Marlin and Water Ambered Glass
Originally published in our NetworK Journal in 2001
Back in 2001, we published two articles about Stephens Water Ambered Glass in our NetworK Journal, courtesy of Richard and Dolores Sage, and based on information from a booklet by Clarence Stephens.
The “Stephens” place in question was a workshop by a spring in the town of Slaterville Springs in New York State, where old (clear) crystal glass was given a light marigold iridescent lustre by being treated by the spring waters. In the late 1800s Slaterville Springs was a popular health resort, supporting three large hotels catering for the elite clients of the time. The waters from the springs and wells were considered “curative” and “health-giving”, even "magical".
The water ambering of glass was said to have been discovered by accident. As the story has it, a child had taken her mother's glass slipper from the house and had dropped it in an open spring at the back of the house. When morning came they discovered that the slipper had turned an amber colour with an iridescent lustre. It became a small-scale, yet profitable business, thanks to the clientele of the health spas, leading to the marketing and sale of Slaterville Springs Ambered Glass at Macys in New York and Rothschilds in Ithaca.
Much later, in 1967, the Stephens set up their semi-commercial operation. They searched out Early American Pressed Glass and started ambering and selling it. They said that the processing of the glass took six weeks to reach the desired shade of amber; after the six week period, “it is a beautiful deep amber colour with lustrous iridescence", and did not “require any more washing and polishing”. They experimented with various household and commercial cleaning agents, and found that the amber coating did not clean off. The Stephens saw their ambered glass as “Art Glass” and very beautiful and pleasing to the eye”, making an excellent gift for “the person who has everything”. The Stephens operation stopped in the 1990s, but it seems that water ambering was something of a cottage industry in the area, with other local residents also carrying out the process.
Neither was ambering specific to Slaterville Springs: we were also told some years back that the curative waters at Marlin, near Waco, Texas, were also known for similar results. Some tumblers originally made by McKee are believed to have been iridised there. A quick "Google" found a story on the Waco Tribune website where a reporter wrote: "they told me of Marlin's heyday, when the famous and the curious flocked to the small town to take the mineral waters. A bath in the hot springs will cure what ails you, they told me. And they also said that people used to leave glasses in the water for a few days and let the water tint them the colour of iced tea and then they would give the glass items as gifts." The term “Marlin” glass is used in the glass community as a generic description of this type of glass.
It is not Carnival Glass.
Iridising and water ambering of glass was not restricted to these two places: just Google a few key words and behold the results! So, if you come across a lightly iridised, amberish coloured piece of glass – perhaps a “one-of-a-kind” example that is otherwise only known in clear crystal (flint) glass - then “caveat emptor” and spare a thought for the stories of water ambered glass and Marlin glass.
More Blasts from the past!