Ludwig and Josef Lobmeyr
Ludwig and Josef Lobmeyr are certainly not names that roll off the tongue when you think of Carnival Glass, but it is to them that we should raise a glass and say “thanks for the iridescence”.
The first actual use of iridescence on glass we can be reasonably sure of was in Bohemia in 1856 and the maker was the Austrian firm, J & L Lobmeyr.
According to the story, by using fireworks in a furnace where some glassware had been placed, the metallic vapours of the fireworks produced iridescence on the glass.
The transitional metals contained in the fireworks (and we suspect they didn’t actually set-off the fireworks, but instead simply used the ingredients) were surely what gave the iridescence to the glass. Whatever the actual chemistry was, the concept was developed and iridescent glass took off.
Following on from that, iridescent glass was first exhibited in Europe, to great popular acclaim, at the Vienna Exposition of 1873 by the Lobmeyrs.
It was shown again a few years later at the 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris, by which time, the firm J & L Lobmeyr was recognised as being the pioneer in iridised glass.
The advert above was in the Butler Brothers wholesale catalogue of 1909.
The title “Bohemian Iridescent Novelty Assortment” for an assortment of Northwood’s Carnival
Glass is very informative. It acknowledges the fact that this “new effect” that they were
producing - Carnival Glass - imitated the earlier Bohemian iridised glass, such as that made by J & L Lobmeyr.
Here’s what a contemporary journal, “Glass and Glass Ware” – Paris, wrote about the Lobmeyrs back in 1878:
“J. and L. Lobmeyr - Universal Exposition At Paris, 1878. This house is especially celebrated for its iridescent glass, being the pioneer in that line. About twenty years ago it so happened that by using fire works in a furnace where some glass-ware had been placed the metallic vapours of these fire works produced a peculiar iridescent colour upon the glass. It is only three years ago since these gentlemen revived this process, improved it, and put it into general use, with such good results. Other Austrian manufacturers have taken up this process; the English also have obtained good results with it. These beautiful colours of the rainbow were applied principally to crystal glass, but also to several kinds of slightly coloured glass, such a slight amber, etc. The Austrian wares in that line cannot be surpassed.”
Other Austrian firms followed suit and also began making iridescent glass, as did English firms, including Thomas Webb and Sons. In the United States iridescent glass was first exhibited in 1876 at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia - by Lobmeyr, not surprisingly. And the rest (as they like to say) “is history”.