10 February 2008

Blue Opaline

 

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A pair of blue opaline candlesticks pop out from this soothing interior.

One of my favorite things to collect is a glass called blue opaline.  Authentic opaline was made in France from the late 18th century through to the end of the 19th century.  This semi-opaque, hand blown glass first came into popularity during Napoleon's reign and later peaked in Napoleon III's time during the 1850-60s.  As you might imagine, these antique French pieces are very rare and very pricey.  Besides France, other countries produced a similar glass that captured the beautiful, rich color of  blue opaline.  But only the glass from France can truly be called opaline.  Italy produced a glass in the 1900s that was made in the blue shade that mimics opaline.  And the Portieux Vallerysthal factory made a blue glass that is often mistakenly called blue opaline, but it is not as rare nor as valuable as true French opaline.   Additionally, English Bristol Glass produced during the 19th century is often confused for French Opaline.  The true French pieces from the late 18th and 19th centuries were made for a lady's dressing table - trinkets such as small jewelry boxes, perfume bottles, vases, watch holders, and sewing kits were favorites.  Other pieces were made into boxes, or caskets, to hold sugar and what-nots.  But mostly, opaline was made just to be admired and  just to be gazed at.  And although blue is by far the most popular and most produced shade, it does comes in other colors such as green and white.  Rarer shades include pink, red, and lemon - which is considered the most rare opaline color of all. 

Over the years opaline has gone in and out of favor.  Initially the French pieces were bought as souvenirs during the later years of the Grand Tour era.  There was a resurgence of its production in the 1920s.  And during the 50's and 60s, new pieces of blue opaline colored glass were made, often in the shape of perfume bottles.  But, today in general, opaline remains obscure and mostly unknown.  It's hard to learn much about it's history or the provenance of the antique pieces.  There are only two books that have been written about the glass and both are in French!  Today there are a few dealers who specialize in opaline and now these dealers have internet stores.  Rare antique pieces are more easily obtained today as opposed to the days before cyberspace commerce.  Then, one could scour antique show after antique show and maybe find one decent piece of opaline, if you were lucky.   

Every few years or so, European design magazines will feature the glass and proclaim a resurgence in just around the corner for opaline, but it never seems to happen.  The glass has also been shown in American magazines once or twice. Today, the term blue opaline is perhaps most associated with the interior designer Jan Showers of Dallas, Texas.  Showers sells a Murano glass lamp in her collection that comes in a luscious blue opaline color.  This lamp "pops" wherever it is used, just as a single piece of antique French opaline does whenever it is placed on a vanity table or a coffee table.  Because of it's intense blue shade, you don't need to amass a large collection of blue opaline to enjoy it.  One piece is just as beautiful as a hundred pieces are.

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My entry:  A single piece of blue opaline pops out from the mulberry colored transferware.  The hydrangea and blue and white vases blend in with the opaline.

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A box filled with blue opaline bottles.

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A rare early 19th piece which opens where the ormolu is.

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A serving dish inside a metal frame.

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A vanity piece with watch holder and perfume bottles.  Eglomise miniatures of Paris are affixed to the front of the ormolu.

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Here are examples of newer blue opaline perfume bottles. 

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This New York apartment has a blue opaline chandelier and two pieces of blue opaline are on the console behind the sofa.

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Another antique blue opaline light fixture.

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This rare and intricate chariot pulling two opaline vases is for sale for over $14,000.00

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A popular shape of blue opaline is the egg or oval shape.

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  An oval box with two perfume bottles inside.

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Another oval shape with ormolu.

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A jewelry box that still retains it's original key.

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A watch holder in a green shade of opaline.

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A white opaline perfume set with a watch holder.

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Pink and green opaline together.

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A fanciful cherub over a pink opaline cradle.

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Here horses pull a green opaline inkwell.

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Two matching green opaline vases with gold banding.

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A new chandelier with blue opaline crystals.

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A pillbox made of pink opaline with a miniature portrait.

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A rare lemon colored casket.

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Atlanta designer Suzanne Kasler used blue opaline sconces in this living room.

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A powder room showcases a blue opaline fixture. 

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These goblets, often mistaken for true French opaline, are from the Portieux Vallerysthal factory.

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Jan Showers produces this gorgeous blue opaline colored Murano glass lamp.

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Again, Suzanne Kasler - here she uses blue opaline colored lamps.

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My bedroom, with my blue opaline collection.

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A close up of my collection.  Some pieces are French antiques and others are newer.

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A Southern Accents cover features a chandelier with blue opaline crystal drops.

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And finally, my powder room has two pieces of blue opaline which pop against the brown marble.