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Carnival Glass - A Concise Guide

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For anyone new to carnival glass, it may seem like a bewildering, complex subject. Questions spring to mind such as: What is it? How, when and where was it made? Why are there so many different shapes, patterns and colours? How can I find out more about it and meet other collectors? This simple and concise guide seeks to answer these questions and more, giving the reader a better understanding of the subject and hopefully inspiring a desire to find out more about this fascinating hobby by joining with us and becoming a member of the Carnival Glass Society.



In its broadest sense, Carnival Glass is press moulded glass that was often hand finished to create different shapes, then iridised with metal salts to give an ‘oil on water’ effect, so that whatever the colour of the base glass, the surface reflected back myriads of tones and hues.


However, behind this simple definition lies over a hundred years of glass production, spanning a range of design influences – from the Aesthetic Movement and Art Nouveau through Art Deco to the current day, encompassing different styles as its manufacture spread worldwide.


This guide shows that the large variety of colours, from delicate ‘ice’ pastels to vibrant purples, greens and blues; the range of shapes and the thousands of different, often intricate patterns, command admiration for those who pioneered this glass making technique, resulting in Carnival Glass to suit all tastes.


Section 1 : Carnival Glass - The Inspiration

Section 2 : Carnival Glass - The Early Years

Section 3 : Carnival Glass - Secondary Production; Europe and Beyond

Section 4 : Carnival Glass - Re-emergence; Contemporary Carnival Glass

Section 5: Carnival Glass - Whats in a Name?





It can be seen that while Carnival Glass was, on one level, being mass produced, the fact that each item was individually hand-shaped, combined with the variations in colour and finish of the iridescence, means it is difficult to find two items that are identical.


This wide variety of shapes, colours and patterns appeals to the collector and whilst much has been documented, ongoing research is uncovering new information all the time. Moreover, Carnival Glass is accessible to all collectors, as while some of the rarer items might sell for thousands, or even tens of thousands of pounds, many good quality pieces are reasonably priced, from just a few pounds up to a few tens or hundreds of pounds from which can be made a stunning display.


Knowledge is the key to enjoying your Carnival Glass and getting the most out of collecting it. While information is available in books and online, the unique qualities of Carnival Glass mean that it has to be seen and handled to be fully appreciated.


A dozen photographs and a hundred words of description, can never really compare with seeing an item as it appears in different lighting conditions and is viewed from different angles. The best way to enjoy collecting Carnival Glass is to become a member of a collectors’ club such as The Carnival Glass Society. This will enable you to read about other collectors’ views and experiences, and keep abreast with new research through the club newsletters. Through club events and meetings, you will be able to interact with other collectors, see displays of glass that you might not otherwise ever see except in photographs, build new friendships and have the opportunity to buy and sell Carnival Glass.


Click here for more information on membership benefits and how to join the Carnival Glass Society.


‘Carnival Glass – A Concise Guide’ has been written by Dave Richards, Trudy Auty and Steve Auty of the Carnival Glass Society Research Team. The work is Copyright the Carnival Glass Society 2019. Individual photographs and images provided by third parties are attributed accordingly.

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