced in the USA between 1931 and the 1950's

It continued to be made in Europe through the 1920's and 1930's; it was made in Australia in the 1930's; and in South America (Argentina) in the 1930's. Very little was made anywhere in the 1930's and 1940's.

During the 1950's collectors became interested in Carnival Glass, so much so that it became economically worthwhile for glass manufacturers to start making it again, specifically for collectors.

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