Slag glass, also known as marble glass or malachite, is a type of opaque, streaked pressed glass. Production of slag glass originated in late-19th-century England, where glass manufacturers are thought to have added slag from iron-smelting works to molten glass to create a range of effects—from tortoiseshell to marbling. Among other uses, slag glass was a popular material for lampshades.
One of the first glass foundries to produce slag glass (although it was not called that at the time) was the Gateshead, England, firm of Sowerby, which patented its recipe for purple malachite glass in 1878. Sold into the U.S. market as "blackberries and cream," this popular formula was followed by other malachite colors, including a lemon-yellow called Giallo, a drab green called Pomona, a blue malachite called Sorbini, and Sowerby’s famous Brown, which is very difficult to find today.
Since the process of making slag glass was shrouded in a certain amount of mystery, stories sprang up to try and account for the process behind the effects. For example, it was a good bet that Sowerby’s Blue Nugget color of 1883 was the result of adding cadmium to molten glass, but how to explain Gold Nugget? Stories soon spread that John George Sowerby, son of the company’s founder, was tossing gold sovereigns into batches of amber glass to create this dramatic hue.
In the United States, manufacturers such as Westmoreland and Akro Agate picked up on the techniques developed in England and produced their own versions of slag glass. As in England, one of the most popular applications for their pressed opaque glass was in lampshades. Wide bands of creamy colors allowed the light source in a lamp to fill a room with a soft ivory glow, while the purples and greens and reds pieced together in detailed leaded shades resulted in multi-colored illumination.
Just about anyone who was making lamps during the Art Nouveau period, from Tiffany to Roycroft to Steuben, might have used slag glass in their shades. But whether they did or not in a particular lamp is another matter. The problem is that today, "slag glass" is used rather casually by dealers and collectors alike to refer to almost any type of pressed opaque glass containing colored swirls or streaks. The key to determining if a piece of glass is "true" slag or just a handsome example of pressed glass is to look for glass that is obviously and richly marbled rather than simply colored or streaked.
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Recent News: Slag Glass Lamps
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Rare antique lamps, clocks, coin-ops and more will be at Fontaine's three ...ArtfixDaily, June 15th
Duffner & Kimberly table lamp with 20-inch diameter leaded shade having a green and caramel slag background, 24 inches tall (est. ... The cataloged sale will feature antique clocks, lamps (by Duffner & Kimberly, Gorham, Handel, Pairpoint and others...Read more
Signed 1929 cat drawing by Leonard T. Foujita will be sold at auction June ...ArtfixDaily, May 27th
Lamps and lighting will feature an antique oil banquet lamp with etched hurricane shade and gold base, kerosene lamps, stained glass and slag glass lamps, a stained glass hanging fixture, and a floor lamp with painted shade. Antique clocks from the ...Read more
Modest auction sales can still pack a big punchTribune-Review, May 17th
Look for a warm glow in the lighting category, where a Pittsburgh-made slag-glass lamp should shine. A reverse-painted, embossed pirates-theme hanging light fixture sports buccaneer scenes on its four sides and fish swimming in the deep six on its bottom...Read more
The Louis Daniel Brodsky Collection of Art NouveauMaine Antique Digest, April 27th
Brodsky's buys were from major names in the genre. Purchased primarily in Europe, New York, and Chicago, the collection encompassed furniture, ceramics, silver, glass, posters, prints, art glass, and some jewelry. Some came from his home territory in...Read more
Auction watch: Upcoming sales range from art to toys to sportsTribune-Review, March 8th
Jerry Smith will be staging Smith's Antique & Auction Service's biggest-ever coin auction and a sports memorabilia event that's a grand slam in the making. The two-day sale opens March 21 with a coin auction with estimates reaching as high as $6,000...Read more
Advice From Dallas' Best Interior DesignersD Magazine, March 3rd
So we posed five questions to our winning designers that would shed a little more light on their tastes and preferences, how they work within a range of price points (which, we should point out, do not necessarily reflect realistic dollar amounts they...Read more
PUBLIC SALES: Feb. 15, 2015LancasterOnline, February 13th
$1,100; step-back display cabinet, $1,018; Willard-style tall case clock, $990; Hepplewhite bow-front chest, $880; harvest drop-leaf table, $715; corner cupboard, $715; high-wheeled baby coach, $660; slag glass table lamp, $605; Shotwell gas pump...Read more
Glass lamp, pickle jar, Victrola and Sitzendorf figurine: Attic FindsThe Plain Dealer - cleveland.com, November 6th
ANSWER: Pittsburgh Lamp, Brass & Glass Co. made your lamp around 1915. The hexagonal, intricately modeled base was used on a variety of styles made by the firm. 1825 is the model number. The marbleized, caramel-colored glass is known as "slag" ...Read more