Today on Facebook Elizabeth posted a bowl that looked so familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. Bowl was Cambridge, but what was that cutting? Have you had that experience?
The book I used to finally nail down the cutting, Elegant Glassware of the Depression Era Thirteenth Edition (Elegant Glassware of the Depression Era: Identification & Value Guide), is an excellent resource to help identify glass. Authors Cathy and Gene Florence are the couple that produced the top depression glass reference book for years. This book on elegant glass covers about 125 patterns made partially by hand from the late 1920s to the early 1960s It is invaluable to help you get familiar with cuttings, etched patterns, glassware shapes and styles from the top American glass companies.
Gene Florence coined the term “Elegant Glass” to cover “good glass”, the crystal stemware you kept in the cupboard and treated with care. He had originally written the depression glass books to cover collectible glass from the depression era but found it simply made more sense to separate the glass made solely by machine, depression glass, from that made at least in part by hand, elegant glass. He wasn’t fanatical about the separation and you’ll find glass with some hand work in his depression glass books, mostly patterns from mid-range companies like New Martinsville or Paden City, that were originally collected as “depression glass”.
This book, Elegant Glassware of the Depression Era Thirteenth Edition (Elegant Glassware of the Depression Era: Identification & Value Guide), is the last in his long-running series. Florence retired shortly after finishing this due to ill health.
We in the glass collecting world owe Florence a debt of gratitude for his meticulous work researching and identifying patterns. He was one of the people who popularized glass collecting back in the 1970s. It’s much easier to enjoy collecting when you know what you are doing, and you can feel safe. Pattern books and price guides, even though always incorrect, help us get a sense of relative value. Prices are usually directionally accurate, meaning that if blue is priced higher than green in the books, you will most likely find that to be true in the real marketplace.
This book is easy to use, with each pattern photographed as a close up to show detail and in groupings. The groupings have a number key to help you match up the picture with the piece listing. That makes it so much easier to use! I know when I first started the piece names were so confusing and so difficult to tell apart just by dimension, and the picture guides are a huge help.
I earlier recommended the Elegant Glass book by Coe and Coe, which is also an excellent reference guide. The two books have some overlap in patterns but Florence includes more patterns. He gives excellent coverage to Cambridge, Fostoria, Heisey and Tiffin, with other glass companies represented by a handful each of patterns. That makes sense because these are the four big names in collectible elegant glass.
Florence does a good job explaining the differences between similar patterns, for example between Fostoria Fairfax and Fostoria Lafayette. He includes interesting tidbits of information about most of the patterns, some of it is opinionated, but it’s fun to read and educational.
I highly recommend this book, Elegant Glassware of the Depression Era, to anyone who enjoys quality glass, collects glass or is serious about learning more about this beautiful part of our heritage.