The Cambridge Swans - Part III

by Les Hansen
Issue 317 - September 1999

Decorations will be the focus of this article, which is the third of four articles on Cambridge swans. By the end of the previous article, there were at least 70 different type, size and color combinations of swans. Now we move on to a wide variety of decorations that were applied after the swans left the molds.

Most decorations were applied to swans at the Cambridge facctory, however, various decorations called "Charleton" were applied by Abels, Wasserberg & Co., New York, NY. Swans with Charleton decoration are very popular with collectors. The Abels, Wasserberg Company purchased Crown Tuscan, Milk and Crystal blanks (undecorated) from Cambridge and decorated them with Charleton enamel decorations which usually had floral motifs. A large amount of Crown Tuscan glass, especially from the Seashell line, was purchased by Abels, Wasserberg Company to receive the Charleton decoration before being resold (as their product). Mark Nye wrote an article about Crown Tuscan for the March 1986 issue of the Crystal Ball that provides additional information on Charleton decorations, including an advertisement from the Abels, Wasserberg Company. Occasionally, Charleton decorated items retain an original Abels, Wasserberg sticker, which has the words "Charleton hand decorated" and a number handwritten with a lead pencil. Cambridge glass is often found today with a Charleton decoration, however Cambridge swans with Charleton surface only infrequently.

Charleton decorations were applied to Type III swans (introduced in 1939) only, which makes sense because Type III swans have no feather detail and, therefore, have smooth wing surfaces on which the enamel could be easily applied and adhere. Thus, the Charleton decorated swans can be dated, for the most part, to the 1940s and 1950s. Crown Tuscan Type III swans were produced only in the 3 in. and 8½ in. sizes, and both sizes were decorated with Charleton. However, only two Charleton decorations are known on both sizes of Crown Tuscan swans -- "Gardenia" and "Blue Mist". Swans with these two decorations are presented in Plate 60 of the Colors in Cambridge Glass book, and both decorations are quite pleasing on the swan. Mark Nye's article from Issue No. 155 (referred to above) included an excerpt from Crockery & Glass Journal, which indicated that "Blue Mist" ws a new decoration at that time. Therefore, the "Gardenia" and "Blue Mist" decorations might have been introduced later and had a shorter production period than the Charleton decoration of roses, which is much more commonly found on Crown Tuscan items.

At least two sizes of Crystal swans -- the 8½ in. and 13 in. -- were decorated with Charleton. Like the other Charleton decorated swans, these had gold applied to the beaks and along the edges of the wings. However, this decoration has pink-white roses with green foliage. Because of its size and beauty, the 13 in. Charleton swan is especially eye-catching. It seems likely that Crystal swans of sizes other than the 8½ in. and 13 in. would have received the Charleton decoration, but I'm not aware of Charleton on any other sizes.

Milk swans were produced only in the first half of 1954, but a small number have been found with Charleton decoration of small pink flowers along the edge of the wings (inner side of the wings on the 3 in. swan) with gold flecks all over the outside of the swans. To date, this decoration has been found only on the 3 in. and 6½ in. sizes of swans, but the 4½ in. and 8½ in. sizes of Milk swans might have received this Charleton decoration, too. Besides Charleton decorations, some 3 in. and 8½ in. swans in both Crown Tuscan and Milk have a similar decoration of gold trim on their beaks and along their outer edges.

Next, let's discuss swans with satin finishes. Because dipping glass in acid to obtain a satin finish is an easy thing to do, I'm always leery of paying a premium price for glass just because it has a satin finish. A non-satin item can quickly become a satin item, and commercial operations exist today that will dip glass in acid to achieve a satin finish. Also, Imperial produced Crystal swans using the Cambridge Type III molds for the 6½ in., 8½ in. and 10 in. sizes after the final closure of the Cambridge factory. Supposedly, none of the crystal swans produced by Imperial were sold plain, but rather all received a satin finish or were ruby flashed. Apparently, differentiating Imperial satin-finished swans from Cambridge satin-finished swans in these three sizes of Type III swans is difficult, if not impossible. That said, we know that Cambridge applied satin finishes to some swans.

In particular, the Type I (full feather detail) Crystal swans received a special treatment by Cambridge that involved placing a satin finish on the entire swan, then applying coral enamel to the beak and black enamel to the underside of the webbed feet. An advertisement from the April 1930 issue of Crystal, Glass and Lamps was reproduced in issue 190 of the Crystal Ball and shows a 10 in. swan with this decoration. These coral-beaked swans are highly prized by swan collectors and have been found in all sizes of the Type I swans except the 13 in. size. The 3 in. Type II Crystal swan also received this treatment. Incidentally, the coral-beaked Ebony swan in Plate 14 of Colors in Cambridge Glass is apparently a one-of-a-kind (special production item) that can be traced to the home of a Cambridge worker. Sometimes satin finished Crystal swans have non-satin (shiny) body parts, often beaks and feet, and these items likely received their satin finishes at the Cambridge factory.

Rockwell purchased Ebony swan blanks from Cambridge and placed a very heavy silver overlay on them. Only the 3 in. (both Type I and II) and the 10 in (type I) Ebony swans have been found with Rockwell silver overlay. Black Swan w/Silver overlaySilver covers the entire head, neck and body of these swans, except for the eyes and the "bunch" of feathers in the middle of each side. These Ebony/Silver swans are breathtaking! A photograph (at right) of a set that includes a 10 in. swan with six 3 in. Type II swans, originally appeared in the February 1998 issue of the Crystal Ball.

A large number of alternative decorations were applied to 3 in. Type II swans (produced 1933 to 1939). These include a gold overlay on the head, neck and rear of the Ebony 3 in. swans, and another scheme that has gold overlay on much of the wings, too. A few Dianthus Pink and Light Emerald Green 3 in. Type II swans have gold decoration over their wings, beaks and feet. Some Crystal 3 in. Type II swans have silver overlay over their entire bodies, except the inside and bottom, however, the quality of this silver overlay was poor and, in most cases, the overlay has deteriorated over time.

A small number of 3 in. Type II swans in Crown Tuscan have been found with black or green enamel lines along the outer edges of the wings and eyes. At least one 8½ Type I swan in Crown Tuscan is known to have the green enamel lines. Numerous Crown Tuscan items from the 1930s were decorated with black, green or red enamel lines, therefore, Cambridge could have also produced 8½ in. Crown Tuscan swans with the black line decoration as well as 3 in. An 8½ Type I swan with a special treatment of multi-color flashing on Crystal was displayed at the "Bring and Brag" session during the 1998 NCC Convention; additional swans with this treatment may or may not have been produced. Also, some 8½ in. Type I swans in Peachblo (or Dianthus Pink) and Light Emerald Green had gold trim applied to their beaks.

Reports of unusual decorations on swans abound, and certainly some of these reports are genuine. Almost certainly, swans with decorations other than those reported here will be uncovered as years go by, and this is one of the reasons that swan collecting is so challenging. Thirty-two different decorated swans were reviewed in this article and, when added to the 70 different undecorated swans, results in a total of at least 102 different swans for collectors to seek. (This total excludes candlestick swans, flowerpot swans and covered swans, all of which will be covered in the next article of the series).

Generally speaking, most Cambridge swans, other than some types and sizes of Crystal, are not easily found today. Decorated swans are extremely difficult to add to collections and there is a continuously growing list of decorated swans for which to hunt. If you have additional information regarding Cambridge swans in general, and decorated swans in particular, please feel free to contact me.