Westmoreland Lamps from Mixed PartsBy Mark Chervenka
Westmoreland Lamps from Mixed Parts
Recently Decorated Glass Added to Non-Original Hardware
In December 1999, Karen and Dave Jacobs listed a Westmoreland hand painted Roses & Bows lamp (Fig. 1) on eBay. By the time the auction closed, the lamp received 24 bids with an ending price of $1,006.
The next day, however, the winning bidder called the Jacobs saying she now suspected the lamp was not original and wanted to cancel the deal. The Jacobs purchased the lamp at a small auction and honestly believed it was authentic. A leading reference book on Westmoreland also states no reproductions of this lamp have been made. So is it a copy or an original?
Westmoreland Glass of Grapeville, Pennsylvania, made glass from 1889 until it closed in 1984. In 1976 the company introduced a series of lamps, Line 1940, with hand painted designs (Fig. 8). The lamps were withdrawn from the catalog in 1977 and are considered rare by Westmoreland buyers.
Up to 1999 these lamps typically brought $250-$400. However, in 1999, an original Bows & Roses decorated lamp sold for $1000. Since the number of fakes assembled, or "married", from parts and pieces has steadily increased.
The faked lamps are particularly confusing because they include apparently genuine hand painted glass parts in Westmoreland patterns signed by original Westmoreland decorators. On close inspection, however, the vast majority of these parts have only recently been painted by former Westmoreland decorators who now do private work.
New glass parts or genuinely old but originally undecorated glass is taken to the decorators for painting. The newly hand painted glass is then combined with miscellaneous hardware to build a complete lamp which is offered as original.
The decorators, of course, are doing nothing wrong, only making a living at their trade. Many legitimate new glass dealers also hire the decorators to create modern day collectibles for resale. But that is very different from using recently decorated parts to assemble lamps and deliberately offer them as complete originals as some sellers are now doing.
Separating Old from New
How can you detect a lamp assembled from non-original parts? There are several clues. First, carefully examine the shape of the glass lamp body. All Line 1940 glass bodies are the urn shape shown in the catalog photo in Fig. 8 and Fig. 2.
If you find any other shape used as a Line 1940 lamp body, you should immediately be suspicious. Keep in mind that many of the non-original body shapes (like Fig. 1) may have what appears to be original painted decorations. But the new paintings can be applied to any shape by the former decorators.
The non-original lamp body shown in Fig. 5, for example, has been recently painted with the Roses and Bows pattern. The new painting is virtually identical to the original decoration. However, the shape of the lamp body is entirely wrong. It is too narrow and has raised beads, completely unlike the original shape. If the body is not the right shape, it can't be original regardless of how it's decorated.
Correct shape alone, though, is not enough to guarantee authenticity of all glass parts. Melon ribbed crimped glass shades virtually identical to original shades are readily available from present day lamp parts suppliers. The new shade in Fig. 9, for example, costs only $14. New shades like these are then taken to the glass decorators for painting and mixed in with other parts to build a complete lamp. All original Line 1940 shades have a 7" fitter rim. Any other size is non-original. (See #1 under Notes)
Another good test is to examine the brass base. Brass bases for original Line 1940 lamps are made of three separate pieces: a heavy cast base with four flat feet, a thin pressed collar and a thin pressed connector (Fig. 7). The other important feature of original cast bases is the pierced openings around the top edge.
The faked base in Fig. 6 is made of only two pieces, both cast. The original is formed of three pieces, only one of which is cast. Also note that the suspect base does not have the pierced holes found in the original.
You can expect to find many styles of incorrect bases. Some of these bases can be quite confusing. The brass base in Fig. 6, for example, has a molded in copyright date of 1970. But don't be mislead. Just because original Westmoreland lamps were made in the 1970s, a date alone does not prove this is an original base. If the base of a Line 1940 lamp does not look like the base in Fig. 7, be suspicious.
Detecting new paint that has been applied to an old but originally undecorated piece of glass is very difficult. Since the decorators applying the new paint today are the same persons who decorated the Westmoreland originals, there are no technical differences between new and old paintings.
However, the vast majority of original Westmoreland hand painted decorations done before the closing in 1984 are dated, usually near the signature. Paintings by the former decorators done since 1984 are not dated. Authentic Line 1940 painted lamp parts should be dated only those years of original production, 1976, 1977, 1978. One other tip used to date paintings is the gold trim. Gold trim on new paintings has a bright mirrorlike finish that is highly reflective. Gold trim on original Line 1940 lamps is almost always a dull matte finish.
The Jacobs were fooled by a very clever fake. To avoid similar mistakes, carefully compare bases, body shapes, signatures and dates to known originals. Dates alone may not be 100% reliable as a seller might add dates without telling the decorator. If you can't examine the lamp in person, ask very specific questions about those features before buying over the Internet or over the phone. Make sure your receipt includes a statement of the approximate date of production. If a seller simply writes "Westmoreland lamp", that alone is not a statement of age or authenticity.
Other Westmoreland Reproductions
Lorraine Kovar, author of Westmoreland Glass Vols I & II, tells ACRN that new ruby staining is also being applied to genuinely old but originally undecorated pieces, mostly on the Waterford pattern pieces. Kovar says original ruby stain is smooth and slick; your thumb will easily glide over the surface. New ruby stain has a not-quite-dry tacky surface that your thumb will not glide over.
Many Westmoreland molds were sold when the business closed in 1984. Principle buyers were Fenton, Summit Glass and Rosso Glass. Fenton marks all of its items made in Westmoreland molds; Rosso marks some, Summit marks none. Some new pieces made from those Westmoreland molds still have various molded in Westmoreland marks.
The best protection against buying a reproduction from an original mold is to know what colors and types of decorations were originally produced. Many of the Westmoreland reproductions can be detected by a greasy, slippery feeling found on most pressed glass reproductions.
Notes 1. Westmoreland made the glass bodies for original Line 1400 lamps but not the shades. The shades were made at a lower cost for Westmoreland by The Beaumont Co. of Morgantown, West Virginia.
Special thanks to Karen & Dave Jacobs for loaning their lamp for photography.