It wasn't so long ago that the well-dressed table or buffet included a selection of elegantly etched stemware and accessories. If these pieces came from the Cambridge Glass Company, they were sure to be of unsurpassed quality.
Founded as National Glass Company, the earliest glassware items attributed to the Cambridge, Ohio factory were actually heavy pressed glass patterns rather than handmade etched glass. The company used the mark "Near Cut," according to the National Cambridge Collectors (NCC) website. These early 20th-century glass gems impersonated popular styles of hand-cut glass that had become too costly to produce although the look was still in demand.
After running upon some hard times during the early 1900s, the company's manager, Arthur J. Bennett, raised funds required to purchase the factory in 1907. Bennett continued to refine and grow what became the Cambridge Glass Company under his ownership.
The Birth of a Familiar Mark and Favored Styles
During the company's expansion in the 1920s, Benett introduced the well-known C within a triangle trademark. This mark doesn't show up on every item that left the Cambridge factory, so when collectors run across a signed piece, they enjoy the find even more. A mark doesn't necessarily add value to the commonly recognized patterns, however.
By the 1930s, Cambridge Glass Company introduced some of its most interesting wares from a collecting standpoint. Throughout the '40s, homemakers entertained and decorated with the most popular Cambridge patterns. From the famed Rosepoint etch to the cool blue of the Caprice line, collectors clamor to own these sparkling treasures today.
Cambridge Lives on After Factory Closing
The manufacture of these popular glass items continued into the early '50s when business began to slow. Although Cambridge won national acclaim in 1950 for the modern design of its Square pattern, the company closed in 1954. The entity simply couldn't compete as the demand for handmade glass decreased, and suppliers of machine-made glass began to dominate the industry. After a brief reopening, Cambridge closed shop for the final time in 1958.
Imperial Glass Company eventually acquired the Cambridge factory and molds in 1960. When Imperial went bankrupt in the early '80s, many of the molds, all of the etching plates, and numerous other assets once belonging to Cambridge were purchased by the NCC. Today they reside in the organization's museum.
Cambridge Glass Reproductions
Collecting associations like the NCC serve a valuable purpose when it comes to concerns about reproductions. Not only do members of these collecting associations strive to preserve the heritage of quality, handmade glassware, but they also deter reproductions by controlling many of the original molds.
Because of NCC's efforts, most of the dinnerware lines and stemware patterns remain safe for collectors in terms of reproductions. And since the crystal stemware with floral etchings continues to be avidly sought in the collectible marketplace, this is good news. Patterns such as Diane, Elaine, and Wildflower attract new interest as shoppers discover the beauty they hold.
The most common reproductions of Cambridge glassware are the figural lady flower frogs made while Imperial held the molds. Frogs are heavy pieces of glass with holes in the base used to arrange flowers in shallow bowls rather than a vase. Since Imperial legally owned the molds when these frogs were produced, these are not true counterfeits. Even still, they don't ring true with collectors and do hurt the value of older pieces.
Collectors also have to worry about reproductions in the popular Caprice pattern since some pieces have been copied as well. Many times the glass is inferior when compared to older Cambridge wares, so learning how a genuine piece looks and feels will go a long way in protecting against fakes. Keep in mind that a few other molds still remain in the hands of other glass companies so more reproductions could follow.
Elegant Glass with Casual Lifestyles
Think your casual lifestyle doesn't lend itself to amassing a set of Cambridge glass? That's not necessarily true. Making this glass work for you is as easy and attractive as wearing denim and rhinestones; you just have to find the right combination.
Even if you don't own a formal dining suite, using fine glass on the table can add an air of sophistication to any setting. Entertaining with elegant glass is always appropriate, especially for bridal showers and other special occasions. Even a few pieces mixed in with whiteware or a favorite china pattern works well in most settings. And, elegant glass can be used in other areas of the home as well.
A beautiful Cambridge platter makes an excellent dresser tray to corral clutter. A footed water glass and matching pitcher add a touch of class to a bedside table. Any large bowl can hold a multitude of objects ranging from mirrored decorative spheres to a collection of old marbles. Scouring decorating magazines for more ideas like these will give you an excuse to bring some elegant glass into your home, no matter how casual your lifestyle may be.