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IRIS AND HERRINGBONE: A Forever Kind of Love

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Iris and Herringbone is the traditional name of the more official "Iris" pattern made by the Jeanette Glass Company starting in the 1920's.  It's one of the most unforgettable and unmistakeable glassware patterns of all-time.  Many glassware collectors absolutely adore Iris and this love and adoration is apparent on the eBay market.  This guide will discuss a bit of Iris history, impart some tips for spotting reproductions and will give some information for making Iris purchases.

IRIS DESCRIPTION

The Iris pattern is composed of smooth moulded iris flowers and leaves on a background of a moulded herringbone pattern.  Original feet (like that of the 6-inch water tumbler in the photo above) and some bowl bottoms have a series of moulded rays (as shown in the photos below).

A HISTORY OF IRIS

Crystal (or clear) Iris was first produced by Jeannette Glass Company in 1928 and into the depression era, therefore, it is correctly referred to as "Depression Glass".  An example of crystal Iris is shown in the photo below of a candy dish without a lid.

  

Iridescent (amber carnival glass look) Iris was first produced in the 1950's and, therefore, is not correctly labeled when referred to as "Depression Glass".  An example of iridescent Iris is shown in the photo below of an Iridescent Iris saucer.

 

The common milk glass Iris vases (shown in the photo below) were produced in the 1970's.

Iris can also be found in pink, ruby, and amethyst colors.

WE'LL LOVE YOU FOREVER

When I show my Iris pieces to visitors, I often hear a remark about someone they remember in their past that had and used Iris pieces, too.  The most recent remark came from a lady 60+, who remembers a neighbor from her childhood that would dispense lemonade to young ones from an Iris Pitcher! 

Ok, now to show you what a nostalgic sap I am.....

When I first got my license to drive as a teen, I would haunt an indoor flea market or antique market.  As long as I visited the market, there was a set of Iris tumblers with pitcher that sat above eye-level on a wardrobe-type cabinet.  The price tag always read "$60".  I thought it was the most beautiful set of glassware I had ever seen and I dreamed about the day that I would own something that wonderful!  Iris and Herringbone....my anti-drug!  Ha! Ha!  This memory is very vivid for me. 

Well, I still don't own the pitcher, but I'm working on acquiring the tumblers and other pieces.  My parents know about my fondness for Iris and purchase it for me whenever they find a good buy.  EBay has also helped me add to my collection.  Unfortunately, a photo on eBay is not always the best tool to use to determine if a piece is a reproduction.  Have I been bitten?  To answer that question, please read on.

REPRODUCTIONS

Crystal Iris and Herringbone pieces have been reproduced since 1999, so the collector should be careful about purchasing pieces that are known to have reproductions:  6-inch tumblers, 6-1/2-inch tumblers, 4-1/2 inch beaded berry bowls, 9-inch pitcher, 9-inch plates, coasters, butter dishes, flat bottomed juice glasses, and candy dish bottoms are just some of them.  (There is more reproduction information available for additional pieces at the resources listed at the end of this guide.)

6-inch Tumbler

I have a confession to make here.  The 6-inch tumbler I have pictured at the top of this guide is a reproduction that I acquired on eBay.  I didn't realize it was a repro until I wrote this guide and made myself take a really hard look at it.  I have no hard feelings toward the seller, because I doubt that he even knew it was a repro.  It required the subtlest of clues to distinguish this repro from an original.

What gave it away?  On the Iris tumbler there are 4 sets of flowers and two very long stems that flow from the bottom of the tumbler and then almost all the way to the top (as shown in the photo below).  On the original, where the top of the stem bends slightly to the left, another stem should cross the long stem to form an "X".  On the exact opposite side of the tumbler, another "X" should be present where the other long stem has been crossed with another. On my tumbler, I have only one "X" and not two.  Therefore, I have deemed this tumbler to be a REPRODUCTION. 

In my next purchase, I will be asking for a guarantee that my piece is an original or will ask about the lack of an "X" as I have described.   But, in the meantime, I still proudly display my tumbler.  Reproduction or not...it is still beautiful.       

6-1/2 inch Tumbler

One of the tell-tale signs that an Iris tumbler is a reproduction is that the rays on the bottom of the foot are very sharp and may even cause pain when you press your fingers into the pattern.  The rays on the original tumbler are very rounded and should feel somewhat smooth.

Another sign on the bottom of the tumbler which indicates that it is new, is an invisible mould line when viewing the foot of the tumbler upside down.  On an original, the mould line should easily be visible when looking at the bottom of the tumbler foot.  This can also be used for the 6-inch tumblers, but if I had used this test alone, I would still think that the tumbler above was an original....which it is not. 

4-1/2 inch Beaded Berry Bowl  

Reproduction of Iris berry bowls began in 1999 and there are a few distinct differences between the original and new pieces.  Two of these differences are listed below: 

  • The most obvious difference is in the texture of the flower surface.  The new bowls have a pitted, frosted surface on the flowers.  The original bowls have a smooth surface texture on the flowers. 
  • Another sign that a bowl is a reproduction is that the CIRCLE around the rays on the bottom of the bowl is creased and can be felt with your finger.  On the original, there is no creased circle around the rays.  The appearance of a circle on the original is created when the herringbone texture stops and the smooth surface begins.

9-inch Pitcher

Signs that indicate a reproduced pitcher are as follows:

  • As with the new 6-1/2 inch tumbler, the rays on the bottom of the foot are very sharp and may even cause pain when you press your fingers into the pattern.  The rays on the original pitcher are very rounded and should feel somewhat smooth.
  • The mould seam line on the handle of the new pitcher and the pitcher itself is very smooth and even difficult to detect.  The original pitcher has a very prominent and even rough seam line on the handle.  
  • If looking at a new and original pitcher side-by-side, the new pitcher will be almost 1/4-inch taller at the spout. 

Coasters

Distinctions between the new coaster and the originals are as follows:

  • The original coasters appear to be of two different glass colors (when viewed from the side):  one being crystal and the other being yellowish or greyish glass.  The new coasters appear to be only crystal when viewed from the side.
  • The original coasters have a slightly larger diameter than the new coasters.  The original diameter being 3-5/16 inches vs. 3-1/4 inches for the new. 

Butter Dish  

I've heard an internet rumor that the Iris Butter Dish (pictured below) has also been produced by a company in Australia.  The Australian version is extremely similar to the Jeanette version, except that the size is just a little different.  Supposedly, an Australian Iris butter cover will not fit a Jeanette Iris butter bottom.  This is the only way mentioned to discriminate against the two.  Therefore, if you are purchasing a butter cover or bottom to complete your piece it is best to observe the dimensions of both before you purchase.  

4-inch Flat-Bottomed Juice Glass

The reproduced flat-bottomed juice glass first appeared in 2000.  The differences between the new and original are very pronounced and are as follows:

  • The original has a bit of the herringbone pattern (V's) on the flat-bottom.  The new glass does not have the herringbone pattern on the bottom.
  • The original glass has a lip around the top that can be felt with a finger and the new glass does not.
  • The original glass has a blue-ish, grey-ish or yellowish tint to the glass, whereas, the new glass is a colorless crystal.

BUYING TIPS

If you are very concerned that you purchase only original Iris, then learn about reproductions and how to tell the difference between a new piece and an original.  A lot of people selling Iris on eBay may NOT know whether they are selling an original or a copy.  Unless you are given a guarantee by the seller that you will receive an original, then you must take it upon yourself to observe closely the auction description as well as photos and, also, ask the following questions.

  • What are the dimensions of the piece?
  • Ask about specific traits that may point to an original or a reproduction.  (For instance, if you are purchasing a flat-bottomed juice glass ask, "Are there "V's" on the bottom of the glass?")
  • Ask about  condition (chips, cracks, etc.)

RESOURCES  

A indispensible resource for the Iris lover is the website called Depression Glass and China. Within this website, there are a number of Reproduction Alerts within the on-line library written by Gene Florence.  These alerts cover new depression glass piece reproductions that are discovered monthly.

Another great resource for collectors is the Antique & Collectors Reproduction News (ACRN).  The publication is well rounded and does not focus strictly on glass.   

If this guide has been helpful at all, please vote "Yes" below.

 
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