How to Identify a Fenton Opalescent Vase

By Linda Richard
Fenton opalescent glass, quality, style
vaseline glass image by James Lemmon from Fotolia.com

Fenton Glass has been located in Williamstown, West Virginia since 1907, and is one glass company that has continued production in bad economic times. Opalescent glass and carnival glass were mainstays in production during the first 25 years, and opalescent glass is still one of the art glass lines available. With such a long history of glass production, shapes and sizes of Fenton opalescent vases have changed, but the quality and style are consistent identifiers. Identify a Fenton opalescent vase by its characteristics; then match the shape with line drawings and photographs of known production of Fenton glass.

Hold an opalescent glass vase to the light to check the quality, as good opalescent glass has "fire" and is translucent. "Fire" makes the glass look gold like sunlight around the edges of the opalescence. Fenton made opalescent glass in different colors, but the milky opalescence is often only in one area of a Fenton vase, and may take on the basic color of the vase. According to the "Standard Encyclopedia of Opalescent Glass" by Bill Edwards, early opalescent colors were topaz, blue and green, and by 1908, amethyst.

Look at the style of an opalescent vase to compare with Fenton. Fenton was famous for hobnail in the pressed opalescent glass, and the hand-blown glass vases were often frilly with ruffles and grace. The quality of Fenton glass is always outstanding, with few bubbles or flaws.

Check for marks on an opalescent vase. Fenton glass was sometimes marked, starting about 1970, and the marks are easier to feel than see. They are located in the center of the inside of the base or on the bottom of a vase. When Fenton glass is marked, it is most likely an oval with the Fenton name. Below the oval, the mark may contain the decade. Debbie and Randy Coe refer to the 0 below the Fenton name in their book "Fenton Art Glass: A Century of Glass Making 1907-2007" as replacement for the nine of the previous decade. The zero logo began in 2000, and the nine of 1990 replaced an eight of earlier years. Use a magnifying glass or loupe to read the number.

Identify an unmarked Fenton opalescent vase by comparing shapes of known Fenton glass production in books or online (see Resources). Fenton Art Glass maintains a website, publishes a newsletter, and provides information for the Fenton glass collecting community. The Fenton website provides reference materials, both free and for sale. There are also links to Fenton collector clubs that will help identify a Fenton opalescent vase.