Carnival Glass

For this quick rundown we'll start from the top.



Pressed glass is glass that is heated, pressed into a patterned mold, and then cooled. It was popular in the 19th century because it didn't cost too much and there were lots of cool looking patterns made with it. Fun fact: the guy who patented pressed glass did so for the purpose of making furniture knobs, not all the dishes we associate it with today.


Well, towards the end of the 19th century, another fellow came along to patent a new type of glassmaking. His name was Louis Comfort Tiffany, as in Super Expensive Tiffany & Co. His process involved adding metallic oxide to molten glass, ingraining the colorful shimmer inside, and this was called Favrile Glass.


So now we have super expensive fancy Favrile glass and also plain-Jane pressed glass, but with patterns.


Enter Fenton.

Fenton was a glass producing company who saw the opportunity to combine the luxurious look of Favrile glass with their many pressed glass patterns. Instead of the Favrile technique, Fenton glassmakers decided to just spray that ol' metallic sheen on at the end of pressing the glass while it was still hot.


It looked great, so they priced those sprayed-on pieces at a top shelf premium and proudly sent them out for sale.





Sadly for them though, thinking their sales would be similar to the other top tier glassmakers who'd already made a name for themselves in the market was a mistake.


Enter Carneys. Or, at least Carnivals. But I still feel like there were carneys involved.


Facepalming themselves for having been so crazy in their sales forecasts, Fenton executives decided they'd better unload all their unsold product by selling it at deep discounts. So deep, in fact, that carnivals and fairs could afford to use the glassware as prizes to give away.


At this new lower price, point people liked the idea of having metallic glassware in their homes. Only the fanciest of the fancy were affording electric lighting at the time so Carnival Glass (as it was coined, probably by a carney I like to think) became a hot seller since it could "bounce light around dark corners of the home." Now I don't know about that, and I'd hate to think I was relying on a vase to put my eyeliner on, but I do get why people loved it so much (and let's be real, the light thing was probably just what wives told their husbands so they could buy all that bussin glassware).


Carnival glass started off being called "Iridill" glass because that name sounded a whole lot classier. It's also known as "Poor Man's Tiffany" and it's easy to spot because of its glamourous and unique vibrant coloring. It's affordable in the second hand market today and looks just a beautiful as it did with Fenton thought it should cost just as much as Tiffany's.


Personally, I think we should also give it the moniker "thrifty Tiffany" all keep some on hand for when the electricity goes out.