Chances are, you see those elongated, colorful glass vases everywhere. Just about any yard sale, estate sale or flea market features at least one.
So what are they called? Will they work in today’s homes? And are they worth anything?
Let’s start with the definitions. There are “stretch vases” and “swung vases,”
Stretch vases are often iridescent, with a distinctive “onion skin” appearance. This happens when mineral salts are applied before the vase has been shaped, causing the iridescence to stretch and “crinkle.” They’re technically different from Carnival Glass, which is first pressed, then crimped, ruffled or flared, with mineral salts added last.
Swung vases, on the other hand, were created when the glassblower held the “gather” on the end of the blow pipe and, using a special tool swung the molten glass in a circle to elongate it. Some people call them “sling vases,” but that isn’t correct.
Some of the companies best-known for swung vases are Viking Art Glass, L. E. Smith Glass Company and Fenton. Other companies include Tiffin, Fostoria and Pilgrim.
Many swung vases were sold with paper or foil labels, rather than with an engraved manufacturer’s name. Many other companies jumped on the swung vase bandwagon, which makes them a challenge to identify. These design hints can help:
Bryce Higbee is one of the oldest companies that produced swung vases. Their stunningly slender “Cut Log” (Ethol) pattern goes back to 1889. Each vase is exceedingly tall and since each is hand-finished, no two are exactly alike. Mine does not feature the classic “bee” mark, although many do.
Viking used foil stickers (most of which are long gone), and was known for its brightly colored vases. In 1951 alone, they produced Crystal, Ruby, Evergreen, Amber, Black (Ebony), Cobalt blue and Colonial Blue. In addition, Viking introduced the extremely popular Epic Six Petal line that was made from 1956-1975. This free-form design features six “sides” or petals on each piece. Epic began with 14 pieces in amber, amethyst, charcoal, crystal and olive green. The line soon grew to more than 50 pieces and introduced Bluenique, a sort of cross between cobalt and royal blue.
Fenton was also known for swung vases, and can often be recognized because virtually no Fenton pieces have a pontil mark on the bottom (Fenton used snap rings instead of punty rods to hold the glass during manufacture.)
If a vase is true Carnival Glass, suspect Fenton – they pretty much introduced Carnival Glass in 1907 as “poor man’s Tiffany” under the Iridill name.
Most swung vases are still very affordable, as you can imagine. That’s because so many are still available today. Some, either with original label attached, or a known brand name, command higher prices. And others, such as the Bryce Higbee “Cut Log” vase, are a bit pricier since they are so elongated and fragile — although it’s surprising how many have survived for more than 130 years!
Swung vases and stretch vases easily lend themselves to one or two dramatic floral stems, and can make a bold statement in a minimalist interior, perfectly complement a mid-century design, or serve as a colorful focal point in any Art Deco room.
Books on Fenton Glass:
Fenton Art Glass: A Centennial of Glass Making