Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Sweet April showers

Do spring May flowers."
~Thomas Tusser, A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry, 1557

Bet you did not know that little phrase dated back to the 16th century? But the flowers of early May are purple...ever notice that? In contrast to the yellows of the April daffodils come the purples of May. I love purple. When I first started teaching, I wore purple because we were forced to copy via the carbon of the mimeograph...pause here for those under 50 to contemplate what that typed on a very purple carbon sheet and then took the carbon onto a roller and cranked your copies.If you tried to wear light colors, they would soon reflect the pale purple of the instead of waiting until I grew old to wear purple, I started at age 20!

Just walking around my yard, I have violets...traditional...

and some variants...

There is wisteria and periwinkle vines and...

of course, the traditional lilac...But the purple brings me to this week's lesson...early American pattern glass (EAPG) was not created in a light purple color. It did come in sapphire pale blue, ‘apple’ green, vaseline (canary), amber, and later some cobalt blue, deep amethyst and emerald green colored glass.

In the 1860s the formula for most EAPG began to change with glass companies using soda lime instead of lead oxide because, as the story goes, lead was needed for other purposes during the Civil War. Actually, soda lime in the ‘new’ formula cost 1/5th as much as lead. Manganese dioxide, was used as a decoloring agent until WW I when selenium was substituted. Glass made from this formula (called “soda lime” or “non-flint” glass) is now known to discolor or turn purple when exposed to UV rays such as from the sun or a germicidal lamp. Because of this tendency to discolor and because EAPG that has discolored is highly devalued as an antique, it is recommended that the glass not be displayed or stored near a sunny window.

In recent years EAPG which has become discolored has become popular for a couple of reasons. People like the light purple color and some believe that buying a light purple piece of glass insures that they have purchased a genuine American antique.

Some glass makers are now making glass dishes in a color that simulates the
“sun purple” color of light amethyst so the color is no longer a guarantee of age of the glass. Responding to the market for light amethyst glass, some are now hastening the color change in EAPG by exposing thousands & thousands of pieces to germicidal UV lamps or even to radiation. So, be wary of light purple...dark purple is the true amethyst...

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