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From the Bulletin’s archive …

Carnival glass easily catches the eye because of the beautiful bright colours and the lustre finish.

Carnival glass is created using a mould, and has had a coating of liquid metallic salts applied after it has been taken from the mould to give the surface an iridescent lustre.

The Carnival Glass Collectors Association of Australia Inc. provides a wealth of information about carnival glass, its origins, and its history.

The American company, Fenton Art Glass Co, was founded in 1905 by Frank and John Fenton, and is credited with being the first producer of press-moulded iridised glassware, now called carnival glass. Thus the home of carnival glass was the USA, but it was also produced in England, Europe, Central and South America, India, China and Australia.

The Australian Crystal Glass Company Limited was established following the amalgamation in 1926 of the Balmain Glass Works, the Crown Glass Works, the Crystal Glass Works, and the Zetland Glass Works.

Crystal Glass Company Limited produced most of its carnival glass in the mid to late 1920s. Of their most famous carnival glass patterns, the ‘Kingfisher’ was registered in 1923, while the ‘Kangaroo’, ‘Swan’, ‘Emu’, ‘Kookaburra’, ‘Magpie’, and ‘Waratah’ were registered in 1924.

Production of most of these patterns had ceased by 1929. A ‘Koala’ pattern and a ‘Lyrebird’ pattern were also registered in 1924, but appear to have never made it into production. The ‘Kiwi’ pattern was registered in 1926.

Like most other carnival glass manufacturers, Crystal Glass Company Limited made carnival glass in a variety of shapes, including small and large bowls, compotes, cake salvers, pitchers, tumblers, sugar bowls, creamers, butter dishes, vases, float bowls, and flower frogs.

Carnival glass by Crystal Glass Company Limited was made primarily in two colors – ‘marigold’ and ‘dark’. ‘Marigold’ is an orange iridescence on clear glass, while the base glass of ‘dark’ can very from light purple through to black, with a silvery iridescence. A few aqua based marigold pieces exist, and these have a light aqua color to the glass around the base only.

Poor man’s Tiffany and how it got named carnival glass

During the ‘prime’ carnival glass era, the glass was referred to by various names including iridescent glass, poor man’s Tiffany, Imperial Jewels, Imperial Art Glass, taffeta, lustre glass, Aurora and even rhodium ware. It was sold as a cheaper alternative to Tiffany glass through stores such as Woolworths in the USA, with prices usually less than $1.

By 1930 the initial popularity of the glass ware had started to fade, and so businesses started to offer the glassware as bonuses for purchasing other items, eg, one sugar bowl with every 24 pound bag of flour, and so forth. It also appeared as prizes in carnival side shows, and thus the name ‘carnival glass’ emerged, and stuck.

Of all the companies that originally made carnival glass, worldwide, only the Fenton Art Glass Company continues today, although the prices are somewhat higher than their original products.

Current values of carnival glass vary dramatically depending on the maker, the pattern, the colour, when it was produced, what condition it is in, and which market it is being sold in.

 ‘Til next time,


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  1. it’s so interesting to hear about australian carnival glass – have you any examples/ images to describe visually what aust. carnival glass looks like?

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