Sea Shell Line

by Mark Nye
Issue No. 276 - April 1996

In 1935 Cambridge introduced what was to become its signature etching, Rose Point. Making its debut that same year was the Sea Shell line, an apt description of this pressed pattern with its varied selection of pieces.

The first trade journal reference to Sea Shell appeared in the February 1935 issue of China, Glass And Lamps.

"Sea-Shell is a new Cambridge Glass Co. creation, marine motifs with the shell predominating...produced in new translucent coral color and also in carmen, amber, royal blue, forest green and amethyst. Bowls, plates, fish platter, sea-food cocktails, compotes, centerpieces, relishes, vases and other items in sea-shell design, candlesticks, candelabra, and epergnes with dolphin and shell or sea-maiden motifs."

Cambridge featured what we now call the "flying lady bowl" and 3011 or Nude candlesticks with bobeches and prisms in a full page advertisement published in the March 1935 issue of China, Glass And Lamps. The text read:

"As refreshing as May breeze is this new and delightful 'Sea Shell' line decorated with the modeled figure of a sea maid. Embracing such items as compotes, candlesticks, centerpieces, sea-food cocktails, bowls, plates, vases and relishes, its colors of Amber, Carmen, Royal Blue, Coral, Amethyst, and Forest Green present a variety of the widest range. Shells, dolphins and sea maid motifs have inspired these shapes. You will be delighted to sell them."

An unknown writer had this to say about the Sea Shell line in a short article, headlined "Seafood Service in Sea Shell," published in the April 1935 China, Glass and Lamps:

"In distinctive variety, the new glassware line called 'Sea Shell' from the Cambridge Glass Co., is one of the outstanding developments thus far in 1935. Motifs have been drawn from the many kinds of dwellers in the sea, from the very small shells to legendary maids of the deep. The sea maid design has been used very strikingly in larger service pieces, bowls and candlesticks.

"It was natural that addition pieces in 'Sea Shell' line should include items for use in serving seafood. Food is more appetizing when served attractively and what could add more to the enjoyment of a shrimp or lobster meat cocktail than the unique seafood cocktail glass shown in the illustration? This piece is highly reminiscent of the sea.

"With the cocktail is shown the salad plate in the 'Sea Shell' line. This design also has a tang of the seashore to it and like the others of the seafood items should be very welcome along the seashore and at summer resorts generally as warm weather comes.

"The seafood cocktail and salad plate are shown in the new Coral color, a new glass shade with a tinting of coral on bluish white. The 'Sea Shell' line also is made in amber, carmen, royal blue, amethyst, green and crystal."

The following month, May 1935, the first mention of the color Moonstone appears in an advertisement featuring several pieces from the Sea Shell line.

In the July 1935 China, Glass and Lamps issue appeared a picture of three Sea Shell line vases, nos. 46, 47 and 49 with this caption:

"In the photograph ... you will see three new items recently added by the Cambridge Glass Co. to the much liked Sea-Shell line, and they are obtainable in either coral or moonstone. This line, introduced last January, has proved to be among the most popular of the Cambridge creations."

Then in October 1935, this text accompanied an illustration of the Sea Shell (aka Caprice) dolphin-footed covered cigarette box and ashtrays:

"Smokers' articles always are leading sellers during the Winter season and for the approaching Holiday season there are many new and unusual things being offered. The illustration shows a covered cigarette box and ash trays to match from the popular Sea Shell line of the Cambridge Glass Co., Cambridge, Ohio ... The Sea Shell smokers ware comes in a choice of crystal, moonstone and coral. The ware is hand made and finely finished."

There has been much debate regarding the color name "Coral." This color name first appeared in February 1935 as one of the colors in which the Sea Shell line was available. This color name was never used for anything other than the Sea Shell line. It is generally believed it does not differ from Crown Tuscan and the name Coral was coined for sales purposes. There are significant variations in Crown Tuscan. Primarily it is an opaque pinkish color that will range from the opaque to near translucent and in shades that range from near tan to almost white. These variations will be encountered when collecting Sea Shell.

Moonstone is not really a distinct color, rather it is frosted Crystal and the name was apparently not used outside the Sea Shell line. Although not often seen today, most Sea Shell items were made with the Moonstone finish, as it is properly known.

Originally Sea Shell was written as two words but by the time the 1940 Cambridge catalog was issued, it was being written as Seashell.

Production of the Sea Shell line in colors other than Crystal and Coral ceased prior to 1940. The 1940 Cambridge catalog offered the Seashell line in Coral only, while the same pieces, plus others, in Crystal were being sold as the Krystolshell line. More on the Krystolshell line next month.

The Sea Shell No. 2 seven-inch salad plate was also produced in a nine-inch version and listed as a dinner or fish plate. Discontinued by 1940 and not shown in the 1940 catalog was a different style of bread and butter plate and salad plate. This second style was completely round, that is it did not have the flat side that resembles a shell's hinge, and had a scalloped edge similar to the salad bowls. There was no nine-inch plate in this style.

With the exception of cups and saucers, a table setting in Sea Shell was available. It consisted of bread and butter plate, salad plate, dinner plate, 4 oz. seafood cocktail, and a 6 oz. sherbet. Serving pieces consisted of bowls, comports, and a 14-inch plate. The table could be accessorized with flower centers and candlesticks.

Most of the Shell line was discontinued during the 1940s with just a few pieces appearing in the 1949 Cambridge catalog. When Mandarin Gold and Emerald (dark) were brought out in late 1949, three pieces from the Sea Shell (SS) line were made in these colors: the SS 31 eight-inch oval dish, the SS 35 cigarette box and cover, and the SS 33 four-inch three-footed ashtray.

The Cambridge Milk Glass line was introduced in late 1953 and early 1954, just months before the factory closed for the first time. In the Milk Glass line were a number of Sea Shell items. Rarely seen today, these included the dolphin candlestick, a sugar and cream, seven-inch salad plate, the eight-inch oval dish and more. Based on existing catalogs, it appears the sugar and cream were not in the original Shell line. They were most likely produced by modifying molds for pieces such as the seafood cocktail and/or sherbet. The Milk Glass Shell line is pictured in the 1949-53 catalog reprint available through NCC.

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