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Candlewick: The Glass Jewel

1/1/2010



Candlewick glassware is a loved icon of a nostalgic period only briefly passed.  It is easily identified by its small glass beads interwoven into the pattern that produces an elegant and beautiful look.  It was manufactured from 1936 to 1984 by the Imperial Glass Company that produced more pieces than most people could ever count.  Even though the values have dropped, the demand is still there for the veteran and novice collector.


There are hundreds of different shapes and designs that can fill your collection of products that range from tea cups to dinner plates to wine glasses.  Whatever you want was produced:  mustard and mayonnaise, oil and vinegar, a banana bowl, compotes, ashtrays, nut dishes, coasters, cigarette boxes, punch bowls, candle holders, vases, dresser sets, any and everything conceivable was made for the table and home.  The commonplace items hold the least value; however, the difficult and hard-to-find more, such as the banana boat and covered punch set.


Imperial Glass Company had its beginnings in 1904 and produced jelly glasses and tumblers, but in 1910 through the early 1930's the company catapulted itself into one of the nation's major suppliers of Carnival glass.  However, it was Candlewick that became one of the all-time best sellers because it was not only a high quality crystal, but was also extremely affordable for the average family; Imperial Glass had created the glass jewel for the common man's use.


Earl Newton, a company sales representative, made adaptations from the French Cannonball line that had heavy round glass balls on the base of each piece.  Newton used the idea to produce the distinctive glass bead that is Candlewick's signature.  The name comes from a style of needlework based on the embroidered French knot done on unbleached cotton muslin that was popular in Colonial times. Hence, the name "Candlewick" was born in 1936.


Candlewick's heyday was from its inception to the mid-1950's when the glassware was offered in America's finest department stores such as Gimbals, Macy's, and Marshal Fields.  It was also sold in Woolworth's, Kresge's and other five and dime stores.  Such a marketing technique opened the glassware to every level of society.


The older pieces of Candlewick have an ever-so-slight grayish or faint bluish tinting to the glass when held to the light. It wasn't until the late 1930's that Imperial was able to achieve a total crystal clarity in its glass wares. Real Candlewick, especially the older pieces, will have a flat ground bottom and not have smooth shinny bottom rims.  As a collector, other clues and hints are important to know.  Anchor Hocking and Libbey glass companies tried to copy the line.  Learn to recognize "Boopie" glass which has larger glass beads with mold lines that touch each other on the bases of glasses and bowl rims.  There is little to no value in the copy cats.

My grandmother left me her prized collection of dinnerware that she used only on very special occasions.  As she once said, "no one will ever want this silly old woman's folly of glass dishes that are so easily scratched and have only been used on those memorable events in life."  How wrong she was.  My family has continued to celebrate those life's moments to be cherished with each new scratch that now covers most of the dinner plates.  Start your collection that is steeped in history with the American ideals of entrepreneurship, hard work and perseverance.


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