Carnival glass is a type of glass that has a shiny, metallic, iridescent sheen that was the result of metallic salts being sprayed onto the glass while it is still hot before being pressed and molded. Its popularity arose from the glass being so similar to the much more expensive glass produced by makers Tiffany and Loetz. Carnival glass is also known by various names such as dope glass, aurora glass, taffeta glass, rainbow glass, and poor man’s Tiffany. Carnival glass patterns were also varied and featured many designs that were intrinsic or distinct in the manufacturer’s country.
In its early years, carnival glass were produced in large quantities by US manufacturers such as Fenton, Imperial, Westmoreland, and US Glass. Because of the sheer number of pieces made, the number of carnival glass patterns were so numerous an exact number identifying how many there are in existence is hard to make. Non-US glass makers also produced highly distinctive pieces of carnival glass patterns. Notable among them is the Crystal Crown of Australia for its production of carnival glass patterns depicting the flora and fauna of the continent of Australia. England had its own glass maker Sowerby produce carnival glass patterns such as swans, hens, and dolphins. Sowerby’s most popular patterns however were the African Shield, drape, and King James pattern.
In Germany, production of carnival glasses was dominated by the Brockwitz glassworks company that made patterns that were mainly geometric in nature. Other European makers also produced carnival glass patterns made in cut-glass style with very few pieces depicting floral or intricate patterns. There were however several distinctive European pieces that were made by a Czech company, Rindskopf works which featured stained bands of figures depicted over various simple geometric forms. These patterns are now known as the Classic Arts and Egyptian Queen pattern.
In Argentina, carnival glass makers Cristalerias Rigolleau and Cristalerias Piccardo made jeweled peacock tail vases that were highly sought after. India had Jain company making pieces with unique elephant, fishes, and hand figure patterns. Jain also produced intricate goddess vases that are now highly desired and sought after by collectors.
Fenton, however was the largest manufacturer of carnival glass and made the largest number of carnival glass patterns. Popular colors made by Fenton included marigold, cobalt, green, red, and amethyst. Fenton made as many as 125 carnival glass patterns, with peacocks and urns being the most common. Fenton patterns are also different from other makers in that they were often pressed by hand and hand finished. This allowed Fenton to create patterns such elongated vases, crimped edges, rolls, ruffles, pleats, frills, and scallops.
Other American makers of carnival glass include Dugan Glass Company, Imperial Glass Company, Millersburg Glass Company, and Northwood Glass Company. While Fenton used various paper labels to mark his glasses, many other manufacturers didn’t bother with company signatures. Making carnival glass identification today difficult and often include a mixture of intelligent guesswork and exhaustive research. Many manufacturers also produced similar copies of their rivals’ most popular pieces, making identification of differing pieces even more difficult.