Opaque Colors, Part I

by Mark A. Nye
Issue No. 185 - September 1988

The December 15, 1921 issue of Crockery and Glass Journal contained within its pages, the following:

"We invite you to visit our Display in Room 728 of the Fort Pitt Hotel, Pittsburgh, Pa., during the Annual Glass Exhibition January 9th to 28th inclusive ... As usual we will show you new ideas and novelties in glass."

This simple invitation to the 1922 Pittsburgh show gave little hint that a new era was about to begin at Cambridge - the years of Opaque Colors!

This is what China, Glass and Lamps had to say, on January 23, 1922, about the first of the new opaques, Azurite and the reintroduction of Ebony, under the headline:


"A new shade of colored glassware, which has been the cause of much favorable comment is the "Azurite" introduced for the first time by the Cambridge Glass Co., Cambridge, O., in room 728 at the Fort Pitt. It is a full-body blue not unlike Harding blue. Another new line from this factory is called the "Ebony." It is a very black and represents an achievement in this class of glassware. Both new colors come in complete tableware lines, including vases, candlesticks, bowls, candy-jars, compotes and cheese and cracker plates.

Dragon vase "In addition to the plain "Azurite," the ware is being offered in two shades of double lustre, with four patterns in gold encrustations and in combination with two contrasting colors used for lines and reliefs. The gold-encrustation patterns on "Azurite" bodies are most attractive. In fact, the entire line is beautifully conceived and executed. An especially appealing decoration is that of black peacocks and dragons on the blue body. The peacocks and dragons also are shown in contrasting shade of green, which, contrary to what might be expected, does not clash with the blue.

"On the gold-encrusted "Azurite" ware, the Cambridge Glass Co. has placed a gold label bearing the working: "Cambridge Art Glass, Ohio, U.S.A.""

In the book, Colors in Cambridge Glass published by the N.C.C., Inc., the color Azurite is described thusly:

" ... which is a light blue opaque that will often show some variation in the color of a give item. Some areas may show streaking that is almost white and other areas may show a little darker color."

The statement is also made that "Occasionally pieces will be found that have been given either a brown or green enamel spray as a decorative treatment." Later an Azurite 8¼" footed bowl with purple iridescence on the outside and signed with the triangle C in black enamel is shown.

Ebony had been first seen in the Cambridge line during 1916 and thus, even though the trade journal article was claiming it to be a new color, it was in fact, only a reintroduction. Cambridge Ebony was probably first seen outside of the factory at the January 1916 Pittsburgh trade show.

"A line of special items in decorated black glass is proving a strong attraction at the showroom of the Cambridge Glass Company, where manager D. King Irwin has made a very attractive exhibit of the ware. The assortment is made up of flower bowls in several styles, vases, ash receivers, tobacco jars, candlesticks, flower blocks, a combination fruit and flower bowl, and many other pieces. The line is decidedly distinctive in the shapes as well as in the beautiful decoration employed, the latter being a heavy enamel continuous floral border treatment cleverly combining yellow and pink roses interspersed with leaves. The same pattern and coloring are also used very effectively in an all over treatment."

The preceding is taken from Crockery and Glass Journal, March 2, 1916.

Later in the year, this paragraph appeared in China, Glass and Lamps:

"The Cambridge Glass Co., of which George Spinney is manager of the Chicago branch, has been one of the most successful in the campaign for black glass. Possibly this is because Mr. Spinney has more of less concentrated on this line. Many of the other concerns, of course, have strong lines of black glass, and all of them are enjoying a strong patronage at the present time. There is every indication that black glass has not reached the zenith of popularity, and this fall should see the booking of heavy orders in all markets."

Returning to 1922, and Azurite, in March, China, Glass and Lamps had this to say:

"Of first consideration is "Azurite" a sky blue glass of most odd and attractive solid color. Vases, bowls, comports, candle sticks, etc., are some of the items of this popular line which also comes in gold encrustations with various decorations and also with a brown iridescent finish. "Azurite" also comes decorated in green, and brown with deep etched borders, a most delicate offering."

In the fall of 1922, Crockery and Glass Journal published this statement regarding Ebony:

" ... and include a full line of fancies in ebony glass richly decorated with gold encrustations. One decoration consists of a ¼" border in a finely executed laurel wreath treatment and gold edge band and foot. In another decoration, a 1" border encrustation effectively employs a conventional rose design in combination with the gold edge band. The shapes are artistic and graceful and the items embrace all the popular articles in fancies, such as candlesticks, fruit and flower bowls, high foot comports, vases and cheese and cracker sets."

January 1923 saw three new colors in Room 728 of the Fort Pitt Hotel. Quoting again from China, Glass and Lamps:

"Leading the offerings in colored ware - and the color runs clear through as it is a body color - are the new "Primrose Yellow," "Helio" and "Carrera." In color selections and shapes as well as choice of decorations, the new colors are worthy of the Cambridge line.

"The "Primrose Yellow" is just what the name implies, a yellow of warmth and volume but not extreme. There is a great variety of shapes ranging from small vases to vases suitable for lamp bases. There are several decorations in gold and also in white gold. The latter is somewhat of an innovation. It has the appearance of silver, but, unlike silver, it does not tarnish. There are also several narrow band decorations in green, blue and black treatment.

""Helio" is the name of an exceptionally attractive color. It is of the purple family, but delicate in tone and very rich in appearance. The shapes in this color are extensive in number and there is a choice of decorations as wide as that in the "Azurite" and "Primrose Yellow."

"The "Carrera" is a brilliant white and stands in strong contrast to the deep black "Ebony." This colored ware is especially attractive with gold decorations and a number of ideas in this connection are shown. A large number of new pieces have been added to the "Ebony" line, making this line one of the most extensive ever offered to the trade."

There is some evidence that Carrera was actually brought out in 1922, not in 1923 as the preceding states. In the May 18, 1922 issue of Crockery and Glass Journal the following statement was published:

"Another line which is attracting a good deal of attention is the company"s (Cambridge Glass Co.) "Carrera" ware, in translucent white and encrusted gold, comprising a variety of items which form the fancy lines, with bowls obtainable with ebony glass bases."