Cambridge Decanters, Part I

by Mark A. Nye 
Issue No. 142 - February 1985

A new series begins this month and will continue for several months since there are a number of items to cover. During the course of this current set of articles we will be taking a look at many of the decanters Cambridge produced during its fifty plus years of production. In a slight change of format, we will begin with the late years and go backward in time.

Sonata decanter 1529 Decanter The last catalog Cambridge issued and the one used during the reopen period is the one commonly called "the 1956-58 Catalog" even though it was not issued until very late 1956. In this catalog are illustrated ten decanters, five of which remained in the Cambridge line until the final closing. Of the decanters available during this period, only two were actually introduced in the later years, these being the Sonata #1957/85 (shown at left) and the #1529 (shown at right). The other eight decanters go back as early as 1931 and perhaps even before.

The Sonata line was introduced in late 1956 with ads for Sonata appearing in trade journals dated December 1956 and February 1957. In the 1956-58 catalog, the line was captioned "Sonata the oval line." While a few pieces of the Sonata line were made in Carmen, the decanter, as far as it is currently known, was produced only in crystal. Likewise with decoration, in that while a few pieces of Sonata were decorated, the decanter appears not to have been so treated. However, as with most any Cambridge line, there are always surprises and traps for the unwary who venture to say "never." The Sonata decanter remained in the Cambridge line until the final closing.

The other new decanter during this period was the #1529, one that apparently was a miscellaneous item and not part of a line. Exactly when the #1529 decanter was introduced has not been learned, but by March of 1956 it was being offered in crystal, moonlight blue, smoke, mandarin gold, pistachio and pink, plain, engraved Starlight and Wedding Rings or etched Lace, Lion and Today. The October 1956 price list had the same listing for this decanter. However, by the time the last catalog was issued late in 1956, there was no mention of the etchings Lace, Lion and Today within its covers.

The next known price list, in 1958, offered this decanter in crystal, plain or engraved Starlite and Wedding Rings, but not in color. Interestingly, under the listings for Wedding Rings in the 1956 and 1958 price lists, the #1529 decanter is given an alternate description of cologne bottle. This would indicate it is a relatively small decanter, but capacity is not stated in any of the known price lists and catalogs.

Square decanter From the Cambridge Square Line we have the #3797/85 32 oz. decanter (at left). Made only in crystal, according to available documents, the Cambridge Square decanter was discontinued sometime during 1957. This decanter was sold in 7-piece cordial and 7-piece wine sets during the reopen period as well as during the original production period in the early 1950s.

The use of a decanter in a set was not limited to Cambridge Square as many of the decanters over the years were similarly sold with various tumblers and stemware. While none of the currently available price lists and other Cambridge records indicate the Cambridge Square decanter was decorated, it is possible some type of gold or platinum band decoration may have been applied to a limited number.

Pristine decanters The Pristine of P92 26 oz. decanter (photo at right) is first found in the June 1949 catalog where it is shown engraved Landsdowne, Kimberly and Norwood. There was no listing for the plain decanter but undoubtedly it was sold undecorated. By 1953, the decanter had been incorporated into the Matched Barsemble line and as such was being engraved Lattice, Swirl, Star and Fleur-de-Lis as well as being etched Vichy. The 1953 price list did list the decanter plain and described it as "26 oz. (polished-in stopper)." The Barsemble Line continued to be available thru 1956 but for the most part, including the P92 decanter, had been dropped from the Cambridge line by 1958. It is rather unlikely the Pristine #92 decanter was made in color, production being limited to crystal.

3400 Decanters Two old friends were still around in late 1956 and 1957, the #3400/119 12 oz. Ball shape decanter and the #3400/92 32 oz. Ball shape decanter, but they too were gone by the time the 1958 price list was issued. During the reopen period both decanters were offered in crystal, amber and amethyst, all with crystal handles, in sets or as a single piece. During 1953 the 32 oz. size was being made in Carmen and both sizes were being made in crystal, amber and amethyst; again, all colors had a crystal handle. During the late years, these two ball decanters were not available decorated.

The 1940 catalog had the #3400/92 and #119 decanters available in crystal, amber, forest green, royal blue, amethyst and Carmen. The crystal decanters were being etched Blossom Time, Chantilly, Diane, Portia, Elaine and Rosepoint, as well as gold encrusted Portia, Diane and Rosepoint.

From the 1930s, one could reasonably expect to find these two decanters in any of the prevailing colors and decorated with any one of the then popular etchings, engravings or decorations. The frequency of such finds will be rather limited, but never the less, entirely possible. In addition, at least the #3400/92 decanter was used in the Varsity Sports line.

Another old friend seen in the 1956-58 catalog is the #1321 28 oz. footed decanter. In the Cambridge line since at least the very early 1930s, this decanter was made in crystal, amber and amethyst during the final years and during the years 1956-57, the crystal blank was available etched Wildflower, Rose Point decanter Rosepoint and Chantilly. During the early 1940s, the #1321 decanter was made in forest green and royal blue in addition to the colors already listed.

The first years of the 1940s saw crystal #1321 decanters etched Blossom Time, Chantilly, Candlelight, Diane, Portia, Elaine and Rosepoint. Diane, Portia, Elaine and Rosepoint were also available gold encrusted. The late 1940s and early 1950s saw the decanter made with the Adonis and Lexington cuttings.

During the 1930s, the #1321 decanter was listed holding both 28 and 32 oz. and at one point as a #1231 decanter. The latter was most likely a typographical error that was not detected and hence carried over into the catalog.

It was also during the 1930s that this decanter was decorated with various sport novelty designs as well as being included in the Varsity Sport line. The #1321 decanter was made in crown tuscan and then decorated with gold encrustations including Minerva.

One should not be surprised to find this decanter in any of the prevalent colors of the 1930s and decorated, engraved or etched with any of the more popular patterns of the time. In addition to the regular or conventional stopper, it was also sold with a jigger stopper and perhaps other styles as well.

To be continued ...

NOTE (from end of Part II article but relating to this one): Omitted from the notes on the #1421 28 oz. decanter, described in Part I and published last month, is the fact it was engraved King Edward during the early 1950s. Note that there is an error in the 1949 Cambridge catalog in that the #1321 decanter shown on the page titled "King Edward" is actually engraved Lexington.