Mark of the Week: Gibson Glass Company
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A popular figurine for Gibson Glass was that of a little praying angel that was reproduced from the same mold in an astonishing variety of glass types. Shown here is an angel in emerald green glass that sold on eBay for $15.99 in 2015.
Gibson Glass Company was founded in 1976 by Charles Gibson, a former Indiana Glass, Biscoff Glass, and Blenko Glass employee. The company closed only one year after opening because Charles Gibson decided to serve as an ordained minister.
Gibson Glass Company was reopened in 1983 in Milton, West Virginia, by Charles and his son Philip. They were in operation until 2006, when the company closed permanently due to the failing health of Charles Gibson. Gibson Glass Factory was then purchased by Dave Osburn, also a former Blenko Glass worker, who founded the Osburn Modern Glass Company. Due to the relatively short period of production, Gibson glasswares are not as widespread as other competitor companies’ products. In addition, only a few items exist that were produced in the first period of activity (i.e. 1976-1977), making them the most desired by Gibson Glass collectors. Even important public collections that feature Gibson Glass items, such as The Museum of American Glass in West Virginia, usually keep only modern pieces (i.e. items produced in 1983-2006). The same is true for major auction houses and online auctioneers such as eBay, which also sells modern Gibson glass.
From a technical point of view, Gibson Glass Company specialized in the creation of blown, mold-blown and molded glass. The use of molds, although sometimes stigmatized as an industrial process that prevents designers and craftsmen from creating unique pieces, guaranteed the extreme and absolute consistency of the whole production. Also, since the pieces were usually refined with the addition of specific details, or were created using different colors and types of glass, only few identical objects exist.
Gibson Glass Company created both practical and merely decorative glasswares, including vases, bottles, bowls, decanters, baskets, and oil lamps. A great variety of shapes, colors, and patterns were adopted, and even the items that were produced for practical use were decorated with appealing ornaments that make them highly collectible. In this respect, Gibson Glass Company’s most representative product is the glass cruet. Despite the functional use of the cruets, they have attractive, elongated and sinuous shapes, and are decorated in a wide range of colors and patterns.
A great variety of shapes, colors, and patterns were used by Gibson. Their most representative product is the glass cruet as shown here. This particular cruet sold on eBay for $36.00 in 2007.
Gibson Glass Company is also renowned for their production of paperweights. These objects are among the most sought after by collectors, as they combine a practical function with an astonishing diversity of decorations and ornamental patterns. While some pieces are classic and consist of an iridescent glass sphere, or a glass sphere with simple flower decorations, or have an opal core and iridescent pulled feather motives, others are absolutely innovative and contain tiny objects (such as animals or flowers) made of ceramic, fully visible through the transparent glass.
Gibson Glass Company is also renown for their production of paperweights. Here we have an “eye’s iris” 1999 blue paperweight that sold on eBay for $11.00 in 2015.
Another best selling Gibson product is figurines, which are merely decorative objects. These little glass statuettes present a great variety of shapes and subjects, including animals, snowmen, dinosaurs, and are all highly collectible. The figures are made from molds, so it is not unusual to find two or more identical pieces in terms of shape, yet diversified by different colors or typologies of glass.
Another best selling Gibson product is figurines, like this glass snowman figurine that sold for $40.00 on eBay in 2013.
In addition to traditional glass, both paperweights and figurines were also made in Vaseline Glass, or Uranium Glass. It consists of a different blend, as uranium oxide is added to the usual glass components. This type of glass has the peculiarity to glow bright green when exposed to ultraviolet light. In natural light, Vaseline glass appears to be yellow or green with an oily sheen that can resemble Vaseline – and here resides the origin of its name. While the U.S. Nuclear Regulation Commission did a study on the possible health risks linked to radiation poisoning caused by the presence of uranium in Vaseline Glass, and agreed that no risk does actually exist, it should be noted that many companies decided not to use Vaseline glass for dinnerware pieces. This is also the case of Gibson Company that used Vaseline glass to create decorative objects as paperweights, and figurines. These items were often obtained from the same molds that were used to produce items in traditional glass, thereby the same model can be found both in traditional and in Vaseline glass.
Shown here is a fluorescent Vasoline glass paperweight in the shape of an apple. In natural light, Vaseline glass appears to be yellow or green with an oily sheen that can resemble Vaseline – and here resides the origin of its name. This beautiful piece sold on eBay for $25 in 2015.
What To Look For
Gibson Glass also produced items in milk glass, carnival glass, and iridescent glass. It should be addressed that the use of the same mold with different types of glass can make it difficult to properly classify the object. For instance, one of the most popular paperweight shapes was that of an apple. Gibson paperweight apples were all obtained through the same mold. Yet we can find apple paperweight in Custard Glass, and identical apple paperweights in Spattered Cobalt Carnival Glass, and in Yellow Carnival Glass. Their shape and dimension are identical, all the items stand 3 1/2” tall and weigh almost 1 1/2 pounds, and yet they look different because of the different types of glass used.
Again, a popular figurine was that of a little praying angel, that was reproduced from the same mold in an astonishing variety of glass types. We can find the same little angel in Vaseline Glass, and in traditional colored glass: Crystal, Blue and White Glass, Emerald Green Iridized Glass, Yellow Glass. Again, shape and dimension correspond precisely, as all these pieces stand 5 1/2” and 3” across.
Therefore, when studying a Gibson glass item, collectors should first consider both the line–tablewares, figurines, paperweights, etc.– and the eventual motif, in respect to figurines, the type of fruit, human figures, animals, etc. One must then combine these elements with the type of glass used –Vaseline, Crystal, Carnival, Milk. The combination of all these elements defines the object, no matter if the mold used to create that object was used again for other items.
Gibson Glass Company adopted two similar marks, both intuitive and very easily recognizable.
- The first one consists of the name of the company, Gibson, written alone and isolated. This mark is rare, as it seems to have been used the most in the first period of activity of Gibson Glass Company, between 1976 and 1977. Still, samples of glasswares marked with this peculiar label do exist, and are highly sought by collectors.
- The second one (in the photo above) presents again the name of the company watermark, inside a circular print. In addition, the year of production is usually written below, separated with a tiny circle, thus providing the collectors with reliable information on the age of the piece. This mark was used in the second period of activity of the company, between 1983 and 2006. The samples provided here offer a good selection of cases with different years of production, all written on the lower base of the items not to interfere with their aesthetic look or use (Gibson 1984; Gibson 1993; Gibson 1995; Gibson 1998; Gibson 1999).
Not all Gibson pieces are marked because not all molds and items have a spot suitable for marking. In addition, Gibson produced special order glasswares without a mark, if so requested. Therefore, an absence of a mark does not necessarily indicate inauthenticity.