Hi everyone! Today I’ll be chatting about vintage Amberina, a lovely type of glass first developed and patented in America in 1883. Once you know what Amberina looks like, you’re not likely to have trouble identifying it.
Imperial Glass Amberina
Characterized by bold red to amber/yellow gradation, Amberina brightens any room and fairly glows when the sun shines through it. We’ll be looking at two pieces I recently picked up, this glass tumbler and a crackle glass vase.
It all started a few weeks ago when I bought this small crackle glass vase at an estate sale for $3.00. I typically don’t like to spend more than a dollar or two on crackle glass because though I sell pieces in the $12-15.00 range, they are not fast sellers, so I don’t like to sink a lot of money into them. However, because this one came in Amberina, which can fetch more than other colors, I decided to splurge.
Several American companies made crackle glass like the piece you see here, predominately in the 1950’s and 60’s, although Blenko Glass Company continues to manufacture it today. As I turned it in the light, I noticed that the red and amber/yellow began to swirl together. This little vase with the applied decoration will likely bring $15.00 in my booth at the antique center.
Since crackle glass is hand-blown, you might expect to see a pontil mark on the bottom. When a glass maker “breaks” a piece off of his pontil––the long metal rod that he blows the glass on–it leaves a circle of broken glass on the bottom. (See an example in my post about collecting crackle glass.)
You do not see a pontil mark here because it has been ground down. This could rule out Blenko glass as a manufacturer since on the majority of their pieces you will find the pontil mark. I also didn’t find it pictured in any Blenko catalogs, so another crackle glass company, like Pilgrim or Rainbow, likely manufactured it. (It’s interesting to note that in their catalogs, Blenko referred to their Amberina glass as Tangerine.)
Imperial Glass Company Amberina
About a week after finding the crackle glass vase, I discovered this large tumbler at a garage sale held by an antique dealer. This meant prices were so-so.
I paid $4.00 for this piece because I knew I wanted to write about Amberina, so I felt it was worth the investment. I knew this piece also dated to the 20th century because of its bright colors and weight.
From the mark on the bottom–a “G” superimposed over a stylized “I”–I suspected that either Imperial Glass or Indiana Glass had manufactured it. It turned out to be Imperial Glass Company (1902-1984), of Bellaire, Ohio, which used this mark from 1951-77.
They are especially well known for their Candlewick and Cape Cod glass patterns. You can also find this grape pattern (#473) on their many shades of carnival glass–marigold, blue, and green, for example. A set of four of these glasses would run about $50-60.00.
Older & Newer Amberina
Amberina has had two heydays–an early period (1883-1900) and a late period (1950-60). During the early period, glass makers reddened the glass by adding gold to amber-colored glass.
Reheating portions of this glass created a chemical reaction with the gold and turned those heated portions from amber to red, with a pink to ruby cast. The early period pieces tend to be much more valuable than the late, in the $100-$500 range and on up. You can find samples of early period Amberina here.
A renewed interest in Amberina in the 1950’s and 60’s drove glass companies to reintroduce it to the market. By this time they had discovered a cheaper way to turn amber glass to red by adding selenium and cadmium sulphide, rather than gold, to the process.
As a result, Amberina from this period has more of an orange cast than early period pieces. (Note: Amberina is still being produced by some glass companies, Fenton, for example.)
Like many other antiques and collectibles, inferior versions of Amberina were introduced into the market by companies trying to make money off of its popularity. Keep your eye out for ruby-colored glass that has been flashed on by applying and heating a thin layer of gold to the outer surface of amber glass.
It scratches and flakes quite easily (through to the clear glass below) and the gradation from red to amber is not as gradual. To learn more about Amberina, ask an antique shop owner to look at a few pieces. Weigh it in your hands, feel the surface, and hold it up to the light. Hands on is the best way to learn!
How do you feel about this orange-toned collectible?
Would you buy a piece if you saw it–yea or nay?
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