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How to Identify Fenton Carnival Glass Patterns

Updated April 17, 2017

Once scorned as "Poor Man's Tiffany," Fenton Carnival glass has become a highly sought legacy of the past. This striking glassware features hand-moulded patterns sprayed with metallic salts that create an iridescent effect. Master craftsmen finished each piece by hand, ensuring no two came out alike. Legend has it travelling carnivals once handed it out for free, hence the name. Today, however, antique Fenton Carnival glass sells for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. If you're curious about a piece of patterned glass, you're in luck. Identifying characteristics exist so you can determine if your pattern is Fenton Carnival or not.

Check for a maker's mark. Fenton Carnival patterns made in 1970 or later feature the word "Fenton" within an oval. In 1980, numbers appeared below the name, indicating the decade in which it was made. Patterns from the '80s have an "8" stamped on them; those from the 1990s have a "9." Fenton Carnival patterns manufactured from 1907 to 1931, however, had primitive-looking paper labels. Images can be found on the Fenton website.

Examine the enamel. Fenton fired its enamel paint directly onto the glass, making it nearly impossible to rub off. Because of this, Fenton Carnival glassware decades old often appears new, despite countless washings. If the enamel is chipped and worn, chances are it's not a Fenton Carnival pattern.

Look for iridescence. The classic feature of Fenton Carnival has always been its iridescence. If your patterned glass doesn't possess that telltale metallic glow, it's not Carnival glass.

Determine the decade in which your pattern was made. Fenton first manufactured Carnival glass from 1907 to 1931. In 1970, the company began to reissue old patterns with a new formula. If you learn your pattern was made between 1932 and 1969, it won't be considered Carnival glass.

Match patterns. Because Fenton produced hundreds of patterns of Carnival glass in varying colours, this step may take time. David Doty's website, however, displays photographs of most of these patterns. Compare your glassware to his pictures. If you have a match, congratulations.

Join a Fenton glass collector's club. These groups hold annual conventions and can provide a great deal of information regarding Fenton Carnival glass and its patterns. Consult the Fenton website for more information on these organisations.

Tip

Beware when purchasing Fenton Carnival glass from auction sites. Fraud continues to be a problem for Fenton collectors. Buy from trusted sources whenever possible.

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About the Author

Roberta Dunn began her writing career in 1997. Her short films have screened at the Silver Lake Film Festival and L.A. Shorts Fest, and her short fiction has been recognized by "The Atlantic Monthly" and "Glimmer Train." The recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation grant, Dunn holds a Master of Fine Arts in fiction from Warren Wilson College.