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- Inside Antiques,
by Robert Reed
- Inside Antiques:
- Steuben Glass - brilliant and deeply-toned
- By Robert Reed
Perhaps the most brilliant and deeply toned glassware in history
appeared in the early 20th century through the genius of Frederick
Carder at the Steuben Glass Works.
- It was turn-of-the-century art glass where free-spirit creation
met technical inventiveness, and it was Steuben glass which may
have simplified it best.
- Carder was a native of England and, according to Robyn Peterson
the curator of collections at Rockwell Museum, "his experience
lay in the production of flamboyant and colourful decorative
glassware appealing to the tastes of the English middle class
of the Victorian era."
- In 1903, he established the Steuben factory at Corning, New
York, and named it after the county in which it was located.
The plant had the financing of T.G. Hawkes and one of its main
purposes was to provide cutting blanks for the Hawkes Company.
- Beyond that, however, Carder began experimenting with the
new effects of art glass using then untapped technology of the
- Carder's most famous result was Aurene glass, made in iridescent
blue or iridescent gold. Its brilliant surface came from the
use of glass containing metallic salts, which were hurled to
the surface when heated in a special manner. The glassware was
later sprayed with a metal chloride solution, which drew the
surface into fine, reflective lines.
- As with fabled Tiffany glass, the base was transparent, since
opaque would not have allowed the wondrous bending of light through
the different layers of density.
- Steuben's Aurene glass, for example, was used in the lavish
DeVilbiss perfumizers, usually in gold or blues. According to
Jean Sloan in Perfume and Scent Bottle Collecting, "they
were blown into simple shapes and left undecorated because the
beautiful glass truly needed no other adornment."
- Most of the perfume containers were marked on the base with
Devilbiss in gold script.
- The craftsman artist also provided single pieces of brilliant
cut glass, ranging from those individual pieces with matching
pairs of pheasants, to decanters with special wheel motifs.
- "Carder tried
his hand at an astonishing variety of techniques," notes
Emma Papert, author of An Illustrated Guide to American Glass,
"including hand-treated glass, shaded glass and acid-etched
wares known as acid cutback, which often resembled Chinese lapidary
- Besides Aurene, his other specialties included Verre De Soie,
which was a transparent glass with a delicate, shifting rainbow
of colors, the pinkish Rosaline and various other iridized glassware.
His products included lamps, vases and candlesticks, as well
as tableware and perfume bottles.
- In 1918, the Corning Glass Company acquired the firm and
thereafter it became the Steuben Division of that company, moving
into more extensive production of fine handmade glass. Beautiful
Aurene glass continued to be made into the early 1930s at the
- In 1931, the Philadelphia Museum of Art was in the process
of restoring a lovely 19th century house known as Strawberry
Mansion. They set about in search of suitable tableware for display
and found it at the Steuben Glass Works. By the following year,
the Strawberry pattern glassware was included in Steuben's catalog.
- Steuben came under the direction of Arthur Amory Houghton,
Jr., the great-grandson of the founder of Corning Glass Works,
in 1933. Together with architect John Monteith Gates and sculptor
Sidney Waught, Houghton led the firm into very extensive production
of fine free-blown lead glass.
- "Their efforts resulted in some of the finest pieces
of American glass ever made," confirms author Papert, "distinguished
by strength and simplicity of line, elegance of shape and undeviating
high quality of glass metal."
- Steuben provided both two-handled vases for flowers and dining
room tableware for the United States building at the New York
World's Fair in 1939. After the fair closed, the glass and china,
including an urn in the Strawberry Mansion pattern, were given
to the White House.
- The firm's increasingly
refined copper-wheel engraving and the use of international recognized
artists endeared Steuben to the country and it was even the choice
of American presidents as gifts of state.
- In 1947, a bas-relief decorated merry-go-round bowl was presented
by the U.S. to Princess Elizabeth on the occasion of her wedding.
- In 1959, after 82 years of working with glass, Carder retired
at the age of 96, leaving a legacy of genius through his skill
- Robert Rockwell, a friend and avid Steuben collector, contributed
much of his own spectacular collection to the Rockwell Museum
in Corning in the 70s.
- Many pieces are now on loan to the Corning Museum in New
York and can be viewed in the Carder Gallery.
- Photos, courtesy of the Rockwell Museum:
- 1 - Decorated gold Aurene lamp, ca. 1914 Stueben Glass Works
- 2 - Acid-etched vase, 1920s, Steuben Glass Works
- 3 - Rouge Flambe vase, ca. 1916, Steuben Glass Works
- Robert Reed has written on antiques and collectibles for
more than two decades. He has also authored 15 books, including
his recently released Antiques and Collectible Dictionary, available
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