Antique collectors search flea markets and shops for depression glassware. There seems to be nothing interesting about the cheap-looking, coloured carnival glass, but those people who hunt down depression glassware know exactly why they love it – because the glassware pieces represents an era. Found in all shapes and sizes, colors and hues, the glass is snapped up by collectors and antique dealers everywhere.

Depression glassware saw its birth in 1905, first created by the Fenton Art Glass Company. The typical piece has an iridescent sheen through a glass-processing treatment called ‘doping,’ the application of metallic salts to hot glass. Depression glassware comes in many colors and opacities, from milky white to amethyst, and the glass was crafted into both serviceable and curio items.

Fenton went on to use the glass to produce decorative art referred to as ‘Iridill,’ but the pieces didn’t command the original marketplace prices, so Fenton ended up discounting their depression glassware. The glass pieces became popular as carnival prizes and give-aways, hence the common name for depression glassware – carnival glass. Pieces were also used as promotion incentives, tucked inside cereal boxes, or laundry detergent.

Shopping for Antique Pieces

It’s difficult to tell which depression glassware pieces are valuable and which are not. None of the pieces were marked by the manufacturer to indicate production dates or batch lots, and there were many production reissues of the same piece or pattern. If you manage to collect a certain set of depression glassware, you can expect that one or more of the pieces were manufactured at different times and don’t truly belong in the same production set. Trying to track down sets involves matching patterns, glass thickness, exact colors, iridescence, and many other minute factors that make differentiation depression glassware pieces a challenge and a calling.

Once common, depression glassware has faded from popularity and older pieces are hard to find in mint condition. Used as everyday, household items, depression glassware earned its keep around the home and, most often, pieces are chipped around edges or have tiny cracks. If you’re looking to buy a piece of carnival glass, hold it up to the light to try and see through the piece. Fine cracks will show up much better when they catch the light. Surface scratches are also common on individual pieces. One thing is for sure, each piece found today bears marks of having a rich history within someone’s family.