Cambridge Caprice

by Mark Nye
Volume 10 No. 3 - October 1983

The original design patent applications for Caprice were flied January 13, 1936 and were granted in March of the same year. A fourth application was filed in March and granted the next month. Pages from an old Cambridge catalog show the Caprice pattern with the legend "Patent applied for," which would date the catalog between January 13 and March 3, 1936. Since the annual Pittsburgh Glass Trade Show was held each January, probably the Caprice pattern was introduced to wholesale buyers at the 1936 show via the previously mentioned catalog and no doubt, actual samples were shown. Allowing time for orders to be placed, processed and shipped, Caprice probably appeared at the retail level around April - June and not later than July or August of 1936.

Caprice Ad The Caprice line literally includes pieces for almost any use including a full dinnerware line. As mentioned in my earlier article, there are at least 45 drinking vessels and this does not include two styles of cups. Vases and rose bowls number at least 20. 27 known items are included in the grouping of candlesticks, candelabra and epergnes. Relish dishes and bon-bons abound, as do bowls and plates in various sizes and shapes, footed (3 or 4 feet or toes) or flat. There are three sizes of creamers and sugars, 4 sizes or styles of shakers, 4 different oil and vinegar cruets and three pitchers to name but a few of the assorted pieces. Among other pieces are the covered mustard and marmalade jars, ¼lb. butter dish, punch bowl and an unlisted item that somewhat resembles a spittoon. In a private museum, I have seen three different sizes of this last named piece in crystal and earlier at a show I saw one in Moonlight Blue. Whether it actually is a spittoon is not known but because of the low squat bowl, wide mouth and brim, all characteristics of spittoons, it certainly appears to be a possibility. It is entirely possible, however, that its intended use was a vase or some other decorative purpose.

The Caprice pattern ranges in size from the two-inch, 4-toed individual almond and similar nut dishes to the 13-inch bowls and 16-inch plates. I have not seen the punch bowl nor learned its dimensions, but assume it is one of the larger pieces in the line.

Using various old price lists, catalog reprints and information in the Crystal Ball, I have counted 213 different, numbered pieces in the Caprice line. However, I have several items in my collection for which no catalog number or description has been found, indicating that the actual number of items produced remains to be determined. Researchers have identified 243 catalog numbers in the Caprice line; accounted for by the fact that Cambridge used some individual pieces in various combinations as sets as well as selling them separately. At no time were all 213 pieces available. Old molds were being discontinued or revived and new ones created right up to the final years of the company., The peak years were 1936-44, during which time the available items ranged from 150 to 200. From 1949 on, there were less than 80 items advertised, with the low of 57 appearing on the 1958 and final price list.

All Caprice items were produced in crystal and the majority were also issued in Moonlight Blue, a delicate transparent pastel blue. In addition to these two main colors, pastel shades of pink, amber and green, known by the company names of La Rosa Pink, Mocha and Pistachio, were used for luncheon sets and the 300 line stems. La Rosa Pink was also used for additional items. The 1940 price list shows over 50 pieces available in addition to the 300 line stems and luncheon set. Pink, amber and green pieces date to the years 1938-1943. Moonlight Blue Caprice dates from 1936 thru at least 1950, while crystal production continued until the end. Little pink, green or amber is found today, indicating production in these colors was somewhat limited.

Limited production also occurred in other Cambridge colors - Amethyst, Emerald Green, Forest Green, Mandarin Gold, Royal Blue, Milk Glass and the opaque shell pink known as Crown Tuscan. I have seen two pieces in Topaz and a saucer in a very pale amethyst shade and have reports of a piece being found in violet as well as in azurite. Other than in the latter mentioned unusual or rare colors, these additional colors were primarily used for occasional pieces, vases, bowls, etc., and in a few instances, beverage sets. For the most part, dating information is scarce for these colors in Caprice. Milk Glass dates circa 1950-53, while Mandarin Gold and Emerald Green Caprice are circa 1949-54, and the indications are that violet was used in the late 1940's or early 1950's.

In addition to the colors, Cambridge also used a frosted finish called Alpine in conjunction with the manufacture of Caprice. This finish, used only on Caprice and primarily with crystal, Moonlight Blue and La Rosa Pink, consisted of acid etching selected portions of the item to give a frosted or satin appearance. According to the 1940 catalog and price list, this was an optional finish on all pieces available at that time. However, in the 300 line stems, Alpine was not available on Pistachio or Mocha items. While by no means rare or unusual, Alpine decorated items are not found today with the same frequency as plain ones.

Because of the optic nature of the pattern, and the popularity of the pattern "as-is," Caprice pieces were seldom subjected to further decoration other than the optional Alpine finish. An occasional piece maybe found with a thin band of gold around the rim and the #1338 three lite candleholders have been seen with the Rosepoint etching. The pieces found with gold or silver overlay were not decorated by Cambridge.

It is the belief of Cambridge experts that all of the Caprice seen with gold or silver overlay were decorated by the Silver City Glass Company of Meridan, Conn. During the years Cambridge was in operation, the blanks used were authentic Caprice items purchased from the factory. Caprice-like blanks used since the plant closing have been copied from the Caprice pattern and are not from the original molds. It is, however, very difficult, if not impossible, in most cases to distinguish old overlay pieces from most of those produced in the past 20 years. The one exception is some pieces currently being produced. These Caprice look-alikes have feet that are lacking the detail found on authentic Caprice items and simply do not have the Cambridge quality. The blanks were seen in a glass factory outlet store, and I am assuming they are being manufactured for overlay purposes since I do not know of Caprice appearing at the retail level in department or jewelry stores, other than as overlay pieces at the present time.

A mainstay of the Cambridge Glass Company for almost 20 years, Caprice continues with its popularity. While not as easy to obtain, an entirely new generation is enjoying the pattern once described "like the enchantment of rippling water."