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Stretch Glass Sparkles for Collectors

The term “stretch” glass seems a contradiction. Glass is one of the hardest substances known, so how in the world would it stretch? But stretch glass enthusiasts know that this term stands for a sparkling type of Victorian art glass that attracts lots of attention.

Ask any one of the thousand or so members of the Stretch Glass Society why they got started collecting this novelty glass and they will tell you that once you discover it — stretch glass just won’t let go.

Not to be confused with swung glass, or glass made by swinging it back and forth on a rod, stretch glass is iridescent — and that’s important.

Created by quite a few American glass factories in the early 20th century, stretch glass dates to 1916-1930 or so. It is pressed or blown molded glass that is treated with a spray of metallic salt. This is referred to as “doping” by glassblowers.

After the doping, the glass piece is reheated and stretch marks occur as the untreated glass expands at a greater rate than the doped area.

This causes a lovely crackled appearance almost like the iridescence of a spider web glistening in the sun.

More stretch marks occur depending on the amount of shaping and working that occurs at the hand of the glass craftsman. If the piece received only limited working, the stretch marks are similar to satin.

Our local Glass Museum at Oglebay, has a wonderful display of stretch glass and includes large, colorful examples of beautiful Northwood stretch glass, called “Cobweb” originally.

Northwood wares included a Satin Sheen line described in its advertising of 1917 as “a new iridescent glass of rich and delicate coloring.” This transposed into what is called stretch glass today by collectors.

Several colors, particularly blue and topaz, were made, according to the book, “Harry Northwood, The Wheeling Years,” by William Heacock, James Measell and Berry Wiggins.

Eventually, the term Iris was used in the advertising for this new glassware, replacing the earlier terms Satin Sheen and Cobweb, the experts note, meaning that stretch glass can be confusing in this terminology, too.

But whatever term used to describe this fascinating glass that glimmers, it is certain that once you see it, you will love it. It’s both elegant and simple and a tribute to the talents and sophistication of American glassmakers of yesteryear.

Stretch glass is safe to use with food too since it was originally made for the dinner table. Just be careful with extremes of hot and cold and hand wash it.

I think stretch glass fits in with contemporary decorating too, with its shiny, modern look that’s both fun and colorful. It might be a good hobby to explore and makes an unusual gift.

For information on joining the Stretch Glass Society and to see more beautiful images of this collectible glass, please visit the club’s website at stretchglasssociety.org. You can also find them on Facebook.

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