II.General Information: What Was Made, Markings and How It Was Made

What Was Made:
There are  four basic Free Hand shapes : candlestick, basket, vase, and bowl (top row).  There are many variations to most, particularly the vaseThere are three basic Lead Lustre shapes (second row):


 There are no Lead Lustre baskets

Additionally an occasional Free Hand lamp or atomizer can be found.

Free Hand: There are 271 different shape/decoration combinations in the Imperial Glass Encyclopedia, Vol. II.  About 75% of these (205) are vases, 14% (37) are bowls, 7% (19) are candlesticks, and 4% (10) are baskets.

Wayne Balash pointed out that Imperial evidently assigned Free Hand numbers without regard to shape, finish, color, or design, e. g. drag loop vs. leaf and vine or blue drag loop vs. red drag loop.  This  makes it impossible to assign a FH number to an example not still retaining the original stock number label or not specifically numbered in a salesman's catalog plate

     FH 196

  FH 238

 FH 281

FH 302

 FH ???

It also means that there are substantially more than 271 different shape/decoration combinations, perhaps by several fold,e.g. the highest known stock number used is #714 - but all 714 numbers may not have been used.

 Some pieces had paper "Free Hand" labels, but most have lost them.
Lead Lustre: There are 17 documented shapes (14 vases, 2 bowls and a candlestick). The bowls were sold with a pair of candlesticks to form a console set. There are undocumented shapes.
Imperial Glass by Archer identifies 23 colors/decorations. The total number of shape - color /decoration combinations is not 391 (17 X 23), e.g. there are only six documented candlestick colors/decorations and other combinations may not have been made either; plus there are undocumented shapes.







Lead Lustre pieces did not have a beautiful Imperial  label applied to them as did Free Hand  - but handwritten oval "stock number" labels with shape & decoration numbers were used by the factory on both FH & LL. 
Free Hand pieces still retaining the Gold Free Hand Imperial Crossmark are found occasionally; pieces that still have the handwritten oval factory "stock number" labels  are rarer still.  Very rarely a Free Hand example turns up with both labels. Most rare is a label identifing the retail store where the item would be sold.  These labels may well have been applied at the Imperial factory.

      Both FH & LL have  ground pontils. 
This label  below would have read "FH 386" 
This is the  Lead Lustre
412 - 10 vase who's
bottom is shown to the left.


Only One Seen 


$8.50 Price ! 

(Wholesale prices are believed to have been about $25/dozen)




How It Was Made:  

 Click on this LINK to see a two minute video by George Machart on how a contemporary "Leaf & Vine" vase is made. Free Hand pieces would have been made in much the same way as George Machart made the vase in his video. Unlike the video, some Free Hand pieces were "doped" (sprayed while hot with metallic salt solutions) to produce a lustre or iridized finish. Occassionally pieces were double or possibly even triple doped and,of course, some examples have applied feet, bases, handles, etc.

Note: To produce an Imperial Lily Pad & Vine decor the small globs of glass seen in the video being flattened and then shaped into leaves/hearts would have first been rolled in a different color of cold glass chips before being added to the vase.

  FH Leaf & Vine Decor
Not Doped

 FH Leaf & Vine Decor 
Doped/Lustre Glaze

FH Lily Pad & Vine Decor 
Likely Double Doped

Lead Lustre pieces were blown into a metal paste mold or possibly a wooden mold saturated with water (both produce a necessary steam "cushion" between the glass and the metal/wood mold), as opposed to being free blown by a skilled artist as demonstrated by George Machart (you can however see George use a wetted wooden cup/tool to help shape his vase). Decorated Lead Lustre pieces would have had the decoration, e.g. small glass globs for  "hearts/leaves" and thin glass threads for the "vines"  or "drag loops", applied to the amorphous larger glass gather before going into the mold (much glass "decorating" is done before the vase is formed).

There are a large variety of lustre glazes found on Lead Lustre pieces - such as those shown below:

  Lead Lustre Example
Not Doped

Lead Lustre Example
Pale Blue Satin Lustre

Lead Lustre Example
Iridized Metallic 
Yellow - Green Lustre  

Lead Lustre Example

Glossy Light Orange

(over blue & white glass)

Lead Lustre Example

Metallic Iridized 
Mirror Blue Glaze
(multi-color highlights)

Lead Lustre Example

Iridescent Glossy
Apricot Lustre

   Lead Lustre Example
Opal & Blue Marbleized Glass
Pale Blue Satin Lustre

 Lead Lustre Example
Iridescent Orange Satin Lustre
(over opal & blue glass)
Lead Lustre Example
 Olive Green Adventurine & Opal Glass 
Iridized Metallic 
Violet Silver Lustre


Copyright © 2009 Ernie Albanese

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