Carmen and Gold

by Ken Filippini
Issue No. 420 - August 2008

Webmaster's NOTE: There were some fabulous photographs which accompanied this article and which are presented at the end of the article.

There are things that exist that exude a quiet beauty, but Cambridge's Carmen and Gold pieces, especially the etched ones,Rose Point Pitcher do not reside under that banner. The Cambridge Glass Co. created a vast range of wares from the basic crystal utilitarian items to the opulent elegance of molten blood red Carmen pieces. Finely etched with delicately beautiful patterns of Rose Point, Diane and Portia, which were then adorned in a blaze of 14kt gold leaf, fired to a dazzling brilliance. There is nothing sotto voce about this style of Cambridge Glass. It is the true personification of beauty and taste, the final step in the evolution of a glass company's journey to create a true work of art. Just as Jason searched for the Golden Fleece or the Crusaders strove to uncover the Holy Grail, Cambridge collectors seek out these elusive Carmen & Gold pieces. Every glass company of the period had its masterpieces, but biased or not, I believe it is the magnificence of these types of treasures which helped the Cambridge Glass Co. to transcend its contemporaries.

The glass collecting journey is undoubtly an amusing trip, with many twists and turns. When I began obtaining glass, some 30 years ago, one of the first things I fell in love with was the Rose Point etch. My goal was to collect an example of every crystal piece available. As I searched for these pieces, I would occasionally run into a Carmen & Gold item. I put my nose in the air and walked by them, I was a purist, only crystal for me! My wife Jane tried to entice me into buying an example but I was adamant in my segregation to crystal purity. All I can say today is where is H.G. Wells and his time-machine when you need him? I now chase Carmen & Gold etched pieces with adamantine determination. Willingly selling my crystal ones so that I can try to afford the Carmen ones.

The color Carmen was created by Henry T. Helmers for the Cambridge Glass Co. and was introduced in February 1931. The Diane etch made its first appearance in the October issue of "China, Glass & Lamps" in 1931 also. Portia made its appearance on the scene in the June issue of "China, Glass & Lamps" in 1932. Rose Point production began in 1934 and was introduced at the Pittsburgh Pa. trade show January 7, 1935. Based on these dates it is reasonable to surmise that most of the Carmen & Gold Encrusted etched items were created in the mid-to-late 1930's. In the Cambridge Rose Point book Mark Nye states "Rose Point is seldom seen on colored blanks and what is found will be on Amber, Carmen, Crown Tuscan or Ebony and in most instances gold encrusted. Through an advertisement in the Oct 1936 issue of "China, Glass & Lamps", it is known that Rose Point on Carmen blanks was being promoted as "the very newest thing that Cambridge has done". Since nothing in the 1940 catalog or price list indicates any etching was being placed on colored ware (other Chintz champagne than Crown Tuscan) at the time, Amber and Carmen Rose Point was apparently produced only between 1935 and the end of 1939". It's reasonable to surmise that Portia and Diane followed the same course.

Two other etches have been found on Carmen: Rosalie and Apple Blossom - neither of which apparently was ever gold encrusted. Until very recently, that's been it. However, as we all know, you can never, say never. As if by magic and out of the realm of anything-is-possible appears a 3011/3 Nude Carmen Saucer Champagne etched 758 Chintz #1 gold encrusted with gold bands on the rim and foot edge (check out photo at right). More bells and whistles than any piece of glass deserves, and the 1st appearance of the Chintz etch on Carmen that I am aware of. Up until now Carmen nudes with an etch have been uncovered on only three other examples, all in Portia. The 3011/17 4½ oz. claret with an etched bowl, not gold encrusted. The 3011 ash tray, etched foot gold encrusted, and the 3011 covered cigarette box. The box lid and foot are both etched and gold encrusted. In both cases the foot is crystal. The cigarette box and the ash tray are beyond rare and may simply have been samples or a special order. Except for the Rose Point reference previously mentioned, very little is actually known about Carmen & Gold etched production, and much of it could have been of the special order variety. No listing has ever been found for the Portia or Diane pieces.

I will now list all the items that I own, have seen in other collections, and have been told to exist by reliable sources. From this point on all items should be considered gold encrusted.

3400/38 80 oz. Ball shaped jugRose PointDianePortia
3400/4 12 inch 4 Toed Bowl FlaredRose PointDianePortia
1242 10 inch VaseRose PointDianePortia
3400/851 Ice Pail Gold Metallic Handle DianePortia
3400/646 5 inch Key CandlestickRose Point Portia
3400/647 2 Holder Key CandelabrumRose Point Portia

The stem style is unique to each etch. Gold Encrusted Rose Point is found on the 3500 line. In the Cambridge Rose Point Book, a master list of the items made in Carmen is available. However, the list is not complete considering what has been found to date. It states that Cambridge was offering 14 stem variations. The ones that I have positively identified are:

  • 1 oz Cordial
  • 2½ oz Footed Tumbler
  • #1 Goblet Long Bowl
  • 7 oz Tall Sherbet
  • 10 oz Footed Tumbler
  • 3 oz Cocktail
  • 2½ oz Wine
  • 5 oz Footed Tumbler.

Gold Encrusted Portia is found on the 3035 Stem Line. The known stems to date are:

  • 6 oz Tall Sherbet
  • 3 oz Cocktail
  • 9 oz Goblet
  • 6 oz Low Sherbet
  • 5 oz Footed Tumbler

Diane, the hardest stem to find, is found on the 3122 stem line, only two examples are known: 9 oz Goblet and 7 oz Tall Sherbet.

The only addition to the glassware line is the 3400/38 12 oz Mushroom Tumbler which would normally accompany the Ball Jug. To date only Gold Encrusted Portia has been located but I would not be surprised if the other etches are waiting to be found.

More known items:

3400/6 11 inch Cheese & Cracker DianePortia
3400/8 11½ inch 2 Handled Plate  Portia
3400/9 7 inch Candy Box & Cover  Portia
3400/14 7 inch Comport Diane 
3400/60 6 inch B & B PlateRose Point Portia
3400/62 8 inch Salad PlateRose Point Portia
3400/102 5 inch Globe Vase  Portia
3400/627 Candlestick  Portia
3400/1179 5½ inch 2 Handled Bon Bon  Portia
3400/1181 6 inch 2 Handled Plate  Portia
3400/1182 6 inch 2 Handled Basket  Portia
14½ inch Lamp (made from a 1301 vase) Diane 
1066 Oval Cigarette Holder with Ash Tray Foot  Portia
1233 9½ inch Footed VaseRose Point Portia

Finger bowls are extremely rare and have been located in Rose Point and Portia. Lastly Carmen & Gold can also be Finger bowl found without an etch. It comes in various silk screen designs, Bordeaux, Gold basket decoration, D/1007 etc. Carmen & Gold can also be found with simply a gold edge D/ 1051.

Finally I once had in my hands a 3400/119 12 oz Cordial Bottle etched Rose Point, which goes to prove anything could be out there. Since a great deal of Carmen & Gold etched items many have been a special order, who knows what tomorrow will uncover!

This is certainly not the definitive list of what exists, but what is in print and what I am aware of. Please feel free to let me know what items I have missed, so that a truly definitive list can be created. (Thanks go to the Friends of Cambridge who shared photos of their beautiful Carmen pieces for this article, including Ken & Jane Filippini, Jim & Nancy Finley, Mike & Lisa Strebler, Tim & Robin Cook, Steve & Helen Klemko and Mac Otten)


Carmen and Gold items


Carmen and Gold items


Carmen and Gold items