Monday, August 29, 2016

The Mystique of Cobalt Blue

QUESTION: I’ve always loved objects made of cobalt blue glass. The shimmer of the deep blue glass as the sunlight filtered through it used to fascinate me as a kid. So it’s no accident that I began to collect various glass objects made of it. But even though I have a modest collection of glasses, pitchers, vases, and the like, I really don’t know much about cobalt glass. Can you please give me some background on it and perhaps tell me what’s really collectible and what isn’t?

ANSWER: Cobalt blue glass offers something for everyone. It’s color is distinctive and the variety of pieces available is great. People often associate cobalt glass with 19th and early 20th-century medicine bottles, as well as ink bottles. But the number of different objects made of it goes well beyond these two mundane things.

The addition of a small amount of cobalt to molten glass turns it a deep blue. Its use goes back thousands of years. It was the Egyptians who first developed a process to color glass using impurities found in raw materials. The Romans copied and perfected this method. In Mycenae, around 1400 B.C.E., the production of cobalt glass reached its peak. The large amount of jewelry and dishes made of cobalt blue glass found at archaeological sites show how popular it was. However, today’s collectors look to more recent times and the glass objects made during the Great Depression.

While not all cobalt glass is Depression Glass, a lot of it is. This is the most fertile area for beginning collectors because so much of it appears on the market. Besides being known as “cobalt blue,” Depression glassmakers also referred to it as Deep Blue, Dark Blue, and Ritz Blue.

Depression glass collectors particularly like to collect the Royal Lace Pattern, made by the Hazel Atlas Glass Company in the 1930s. They continued to produce this elegant pattern until 1941.

Many companies created Depression-Era cobalt glass. In the late 1920s, the Diamond Glassware Company offered cobalt blue pieces in the Victory pattern. Hazel Atlas Glass Company introduced cobalt blue glass pieces in its Aurora line, New Century, Florentine No. 1, Florentine No. 2, Hairpin, Ships and Sailboats, and Starlight. The Fenton Glass Company added cobalt blue glass to its Lincoln Inn pattern. The Moondrops and Radiance patterns by New Martinsville Glass Company provided cobalt blue pieces. Paden City Glass Company's offered cobalt blue glass pieces in their Orchid and the Peacock & Wild Rose patterns. Westmoreland Glass Company showcased cobalt blue glass in the English Hobnail line. Everyone, it seems, got in on the act.

Many companies also made beautiful cobalt blue glassware for more formal dining and entertaining. For example, Morgantown Glass Company created a line of elegant glassware in the Golf Ball pattern. The Cambridge Glass Company, on the other hand, created glassware with overlay designs.

Many companies have produced eye-catching decorative items made of cobalt blue glass. During the 1940s and 1950s, the Fenton Glass Company, of Parkersburg, West Virginia, began including cobalt blue glass pieces in its line of eggs and slippers as well as baskets. Another company that created distinctive looking slippers and other decorator pieces was the Degenhart Glass Company. Animals in every shape and size have remained popular with collectors. The Imperial Glass Co. was only one of many companies producing animals in cobalt blue.

Avon Products Inc. took advantage of the popularity of cobalt blue glass and offered a variety of items, including cruets, cologne bottles, and salt and pepper shakers, to its customers over the years, To reach those looking for more elegant items, Avon had the Fostoria Glass Company, long known for its quality glass, produce glassware in the George and Martha Washington pattern.

Lastly, some people collect cobalt blue glass kitchenware, including mixing bowls, rolling pins, refrigerator boxes, and measuring cups, produced by well-known glass manufacturers.

While some people collect cobalt glass for its value, many collect it for its beauty, especially when displayed in a window so the sunlight can shine through it, giving the room a mystical blue glow.

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