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Glass Discussion & Research. NO IDENTIFICATION REQUESTS here please. => New Zealand & Australia Glass => Topic started by: Cathy B on November 23, 2004, 10:25:42 AM

Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: Cathy B on November 23, 2004, 10:25:42 AM
On the advice of Bernard, I have shifted this post from another thread.

Hello Glen, Frank, Bernard, Marcus and everyone,

Can I ask a question, as a novice researcher battling alone without training or resources...

In my limited research of Australian glass, I've discovered that Crown Crystal were rampant copiers of overseas glass, particularly in the 1930s. As such, what sort of proof is acceptable before one can state, for certain, that a piece of glass is definitely made by a particular company?

In the past the collecting fraternity have been conviced that any pattern which appears in Crown Crystal catalogues, but which also was made by other companies, must have been imported into Australia by Crown Crystal and then included in their catalogues. It is an incredibly strong belief within the Australian collecting fraternity, apparently without any proof whatsoever other than someone's guess.

However, I've found documents, from 1935 to some time in the mid-1940s, which prove beyond doubt that at the very least, the moulds were made which copied patterns from overseas companies. I don't know whether the glass was pressed or not. The August Walther pattern "Greta", which is available on the internet via Siegmar Geisselberger's site, is one which appears in these documents. Also Bagley's equinox vase.

Now, I've found an equinox shape which differs slightly from the original, in that it has alternatively textured panels, the tops of the panels are slightly rounder, the shape is more like a rugby ball standing on it's end and there is no round mould mark in the bottom of the vase. And of course, the "Made in England" mark is absent.

It's an educated guess that this vase must be the Crown Crystal version, given the colour (which is similar to other Crown pieces), the texture on alternate panels (again, very characteristic of Crown), and that the piece was bought in Australia. It also looks more like the drawing I've seen (although this is rough). But is it Australian? And was it made in the late 1930s, when the mould was ordered?

Likewise, I have found several different "Greta" vases in Australia, clearly made from different moulds, but which would be which? These are difficult, because I personally don't know whether they were ever copied by anyone else - were they ever copied in Czechoslovakia, for instance? (well, I am a novice .

Also, there is the question of the Iris and Herringbone sugar, creamer and butter dishes, as discovered by Angela Bowey in her 1950s catalogue. These seem to have been made from the 1940s (according to a badly photocopied document labelled in pencil "War Catalogue" by collector who is now dead, buried and safe from harrassment by novice researchers wanting clarification...). They also turn up in various opaque ceramic baked finishes, which of course was one of Crown's most common treatments (after the war, when the pot furnace was abandoned, and they stopped making different coloured glass).

It is extremely probable that the ceramic-surfaced Iris and Herringbone is therefore Crown Crystal. But what proof is necessary before you can state this is definitely the case?

And what does this say of the items from earlier catalogues, (1928 - 1934), which are in patterns made overseas?

Coming from a (fairly rudimentary) science background, I know that absolute proof is impossible. But what level of proof do people here feel is necessary to PROVE an identification?

If I have asked this question before, forgive me! It has been playing on my mind.

Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: Cathy B on November 23, 2004, 10:33:52 AM
And here is my reply to Glen, who's opinion is that Crown Crystal (an Australian company) imported items from overseas, and then onsold.

I would welcome comment!


Ah, now Glen, where is your proof that Crown Crystal imported glass?

What I have found is not catalogues, but sketches that accompanied some internal documents. The blueprints themselves are long gone, but the sketches were apparently so that if they were separated, the blueprints and forms could be easily married up. (Glen, I have emailed you more details).

It is possible that some of the glass might not have been pressed, however so many of these are patterns imitating Czech, German, English and American glass that they must have made at least some.

Crown did in fact import crystal blanks, for a short time, from Scotland. They had advertised the resulting crystal as "All Australian Made", which got them an angry mention in Parliament and a visit from an MP. There was a huge kerfuffle over the importing of the glass blanks which were then labelled as Australian glass.

There are two possible conclusions to be drawn from this.

A. Either it was not the extent of the importation. OR

B. As there was so much fuss over these few shipments of glasses, it might be that if any other glass was being passed off as Australian, there would be a similar kerfuffle. And there wasn't - believe me, I have looked. I have looked in the Sydney Morning Herald microfiche until my eyes were watering and my head ached - but that is another story.

In any case, it is possible that that specific instance of glass importation has remained in the collective memories of glass workers, who have Chinese-whispered the story down the generations until the present, where we have several people believing that Crown Crystal imported any glass with imported patterns and included it in their catalogues.

It remains to be truly proven one way or the other, for each specific pattern, whether Crown did import glass. However, what I have found is very good evidence that they definitely, absolutely, without a hint of a doubt, DID copy some patterns. Can't publish exact details as yet until copyright issues are ironed out.

Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: Anonymous on November 24, 2004, 12:35:22 AM
a lot of glass was not copied, in the mid 30's some one said MMMmm let's put import tax on glass, so what was done they sent moulds to different glass factories around the world so they could be made without them being taxed, e.g  fostoria USA - fostoria England
Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: JC on November 24, 2004, 02:06:09 AM
I have done a lot of comparisons with the Jeanette version of  Iris and herringbone and the one found here in Australia. This has been done by corrrespondence with a collector in USA. I can not come to any other conclusion that crown Crystal copied the Jeanette version. Too many differnces in the mould, To me it doesn't make sense that Jeanette Glass would make a totally different mould to export to Australia.On first look, these items do look the same, untill you start to measure and compare,so why would they do a different mould, why go to all that expense for basically the same result.
Then there is the "chippendale" sugar and creamer,which appears in Crown Crystal's cat. I was told it was not made by CC but by Josef Rindskopf Czech and imported here. I actually had a lady in the USA who had a set, which I believe to be the Czech version.We compared measurements of her version and the version I have here in Australia, they don't match, So again why would a company go  to the expense of different moulds, for basically the same  look.I am a strong believer that CC did make their wares, not imported, and copied other companies items. But this is only my very amatuer opinion and there is no proof, except the items I have had the chance to compare are not from the same moulds.
BTW Cathy keep up the good work, I really enjoy the unfolding saga of Crown Crystal and as the days go by slowly, the mystery will unravel.It just needs someone like you to get in there and have a go. I thank you for this.
Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: Frank on November 24, 2004, 09:27:25 AM

You are doing just great, as Peter says "Patience".  I still have some unanswered questions for twenty years but am certain that one day an answer will pop up. As you are illustrating, comparing different factories production is notoriously difficult and gets worse when they shared craftsmen, moulds and designs (copied or approved)!

Every day sees more of the fruits of collectors research appearing on the web and it can hold a lot more pictures than any book.

As your story grows, more collectors will take an interest and the material available will slowly increase.

Published accounts rarely hold much useful information as the information rarely contains commercially sensitive material. University, National and regional archives are the places to look for the companies internal documents - perhaps starting with a library close the the glassworks.

Also, local papers like to publish interviews with elderly residents although these might not contain any specific details.
Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: Glen on November 24, 2004, 10:48:49 AM
There’s an awful lot to respond to here, so I’ll divide my message into two basic topics:

1. The broad question that Cathy posed - “what sort of proof is acceptable before one can state, for certain, that a piece of glass is definitely made by a particular company?”

2. Cathy’s main area of concern - did Crown Crystal sell other manufacturer’s glass?

(Warning - my ramblings do go on - readers may feel the need of a strong coffee before embarking on it all).

What sort of proof is acceptable before one can state, for certain, that a piece of glass is definitely made by a particular company?

That’s the sort of question that is so fundamental, yet so impossibly hard to answer, that it stops you in your tracks. I can only give you my personal opinion on this, and frankly I guess there are probably more shades of opinion on the issue than there are varieties of Starbucks’ beverages!

So I’ll stick my head above the parapet and start waffling. Please note this is my opinion only.

I don’t think there is a perfect answer to the question. There isn’t a set of rules that governs glass research. For each individual, the answer might be different. One person may be easily satisfied and convinced while another may need reams of proof. Some Doubting Thomases may need more proof than is ever possible to achieve.

For my own purposes however, I would say that a range of things need to be in place before one can state that a piece of glass is definitely made by a company (please note that I have deliberately left out the words “for certain”).

For a start, a catalog entry is a good thing to have. There’s nothing quite so comforting as seeing the piece you are searching for in black and white inside a manufacturer’s catalog. Surely that clinches the entire matter? If you have a catalog illustration of your piece inside the pages of a catalog then that’s it. What more do you need? Whoah! Stop. It means no such thing. It doesn’t clinch it at all. Glass manufacturers plagiarised designs like crazy. If something sold well, then hey, it got copied. It’s happened all over the world. It’s still happening today.

Not only did designs get copied, but moulds also got sold from one factory to another. And then just to confuse the situation further, some big mould shops made moulds for more than one factory. You want more confusion? Some manufacturers made moulds for other companies in virtually identical patterns to ones that they produced themselves. You want more confusion? Some companies sold glass made by other companies too.

So let’s get back to that original question - “what sort of proof is acceptable before one can state, for certain, that a piece of glass is definitely made by a particular company?” Well, I guess I’d say you’d need more than just a catalog entry, based on what I’ve just been saying. What I would also be looking for would be a range of circumstantial evidence. For example:

Signature Characteristics of the glass itself
Most makers have tell-tale characteristics evident in the glass they make. Colors, for example. Some factories used colors that are typical of them. Or the finish - Josef Inwald, for example, had polished bases that are as good as a fingerprint for me. Trademarks are useful too.

Location of “finds”
Not concrete evidence, but another little bit to add to the big picture. Some makers are known to have exported significantly to certain areas and hardly at all to other zones.

Other Stuff
Such as archive letters and order forms, blue-prints, patents, wholesale catalogs, contemporary ads and trade articles etc. Logic, argument and rationale can help too.

These are just a few of the things that would help to back up other evidence. But as for proof - full, final and absolute proof - that’s a bit trickier to attain when you’re talking about old glass. Here’s a scenario that might illustrate what I’m trying to say:

In Carnival Glass, the Grape & Cable pattern was made by two manufacturers, Northwood and Fenton. There are records: in particular we have archive ads in the form of Butler Brother’s catalogs, that confirm the pattern was made by these two manufacturers. Circumstantial evidence supports it all fully, even down to the signature colors, shapes and characteristic finishing done by these two makers. Now let’s say our mystery piece is a pie crust edge, Grape & Cable marigold bowl with a moulded N mark, found in the USA. All the evidence supports Northwood as the maker. The pattern, the signature pie crust edging, the N trademark, the location of the “find”. It all adds up. It’s got to be Northwood. Right? Well, not necessarily. It could quite easily be a fake - a modern far eastern repro. The fly in the ointment that has been the undoing of many a collector’s wallet. All the supposed “proof” is there, yet only experience will tell you if you have a fake or a repro.

So, even when you think you’ve sealed it up with as much “proof” as you can muster, there is still room for doubt, which is why I (personally) feel that it’s never going to be absolutely, 100% possible, to establish a set of accepted rules on which to base full and final proof, in every case. Sometimes we have to go with “maybe” and “probably”. Show the evidence, stack it up and present it, make your case and stick your neck out. Time may prove the evidence to be flawed in some way - but so what? That’s what research is all about. Every step is a step forward in some way. Don’t be afraid to be wrong.

Now for question 2.

Did Crown Crystal sell other manufacturer’s glass?

Now there’s a conundrum. In my opinion, yes they did. But let me qualify this please. I’m no expert on Crown Crystal. I haven’t had the opportunity that Cathy has to study on the spot (so to speak). My interests and first hand experience of their glass is primarily their fabulous Carnival (and it is amazing, glorious and totally unique stuff - magical - I adore it). I have studied their catalogs from the early 1930s and my comments are based on that - and my knowledge of other glass producers around that time.

And stop a moment, when I say that I think they sold other manufacturer’s glass, I am not suggesting that they didn’t make gigantic quantities of their own glass too. But what it seems to me is that they had, in their items on offer, a few examples of other makers’ glass too.

And stop again, please. I reckon that Cathy is right on when she says that she believes Crown Crystal plagiarised other designs and produced look-alikes themselves. Absolutely. It makes total and complete sense to me. They spotted a good seller in a simple and easy-to-copy pattern, so they made a look-alike mould and churned out the stuff themselves. It happened all the time in other factories in other countries. Frankly, a study of some of the European catalogs in the 1930s will leave you dizzy with “I’ve seen that pattern before” fever.

So I guess that now I need to clarify exactly what I mean when I say that I think Crown Crystal did sell some other manufacturers’ glass. Well, I reckon that there are a few items in their catalogs that they tucked in - here and there - that were not made by them. These would be items that they got in bulk, very cheaply. One example is the Rising Sun covered sugar. I can’t imagine for a moment why Crown Crystal would go to the vast expense of making a highly complex, multi-part mould, with three handles and a lid, in an intricate, multi-faceted, geometric design - when they could buy the actual glass goods at rock bottom price. Not only do the economics not stack up, the look and style of the glass doesn’t either.

The identical item was made in a full pattern suite by the United States Glass conglomerate in the USA. It was exported around the world. It was made in huge quantities and sold to hotels. In the 1930s, Australia was importing sufficient amounts of American made glass to be able to give the stuff away as freebies with tea. So why on earth would Crown Crystal want to make their own mould for a Rising Sun three handled sugar when they could buy the glass for next to nothing?

There are other items (not many, just a few, here and there) that I believe were also bought in and sold on. Surely, if they could make an extra bit of profit easily, they would do just that? But to set the record straight, I can see Cathy’s point of view fully, when she says that she believes that Crown Crystal also did their own version of several popular patterns. It seems to me that they did a bit of everything. They made their own fabulous originals (in the case of the Carnival examples, these are often marked with a press-moulded RD number), they copied some best-sellers (as did mostly every other company in one way or another) and they also tucked a few bits of other makers’ glass in there too. They were like pretty much every other company - they needed to make money.

So that’s my point of view. Sticking my neck out again.  :lol: Reckon I need that double tall latte now.

Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: Anonymous on November 25, 2004, 12:47:12 PM
Thanks to Glen for her reply!

I think perhaps I should explain why I am so caught in this subject. Within Australia, there has been an orthodox belief within the collecting community that Crown Crystal never plaigerised patterns. Ever. So any pattern that is found within the catalogues which bears a faint resemblance to anything found in overseas catalogues has been deemed to be foreign, not collected and therefore of no interest.

It can be terribly frustrating battering against such a collective closed mind! Iris and Herringbone is apparently Jeanette, full Jeanette and nothing but Jeanette. Anything which appears not in a suite of patterns is "probably Czech". Even shown as-close-as-possible to absolute proof otherwise (and proof that the moulds were made is fairly good!) I have been told "No, that's English."

I had infact mis-read Glen's original comments to mean she was of the same mindset, and hope she excuses the libel!

I don't think I can add to Glen's criteria for "proof". It would be interesting to see whether anyone else had any feelings. Perhaps examples of pitfalls or mistakes?

For me, this is criteria to cover your tail, so that you are not shot down for an embarrassing oversight after your name is in print.  If you are going to make an error, at least let it be a defensible one!

As for the rising sun pattern, I agree entirely. I've never seen anything in the pattern look remotely like Australian glass, unlike the Wyoming pattern. Half the time it's stained, and as far as I'm aware Crown never stained their glass (apart from their ceramic coating). It's also clear, heavy, and frankly much nicer glass than Crown's normal, run of the mill stuff.

Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: Cathy B on November 25, 2004, 12:51:04 PM
That last post was genuinely me. I was logged in, I swear it!  
...notice board bugs...mutter, grumble... :evil:
Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: Ivo on November 25, 2004, 02:12:09 PM
Quote from: "Anonymous"

"... there has been an orthodox belief within the collecting community that Crown Crystal never plagiarised patterns. Ever....."

Whoaaaaah!  THAT would be a first!
Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: Glen on November 25, 2004, 02:30:24 PM
Thanks for your reply, Cathy.

You mentioned the way in which some patterns that are shown in the Crown Crystal catalogs are often vaguely attributed as “probably Czech” or “English”. Oh how well I know that scenario with regard to Carnival Glass.  :roll: For many years, anything that wasn’t easily identified, was dismissed with a wave of the hand as being “foreign” or (and I loved this one) “English”.

Steve (my husband) and I once gave an illustrated lecture to a Carnival audience that was called “It must be English”. In the talk we showed many pieces that had been listed (in books) as “English”. They included a whole host of items from the German maker, Brockwitz, as well as glass from Eda in Sweden, Riihimaki in Finland, Inwald and Rindskopf in Czechoslovakia plus a bunch of stuff from India.

The audience loved it! :lol:

And now I’m going to go against previous advice given in this thread, and urge you to neither calm down nor to have patience. Some of us are born to take things in their stride and handle things with quiet calm. Others, like me, on the other hand, get fired up, emotional and passionate!  :twisted: And from what I can glean of your character, you’re rather a lot like me.

I was once accused of being obsessed with glass (not all glass, you understand - just Carnival Glass) and I actually took it as a compliment, though it wasn’t meant that way (the “lady” who spat the comment at me isn’t a glass collector). For me, the endless hours spent staring at documents, comparing glass and travelling around the world to source examples and information, are the very stuff of obsession! And ain’t it great?

So go for it Cathy. Get fired up, allow a little obsession into your life and enjoy it.
Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: Glen on November 26, 2004, 08:58:44 AM
Does anyone else feel like chipping in on the non-Australian part of this thread?

“What sort of proof is acceptable before one can state, for certain, that a piece of glass is definitely made by a particular company?”

(Apologies for using the word "chipping" on a glass message board :twisted: )

Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: Frank on November 26, 2004, 10:16:19 AM
That is easy Glen,

1. Memories are unreliable.
2. Faking is popular
3. Plagiarism, licensing/sale of design, similarity, etc.


First hand account, supported by photographs and a sworn legal statement to the effect.

I should add that even this would not be a complete guarantee but about the most that could be achieved given human nature.

I believe similar questions are raised in most areas of pholsophy and ultimately the question falls into that category.

Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: Glen on November 26, 2004, 12:41:42 PM
I would certainly support the view that first hand accounts, with photos and a sworn legal statement would do the trick.

But....... I wish that were a practical option in some of the areas I work in. Attempting to get first hand accounts, sourced from some distant countries, for a time line that would date back to the early 1900s, would be rather difficult (certainly for me, anyhow) :roll:

Back to photos for a moment - they can help us with all sorts of amazing background information as well. One of the most astounding discoveries of the year (for me) was the uncovering of a mass of archive photos of the Rindskopf glass works.

Glass research is detective work - especially when one is looking back to the 1800s and early 1900s.

Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: Frank on November 26, 2004, 01:35:20 PM
My previous reaction is probably closest to truth but it is also possible to be more pragmatic unless one is firmly entrenched in the philosophical perspective.

It can be just as difficult getting data from as little as 10 years ago. I have found a wide variety of 'opinion' and first hand tales which are often in complete opposition.

At the end of the day you are left with the option of grading researched information into a number of groups.

Beyond reasonable doubt,

1. Supported by documentary evidence.
2. Supported by verbal/written evidence from multiple sources.

Some doubts remain,
1. Supported by first hand verbal evidence
2. Supported by inference from related sources

Moving into hearsay,
1. Supported by contemporary press reports
2. Supported by second hand verbal/written evidence
3. Supported by previous research where the researcher has been doubted.

1. Rumour.
2. Stories passed through several hands.

However with hand made glass there is the potential to provide an attribution from techniques that are known 'fingerprints' of the maker. Moulds ownership and provenance, as we have seen, can be taken as good source. Catalogues of the factory, although non-photographic types can lead to uncertainty.

The issue of a product being made in the attributed glassworks can also be taken at two levels and is largely personal taste.
1. This was a product sold in that region by that company as their product with their mark or label regardless of actual maker. It is their product.
2. They did not make it.

Stuart Strathearn, Crieff Scotland. Produced at Stuart Crystal in Stourbridge marked as and sold as a product of Stuart Strathearn.

Jules Lang, London and UK. Own design registration but just a retailer. Maybe they actually designed the pieces they registered in the UK and maybe not!

Tony Henry, Baccarat, France. Retailer of Baccarat in early 20th century, now a git shop of the same name. Items have appeared on eBay as Tony Henry.
Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: Glen on November 26, 2004, 01:41:55 PM
Quote from: "Frank"
Tony Henry, Baccarat, France. Retailer of Baccarat in early 20th century, now a git shop of the same name.

No doubt aimed at selling to the lower echelons.  :lol:

Seriously now - I enjoyed reading your further comments Frank. Thanks
Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: Frank on November 26, 2004, 01:58:41 PM
My French IS bad  :oops:

And I forgot

Supported by Octopus
Title: What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia
Post by: KevinH on November 26, 2004, 07:44:09 PM
Hi folks,

I felt I really should say something about "scientific proof" - which in fact usually turns out to be no real proof at all, but may be useful in some circumstances.

Ultravoilet and Specific Gravity testing.

Most of us know about the claims of proof of glassware containing uranium, "because it glows green under blacklight". And many of us are also aware that a green UV reaction does not necessarily indicate uranium content (it seems that most soda glass, and aslo lots of lead glass, will show as green under longwave UV light [blacklight]). This highlights a very relevant difficulty with regard to UV testing.

But UV tests can be helpful in cases where enough items from a supposedly known company are checked out. Where testing of many pieces shows one or more definite ranges of UV reaction, any similar item that does not conform can be marked as "possibly not from the supposed maker". It will then require further evidence to establish whether the item is indeed from a different company or is actually the first seen of a new range of UV results from the primary company. The differing UV results indicate a change in the main glass batch, which can easily be the case within any company, particulalry a long-established one.

In my specialist field of Ysart (and other Scottish) paperweights, working on the back of original investigations of other PCC members, I have established that there are, indeed, distinct UV results for various items. These have helped to show that certain items are not Ysart (one specific is that fake py weights show a UV result that is not seen for any period of the genuine item).

So, perhaps if enough pieces from any company are examined under UV, a set of results can be drawn up that act as a guide to "genuineness"?

But UV testing has several drawbacks. Not least of which is the fact that using just a blacklight is not really adequate. Shortwave UV will often show a different result for the same item and it is this dual testing that sets the guide criteria.

Another drawback is that different folk can see colours in different shades (and I am told that generally, the colour sensitivity of men and women is different). This means that a UV reaction in, say, a shade of green, may be described differently by the various observers, with perhaps some claiming a "match" to a guide colour and others saying it's not so!

As for Specific Gravity tests, these can help to identify different glass mixes - for example, a basic soda mix may have a SG value of say 2.4 whereas a lead mix could be at least 2.6. But as with UV tests, SG measures are not definitive and are subject to personal testing variations as well as "technical complications".

I have, however, been able to verify that even though my own SG results differ somewhat from similar tests by others, the results can consistently show items that stand out as "questionable". Again, the fake Ysart paperweights are a good example, where the SG measures are clearly not of the same normal range as the genuine items.

The main caveat with SG tests is pretty much the same as for UV checks - it is not possible to identify a specific company or maker as the producer of a given piece. Only by testing many pieces can a general rule of thumb be drawn up and used as a guide for identifying "oddities".

Both UV and SG tests can therefore be helpful as an additional clue in the excitement (or tedium?) of research.

I have no idea whether these tests would be helpful in checking out the Aussie bits and pieces. But it could be worth a try.