Illustrated Glossary of Carnival Glass Terms
Over the years Carnival Glass collectors have established words to describe certain aspects of the glass. Here are the most common.
Back patterns   Many bowls and plates have patterns on the exterior--called back patterns. It was a common practice to use some back patterns with various front patterns. The Northwood basketweave pattern shown here is found on several of their patterns. Ball foot   While most bowls and plates are found with a collar base, Dugan, Fenton and Northwood also used feet ending in balls, as in this Grape and Cable fruit bowl.
Banana boat   A large oval bowl. Molded in this shape as opposed to a banana dish which was created from a plate or bowl. A good example is Fenton's Thistle. Banana dish   Banana dishes were formed from other shapes, usually bowls. This Palm Beach example is typical.
Base glass color   Colors in Carnival are determined by the color of the glass, not the iridescence. To determine the color, look through an area of the glass that has the least amount of iridescence such as the base or the edge of the base. Banquet size   A unique term applied to the largest of Northwood's three sizes of punch bowls. Also called a master. The other two sizes are referred to as midsize and small.
Baskets   Baskets can be quite small with no handles, two handles on either side, or made by attaching a handle that loops over the top of a bowl or hat. Berry sets   Berry sets normally consist of a large berry bowl and 6 small ones. Large and small berries are often sold individually.
Blank   The shape of a piece just as it came out of the mold. They are then flattened somewhat to make an ice cream shape or moreso to make a plate. They would also be ruffled in various ways. Bonbons   Bonbons are small bowls with two handles. Most have a collar but a fair number are stemmed as with the Northwood Fruits and Flowers shown here.
Bowls   Bowls are the mostly often seen shape in Carnival. They're found in a variety of edge treatments. The example shown here is a Millersburg Cosmos in ice cream shape. Bracket edge   The bracket edge is characterized by gently curved sections alternating with points. Found on Fenton's Acorn, Smooth Rays and Stippled Rays patterns.
Breakfast set   Creamer and sugar, slightly smaller than the table set pieces. The sugar is not meant to have a lid. Found in several patterns including Grape and Cable, Orange Tree, and Cosmos and Cane. Bubbles   Bubbles in Carnival Glass are a fact of life. During the classic era quality control was not what it is today. Bubbles, unless there are hundreds of them, seldom affect the value of a piece. Large bubbles that are burst can affect the price.
Candy dishes   Candy dishes were usually formed from another shape, such as a rosebowl. Always ruffled. The Northwood Daisy and Plume shown here is a good example. Also see Nut bowls. Centerpiece bowls   Centerpiece bowls are usually spread-out large berry bowls as with this Butterfly and Berry. However, Northwood's Grape and Cable centerpiece bowl is turned in like a rosebowl.
Chips   Chips are the most common damage to Carnival and reduce the value. While usually found on the edge or base, they can be found anywhere, so check carefully. Chop plates   By definition, chop plates must be at least 10 inches in diameter. Shown here are a Wishbone and Spades chop plate along with a small plate.
Collar base   Most bowls and plates have a collar base, a disk of glass on the bottom. Also called a marie. These not only served as a base for the piece, but also allowed the glassmaker to use a tool to grip the piece while the iridizing spray was applied. Compotes   Always have a stem, which can be quite tall or fairly short. The term comport is used in most places in the world other than the U.S. Both are the same thing.
Cracks   Cracks can be difficult to see. Hold the piece up to a bright light and look at it from different angles. Short cracks that don't appear to go all the way through the glass are called stress fractures or heat checks. Crimping   A technique used to make the edges of bowls and a few other pieces more interesting. Fenton's version is deeper than the Dugan shown here and is referred to as candy ribbon edge (CRE).
Depression era Carnival   While little classic era Carnival was made during the 1930s, other companies began producing items with more delicate patterns, some of which were given a light marigold iridescence. A good example is Jeannette's Iris and Herringbone. Doped Ware   The original name for Carnival Glass. The glass workers who used it called it dope and the glass itself "doped ware." Originally very toxic but now the formulas have been modified to be less so. Also see Iridescence.
Double crimp   An edge that is ruffled and then crimped. For other types of edge treatment, click here. Epergnes   Epergnes (pronounced "e-pern") are used to hold both fruit and flowers. There are only a handful of patterns in Carnival, including the dramatic Northwood Wide Panel shown here.
Fernery   These are low bowls with the sides either straight up or cupped in slightly as with the Fenton Vintage shown here. Made from their own mold and usually have feet. Fleabite   The smallest of chips, also referred to as pinheads or nips.
Foot   Many Carnival patterns were made with a small appendage that raised them up from the table. Typical is the Northwood Fine Cut and Roses shown here. Also see ball foot and spatula foot. Fruit bowl   Although any large bowl could be used to hold fruit, fruit bowls generally are made from their own mold and are quite large. Usually footed. This is Fenton's Persian Medallion with Grape and Cable exterior.
Funeral vases   Whether or not a vase is considered a funeral vase is determined by its base diameter, not its height. To be a funeral vase, it must have a base width of approximately 5 inches. Shown are a typical Northwood regular funeral, and a short example called an elephant foot. Ground base   Few patterns in classic U.S. Carnival glass had bases ground at the factory. Such treatment is almost surely indication of base damage and attempt to repair. On the other hand, much European glass has bases ground at the factory.
Handgrip   Handgrip items are usually made from plates and have one edge bent up as in this Fruits and Flowers piece. If two opposite edges are bent up, they're referred to as double handgrip. Hats   Hats, which by nature are smallish pieces, were either made from their own molds, such as Fenton's Blackberry Spray, or modified from a tumbler, such as this Grape and Cable example.
ICS (ice cream shape)   These are low round bowls, rather flat through the center, turning up toward the edge. Shown is a Millersburg Many Stars ice cream shaped bowl in amethyst. Iridescence   The multi-color effect that distinguishes Carnival Glass from other types of pressed glass. The effect is achieved by spraying the glass with metallic salts while still hot. Also see Doped ware.
Hatpin Holders   Production hatpin holders were made on only three patterns: Fenton's Butterfly and Berry and Orange Tree and Northwood's Grape and Cable. Dugan's Formal vase with the cupped-in top is considered by some to be a hatpin holder. Fenton also made a whimsey hatpin holder from Butterfly and Berry tumblers. Intaglio   This is where the pattern appears to be cut into the piece, as opposed raised up from the surface. The best known examples are Cambridge's Inverted Strawberry (shown) and Inverted Thistle.
Jardiniere   A funeral vase that has not been swung. Typical is the Fenton Diamond and Rib shown here. Others are Fenton Rustic and Northwood Tree Trunk. Some jardinieres were left just as they came out of the mold; some were ruffled. Jester's Cap   A rare shaping for the tops of vases where one point is pulled up and all the rest are pulled down. Mostly seen in Northwood's Thin Rib vases and less often in Tree Trunk (shown here). Not the same as jack-in-the-pulpit.
(JIP) Jack-in-the-Pulpit   When the edges of a piece are pulled up on one side and down on the opposite, it's refered to as jack-in-the-pulpit (or JIP). Often seen in vases but also baskets and bowls. Lettered Carnival Glass   Carnival makers made a variety of patterns with lettering as part of the mold. Some were commissioned by companies for use as promotions; other were made for commemorative purposes.
Marie   Another name for Collar Base, the round portion of a piece on which it sits. Some may have a plain center as shown here, others may have a star or other design. Mold   Carnival Glass is pressed glass and as such was made in cast iron molds. For more on this process, click here.
Mold Mark   Similar to Straw Marks. Imperfections caused at the time of manufacture. Appear as small creases (as in the handle shown at the left). Seam marks appear where the pieces of the mold fit together. Nappy   A small, single-handled bowl. They can be round, ruffled, or tricorner. Some small bowls without handles, which we now call sauces, were originally called nappies.
Nut Bowl   Generally refer to bowls with straight sides that slightly flare out. Can have slight ruffling. Actually, these are the shapes as they came out of the mold. Shown is a Northwood Leaf and Beads in aqua opal. Opalescent   Opalescent glass was made by putting bone ash in the glass mix, then reheating the glass once it came from the mold. The portions that had the most reheating became milky looking, as in the edge of this Beaded Panels compote.
Open Edge   Any pattern with pierced edges, such as this Northwood Wild Rose nut bowl. Better known, of course, is the Fenton pattern called Open Edge, which can have either 2 or 3 rows of holes. Pitcher   Generally there are two sizes of pitchers, milk and water, as shown here. However, not all patterns with a water pitcher will have a milk pitcher. Furthermore, some patterns may have more than one size of water pitcher.
Plates   While plates can be of several sizes, the rule of thumb is that they must be no more than 2 inches off the table. Some will be flatter, of course. Rare   Shown is a Triands creamer. It's the only one I've ever seen and doubt that many others have either. What's it worth? $15 to $20. There are many pieces in this category. Just because something's rare, doesn't mean it's valuable.
Rosebowls   Rosebowls are smallish items. The defining characteristic is that they are cupped in at the top as in this Northwood Leaf and Beads in aqua opal. Large bowls that are cupped in are called centerpiece bowls. Ruffling   Carnival Glass makers could easily reshape edges while the piece was still hot to create different effects. The ruffling in this Fenton Ten Mums bowl is typical. For more on edge treatments, click here.
Sauce   A rather general term that refers to small bowls, usually 5 to 6 inches in diameter. This one is Fenton Sailboats in red. Sawtooth Edge   These serrated edges are found on the very edge of many Carnival Glass patterns, including this Northwood Wild Strawberry bowl. Sometimes referred to as points. Succeptible to damage, so check carefully.
Scratches   Light scratches or wear (shown here) may not affect the value. After all, classic Carnival is going on 100 years old. However, deep scratches will almost certainly reduce the value. Spatula Foot   A smooth, spade-shaped foot found on some Northwood and Fenton patterns. Northwood's Meander pattern, found as the reverse of Three Fruits Medallion, Sunflower, and some Grape and Cable is an example. In Fenton they appear on some Two Flowers, Stag and Holly, Dragon and Lotus and others.
Spittoons   Spittoons (or cuspidors) are squeezed in and then flared out. Most Carnival spittoons are quite small and are sometimes called ladies cuspidors. Some spittoons were production items, such as the Millersburg Hobnail on the left. Others were whimsied from another shape and only a few examples may be known. Stem   A stem is the thin column that connects the foot and bowl of a piece. Stemware is quite common in Carnival Glass and includes compotes, goblets, wine glasses and so on. Shown is an Imperial Grape goblet and wine glass.
Stippling   Stippling is an effect that gives the background of a piece a sort of sand look. Northwood often made two versions of its patterns, one without stippling and one with. Generally, the stippled versions are more desirable. Straw Marks   These are lines found on pieces of classic Carnival. They were caused when the glass was snipped off by sissors when being poured into the mold. As the sissors were cooler than the molten glass, the temperature difference caused these marks. The name came about when early collectors thought the marks were made by cooling the glass on straw.
Sweetmeat   A compote with a lid which has a finial on the top. There are only two patterns found in the sweetmeat shape -- Northwood's Grape and Cable and Northwood's extremely rare Wheat. Swung Vases   When swung vases came out of the mold, they were shaped much like the short vase on the left. While still hot and maleable, the vase was clamped on the end of a long rod and actually swung, stretching it out as shown on the right.
Table Sets   Most US table sets are comprised of four pieces: covered butter, covered sugar, creamer and spooner. The two-piece butter dishes are always round as that's the way butter was back then. Most sugars have lids while the similarily shaped spooners do not. Three-in-One Edge   This is one of several edge shapings that Carnival Makers gave to their bowls. It has three ruffles pushed up and one down. For other edge shapes, click here.
Tumbleups   These are two-piece sets comprised of a small decanter and matching tumbler. Also called night sets or guest sets. They were placed on a bed stand and used for drinking water at night. Tumblers   Carnival collectors don't usually refer to these as water glasses, but tumblers. These are both Peacock at the Fountain tumblers--on the left is Northwood's, on the right is Dugan's version.
Variant   Oftentimes Carnival makers modified their molds or made new ones in standing patterns. This was widely done with tumblers as so many molds were used to make water sets. These Imperial Diamond Lace tumblers are good examples; the variant, without a collar base, is on the left. But many other shapes have slightly differing patterns, which collectors call variants. Whimsey   Whimsies are pieces created from other shapes as in this Cambridge Inverted Feather bonbon made from the base of a cracker jar--the only one known. Some patterns, especially spittoons, were made in large enough quantities not to be considered whimsies.