All About Carnival Glass

The rainbow colors of carnival glass have caught many a collector’s eye.

Carnival glass is an inexpensive kind of glassware with a rainbow shimmer. Although it got its name from its use at carnivals, that’s not where the glass got its start.

Tiffany made the first iridized art glass, but the formula was expensive, as the iridescence was mixed into the glass instead of sprayed on the surface.Carnival_glass_vase

But then Fenton Glass Company made a cheaper kind of iridescent art glass in 1907: the first carnival glass, then called “Venetian Art” by Fenton. This made the glass much more widely available, although it took a while to catch on. But other glass makers copied the manufacturing process and made it more widely available.

Customers didn’t want to pay a lot for a piece with such a cheap process, so soon the glass was being given away as a prize at carnivals. Forget stuffed animals: glassware was the way to go.

Movie theaters and grocery stores also gave the glass away for promotions. Pieces were otherwise found at five-and-dime stores.

A carnival glass pattern uploaded by Wikimedia commons user russavia, taken by user aussiegall.

A carnival glass pattern uploaded by Wikimedia commons user russavia.

When the Great Depression came around, carnival glass had a decline thanks to the emerging of the depression glass patterns, which were very cheap, colorful machine-made glass.

Carnival glass has been called many things, such as “Taffeta,” “Cinderella,” and “Poor Man’s Tiffany.” It really only got the name “Carnival Glass” after World War II, by which time it had become collectible. Glass companies started to make carnival glass again in the 1970s, but collectors prefer the original, early 20th century pieces.

Red or pastel-hued carnival glass is especially rare. One ice blue carnival glass plate even sold for about $16,000 on eBay.

Do you own or collect carnival glass pieces? Let us know in the comments!


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