Cambridge Glass Swans

by Mary, Lyle and Lynn Welker
Rainbow Review Glass Journal - April 1973

Cambridge glass swans have long been a favorite of Cambridge and animal collectors. These swans are graceful, well proportioned, and unlike glass swans made by other companies, the Cambridge swan looks like a real swan. The swans were made to serve many functions. The smallest swans were intended to be used as individual salt dips, nut cups or ashtrays. The larger swans were intended for use as flower holders or for food service such as shrimp or mayonnaise. There is even a punch bowl size swan and matching swan punch cups. Besides their many interesting uses, there is a wide enough range of sizes and colors to make collecting them interesting.

Swan comparisonsThere are three basic shapes of swan. The first shape (Figs. 1 and 2), or earliest swan, has a short wing. This swan has the most intricate feather detail of the three different swan shapes. The neck is generally pointing straight forward. This swan is always signed unless the signature has been ground off in order to make the bottom surface of the swan rest flat. This swan has been seen in all sizes except the 16" swan punch bowl and swan punch cup. This earliest swan can be found in ebony (black opaque), crystal, apple green, (pale, clear green), gold krystol (pale, clear yellow), peach-blo (clear pink), royal blue (cobalt}, amber, coral (early, deep-colored Crown Tuscan - flesh-like pink opaque), moonlight blue (pale, clear blue), and satin finished crystal or ebony with orange enamel beak and grey enamel fins. (Refer to Welker Catalog reprint, page 36).

The second shape (Fig. 3) occurs only in the smallest sized swan (3-3½"). It is very similar to the first shape swan except that the wing tips are longer, the point of the wing tip is raised, and the wing tips project almost to the tail feathers. There is also a little less feather detail than on the first shape of swans. Again, the neck generally points straight forward. This swan may be found signed or unsigned due to the fact that the signature was allowed to wear off the mold and was not replaced. This swan has been seen in crystal, ebony, gold crystal, apple green, peach-blo, coral, ruby (sometimes with a tinge of yellow which makes it look like amberina), and royal blue. Again, please remember that this swan came in only the 3-3½" size. (Refer to Welker Catalog reprint, page 26, No. 1040).

The third shape swan (Figs. 4 and 5) was the last swan to be produced, having been begun in the 1940s. This swan has the least feather detail of the three shapes. The wing is flared out from the body of the swan more than that of the earlier swans, especially on the 3-3½" swan. The neck is generally twisted to the right or the left, contrary to the belief that swan necks twisted one way or another are reproductions. The neck of this swan also lacks the fine stippling detail of the two earlier swans. Only one example of this swan has been seen signed. This swan can be found in crystal, milk glass, mandarin gold (yellow brighter than gold krystol), carmen (bright red), moonlight blue, Crown Tuscan, and heatherbloom (pale, clear lavender). Refer to Welker Catalog reprint, pages 13, 15, 21, and 37).

The more unusual and harder to find swans are: royal blue, satin finish with enameled orange beak and grey feet, amber, moonlight blue, and heatherbloom. The Crown Tuscan, emerald, and ruby swans are considered hard to find when they are signed.

The sizes of the swans listed in old company catalogs are: 3", 4½", 6½" 8½", 10", 13", 16" swan punch bowl, and 5 oz. swan punch cup. A 15" swan has also been seen that is not listed in the catalog (this is not the swan punch bowl). The sizes of the swans will vary to a certain extent as the neck was taken out of the mold and curved by hand with the use of a tool. Generally the 3" catalog swans will measure 3" from tail to beak. Any of the other swans may be a half inch to an inch and a half longer depending on the formation of the neck.

The swan punch bowl and cups were made in only the last shape. The bowl came with an oval base which the swan rested on. The cups (Fig. 6) are 3½" high. The body of the swan wraps around the cup with the neck of the swan acting as the handle. The cup is perfectly plain above the body of the swan and three rings form a sort of pedestal base for the cup. These swan punch sets have been seen in crystal and milk glass, as well as one being reported in Crown Tuscan.

The 6½" swan in the first shape was available with a matching colored ladle for use as a mayonnaise. The 10" swan in the first shape was available with a matching colored oval glass liner to hold flowers, described in an old company price list as a swan flower pot. The 4½" swan in the first shape could be purchased with an oval glass candle insert. The 4½" swan in the last shape was also available with a permanent candle holder insert in the swan.

The Crown Tuscan swan has been seen in the 3" and 8½" sizes with hand enameled pink roses, green leaves, and gilding. It is also possible to find gold edging on some of the other colors of swans. The gold edging was done by the Cambridge factory, but the hand enameling was done by another professional decorating firm.

There has been much contention over the reproduction of the swans. The 6½" and 8½" swans were reproduced in extremely limited quantities. They were made for a very short time, were not signed, were not made in colors, and were not the same quality as Cambridge's crystal swans. The 3-3½" swan has been reproduced in four colors; amber, blue purple, and green. They are the later, or third shaped swan, but the detail is not as good, and the neck is quite thick for this size swan. Cambridge did not make the amber swan unsigned; the blue is not a Cambridge color but more of a colonial blue; Cambridge did not make a purple swan (this purple is a clear dark amethyst) and, the green swan tends to be an olive green, a color which Cambridge did not make. Please remember, none of these reproduced swans are signed.

Please keep in mind when hunting these swans that they were hand finished so they will vary in size, they are not all signed, the shape of the neck does not indicate reproduction; and that unusual colors and decorations on swans may be found. Happy Hunting.