Black Beauties

by Cliff McNeil
Volume 25 No. 3 - October 1998

The first known pieces of black and gold Cambridge glass were estimated to have been made around 1932-33. Those would be the Imperial Hunt Scene decorated items.

No further black and gold encrusted items were known to have been made Console setuntil late in the 1940's, perhaps even as late as 1949. Even then only a limited number of blanks were utilized and only 4 major etches were utilized, Rosepoint, Chantilly, Blossomtime and Wildflower. Subsquently, some items were found with the Lorna etch. There were two ashtrays produced with gold encrusted decorations, one with dancing girls and one with wild ducks.

All known blanks and etches produced in black and gold (with the exception of Lorna) are illustrated in Book one, "A Reprint of Parts of Old Company Catalogues" by Mary, Lyle and Lynn Welker. They are shown on pages 18 and 19.

Black vasesThe information and dates on the black and gold glassware is as elusive as the glass itself. However, with the exception of the etches listed above, no other etches have ever been seen in this combination. There were others in black and silver decoration but the black and gold is very limited.

First of all, black glass is really not black. It is actually amethyst, thick and dark and beautiful. Sometimes, if you hold it up to the sunlight you can catch the amethyst reflected in it's depths.

The gold used is 22 carat liquid gold which was refired onto the item in the decorating process after the etching had been done. According to the factory workers, the gold came in bottles which were kept locked in the company safe. Each worker in that department would be issued a bottle of the gold in the morning, where it would first be weighed and entered into the company ledger. He or she would complete their days work and return the bottle to the office at the end of the day where it was again weighed and the remaining amount entered into the ledger.

Management would then compare the worker's output for the day with the amount of liquid gold missing from their bottles. If there was too much Chantilly bowlmissing, this was a serious offense with possible dire consequences. No carelessness here, I'll bet.

The liquid gold itself, we are told, was the color and consistancy of mud when first applied. Once fired, however, it gained its gleam, color and luster.

Being fired into the glass means it becomes a part of the glass itself, which is not easily removed. This is why these items have been able to withstand use, washing and age with such success.

But, it will wear. Most wear will generally be found on the outer edges and on the knobs . The etched areas which were gold encrusted usually hold tightly to their color and only the most agressive mishandling seems to eradicate those areas.

Black and gold Cambridge glass is not readily available and is costly when found. But it's beauty makes it a popular and worthwhile item to collect and it continues to intrigue and delight the agressive and persistent collector.

For more information about this wonderful glassware, be sure to check our book store for the Cambridge Company catalogue reprints and join the NationalCambridge Collectors Club. There is an astounding amount of rare and beautiful Cambridge glassware displayed at the NCC Museum located in Cambridge Ohio. The Bennett Museum also boasts a fabulous collection of Cambridge glassware and is also located in Cambridge Ohio. Be sure to make this a stop if you find yourself in the area. And be sure to visit the NCC web page at www.CambridgeGlass.org.

May I also remind you, the National Cambridge Collectors convention and show is scheduled for June 26, 27 & 28. We encourage you to check out the show banners on the Megashow site and to attend shows in your area. The Cambridge show is well worth the trip and never fails to awe me, even after the number of years I have displayed there and collected Cambridge glassware. It's always an adventure and a treat.

Happy glass hunting. Hope to see you at the Cambridge show. See for yourself, the wonderful world of Cambridge Glass.

Editor's Note: Thanks to Cliff for permission to reprint this article, which originally appeared on the MegaShow web site.