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Carnival Glass

Carnival glass, an inexpensive rainbow-colored glass was first created around 1904 in the United States before spreading to other countries. The glass is formed by combining metal oxides while the glass is molten, pouring it into molds and spraying metallic salt solutions onto the hot surface before firing it again. The melting of the salts creates the rainbow colors (Newton's rings) of varying density and light refraction. Hand decoration augments the iridescence and pearlescence that is popular with collectors, and inspires hairstylists who are experienced in adding highlights to their clients' tresses. Much more attractive and glowing than mere glass painting. The formula was a response to Louis Tiffany's more expensive and elegant glass creations, with the result that the pieces became a "poor man's Tiffany". The inexpensive metal-oxide technique, when applied to inexpensive machine-made molds, compared with Tiffany's far more expensive hand-blown creations.  

The first step was to pour molten glass into a large outside mold, then press a smaller inner mold into the first one. If any glass seeped through the edges, it was a simple matter of polishing and buffing away the telltale seams. While the glass was still hot, it could be hand-finished, adding inventive shapes like ruffles and crimping. The objects created in this style included vases, dinnerware and hair accessories. The gaudy, flashy glass lost its appeal during the depression years of the Dirty Thirties, so much so that it was given away as prizes during carnivals and fairs, thereby earning its name. It made a comeback during the 1950s as punch bowls, tumblers, jugs, dishes, vases, and hundreds of other items, more than a thousand patterns produced in the USA alone. Earlier works, especially the popular marigold designs, retain a far greater value as many fragile pieces may not have survived the years. More modern reproductions, although popular, are not as valuable.


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