More New Fenton Glass Castor InsertsBy

More New Glass Castor Fenton Inserts

Fenton has reproduced opalescent inserts in several colors and patterns. They include opalescent swirl in four body colors: clear, cranberry, vaseline and green. Opalescent dot optic – originally called Windows during the Victorian era – is made in cranberry and yellow (vaseline).

None of the Fenton inserts ACRN purchased or examined were permanently marked; the inserts had only paper labels. However, James Measell, Fenton Glass historian, says there is a Fenton oval logo in the bottom of the cylinder molds used to make the inserts.

"This is a blown piece, so it's hard to get pressure to make the logo sharp," said Measell. "If the glass moves a bit in the mold, the logo gets a bit twisted, and that makes it very hard to see."

Prices ranged from $20 each for the clear body to $35 for colored bodies. New frames including a new Fenton insert have sold for $65. All the new Fenton inserts measure 3¼″ dia. and 5″ tall.

There is no record of any smooth surfaced, straight-sided cylindrical pickle castors made in these opalescent patterns before L. G. Wright starting selling them in the late 1940s. Wright's opalescent inserts were contracted out to various glass makers, primarily Fenton, which made various opalescent patterns from the 1940s through the 1980s. Although the early Wright/Fenton pieces are collectible in their own right, don't mistake them as Victorian.

The process for making opalescent pattern glassware is shown below. All opalescent pattern glassware is made by reheating exposed areas of glass–such as rims or raised pattern elements–to produce the white opalescent effect.

Other than looking for normal wear, there is no practical way to distinguish the current unmarked Fenton inserts from those made during the 1930s-80s. The new inserts could easily be paired up with genuinely old frames and represented as Victorian or pre-1980 Wright.


Fig. 1 New pickle castor inserts made by Fenton. Cranberry opalescent dot optic pattern, left; cranberry opalescent swirl, right.


Fig. 2


Fig. 3 New cranberry opalescent inserts shown in new frames.


Fig. 4 Bottom of new cranberry opalescent insert. Thick clear glass outer layer (black arrow) and flashed cranberry casing inside (white arrow). The thin dark line around the outer edge is a reflection of the inner cranberry casing reflecting off the clear glass outer layer (small black arrow). The new cranberry inserts are cased glass. That is, the cranberry color is a very thin layer of glass, not a single, solid colored body. Cranberry casing is on the inside. The layers are visible by looking at the bottom.


Fig. 5 Bottom view of the new metal castor frame most commonly sold with the new inserts. These new frames are fastened together with Phillip head screws (arrow). These screws are virtually always a guarantee of modern production.


Fig. 6


Fig. 7 Cranberry opalescent pieces by L. G. Wright. Cranberry swirl pickle castor, Fig. 6; cranberry opal swirl and honeycomb (dot optic) tumblers, Fig. 7. The same pattern or spot mold, was used to create the basic opalescent pattern. After the pattern was formed, the final piece–castor insert, tumbler, barber bottle, etc.,–was finished in a shape mold. See patent drawings for construction details.

How opalescent patterns are formed in glass bodies

Figs. 8-11 Figures 8-11 are patent drawings from 1888 for a typical pattern or spot mold used to make an opalescent swirl pattern. First, a small gather of clear glass would be blown into a pattern mold in Fig. 8. The glass comes out of the pattern mold with sharp ridges as in Fig. 9. This ridged mass of glass is then reheated which turns the ridges white. The thin raised ridges heat more quickly than the large mass of glass which does not change color. The glass is then held against the marver (a flat slab of marble or iron) and rotated. This twists the straight opalescent ridges into a spiral opalescent stripes, Fig. 10. The striped opalescent glass is now ready to be blown into a shape mold such as tumbler, vase, pitcher, etc. to produce the final object.

Other opalescent patterns are formed by cutting any desired design into the spot mold. This creates a raised pattern in the glass which can be reheated and turned opalescent. The dot optic pattern, for example, is formed in a spot mold in which a net-like grid is cut into the mold; a coin dot pattern would be produced by cutting disc shapes into the mold. Cased colors, such as cranberry, are created by taking up a small gather of cranberry glass before picking up the clear glass.


Fig. 8
cutaway view


Fig. 9
ridges turn opalescent when heated


Fig. 10
opalescent ridges twisted into spiral


Fig. 11
gather with spirals ready to be blown into shape mold

Above patent drawings from 1888 patent of John Miller for his "Method of Manufacturing Ornamental Glass."

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