Imperial Art Glass: Elegant Stretch Glass

Fabulous Imperial Art Glass stretch ruffled bowl. The pattern number is 3380 and the piece has the Imperial Glass Company logo, circa 1920.

Fabulous Imperial Art Glass stretch ruffled bowl. The pattern number is 3380 and the piece has the Imperial Glass Company logo, circa 1920.

Imperial Art Glass is, without a doubt, the most elegant of the stretch glass lines, not only because of its base colors or shapes, but because of the richness of its stretch effect. This line was introduced in 1916 by Imperial and represents the highest standards by which all stretch glass is compared. Unfortunately, Imperial’s Art Glass was commonly called “Jewels” by later collectors and the name has continued to be attached to a lot of stretch glass, whether made by Imperial or another manufacturer.

Practically all the Art Glass was made from rather simple vase and bowl molds and all the pieces were “stuck up” for shaping and iridizing. Stuck up pieces are heat-attached to a metal ring and they must be removed by breaking this attachment. This means that the bases of all the pieces had to be ground smooth. Many other pieces of stretch glass made by Imperial were placed into other lines and these pieces will have a normal foot or marie that was placed into a snap for handling.

Most of the Art Glass pieces have the IMPERIAL name within a cross mark. The mark may be ground off the bottom if the base was heavily ground, and, occasionally, the mark will be inside bowls. Some pieces do not have this mark, but their sizes, shapes and iridescence are distinctive of the Art Glass line. On the other hand, many Imperial pieces can have the cross mark, but are not necessarily part of the Art Glass line. These pieces usually have normal marie bases or other colors.

Imperial’s catalog 103G lists the Art Glass line colors. In this listing, five colors are defined: Pearl Amethyst, Pearl White, Pearl Silver, Pearl Ruby and Pearl Green. Pearl White is a frosty white iridescence applied to crystal glass. Pearl Ruby is a heavy yellow-orange iridescence applied to crystal glass; we would call this a deep marigold today. Unfortunately, the name ruby has confused many into thinking that this was a red glass. Pearl Amethyst is a multicolored iridescence applied to a medium purple glass. Pearl Silver is a shiny, silvery iridescence (often with golden overtones) applied to a dark purple glass. Pearl Green is a predominately green-gray iridescence applied to a light green (or ginger ale-colored) glass. These are the only colors “officially” listed in the catalogs.

Other colors have been found, but no Imperial names have been located. Marked and unmarked pieces that use milk glass with what appears as the Pearl Ruby iridescence have been found. There have also been some milk glass pieces with the Blue Ice iridescence applied. Blue Ice is the term used by Imperial in association with its Satin Iridescent Colors (their later line of iridescent ware that we call stretch today). Blue Ice is commonly called “smoke” today. Very rare pieces with what appears to be Pearl Ruby and Pearl Green iridescence have also been seen. To confuse things even more, the No. 26 and No. 28 vases appear to be the same vase that is commonly marked with Imperial’s “NUART” trademark on the base—these are commonly found with iridescence on emerald green glass. No name has been found to describe this effect.

— by David Shetlar

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