By HELAINE FENDELMAN and JOE ROSSON — Dear Helaine and Joe:
Enclosed are photographs of a glass pitcher that has three colors -- yellow, clear and cobalt blue. Could you please give me information on when it was made and its worth? I believe it is Amberina. The condition is excellent with no chips. It is 4-1/2 inches tall. It has a reed handle and polished pontil.
A.A.B., Methuen, Mass.
We apologize for the picture of this rather unusual piece being a tad out of focus. Normally, we would just not have answered, but this is such an unusual piece that we thought we would -- as they say -- give it a go.
We are going to start by saying that this is absolutely not "Amberina," which is a heat-shaded glass with hues of red and amber.
Glass that changed color during the reheating process has been known throughout the 5,000 years of glassmaking. In the earliest days, when a craftsman making a green bottle placed it back in the fire to reheat it for finishing purposes, the reheated part turned red.
This, of course, was because of the chemical composition of the glass mixture, which was made using copper and iron (among other things), and the pieces that struck this color combination were often just discarded as defective. Glasshouse workers in Europe and America knew about this problem, but Joseph Locke, who was working for the New England Glass Co. in Boston, decided he could exploit this occurrence commercially.
In Locke's 1883 formula, a tiny amount of colloidal gold was suspended in a batch of amber glass, and when an object made from this recipe was reheated, the reheated portion turned red and Amberina was more or less born. Many companies around the world made this product, and it is still being made today.
In Wheeling, W.Va., a company made a glass that shaded from red to blue that it called Ruby Sapphire. And glass shading from a deep cobalt blue to ruby came to be called Bluerina.
All of the above were heat-shaded glasses, but other manufacturers devised a cheaper way to make look-a-like products by applying ("flashing") a layer of color (or colors) on top of another color of glass.
We believe the small cream or milk pitcher belonging to A.A.B. was probably made in Bohemia or Germany circa 1900. It is a lovely example of flashed glass worth $200 to $250 for insurance purposes.
(Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of "Price It Yourself" (HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928. Email them at email@example.com.)