Collecting antiques or loving the art of the past is a wonderful hobby and some might go to antiques to do just that. A particular set of antique glasswork is the swung glass style, much sought after in the antique collecting world.
Swung Glass is a particular style of glass blowing that has a distinctive shape and glass blown technique. It is a ’60s era glass piece and sought after in the antiques and collecting communities. Swung Glass is recognized by the irregular mouth of the vase that is swung specifically to that shape.
Going more in-depth, we’ll talk about how it is made, how to identify swung glass among lookalikes, and even where you might find these antique vases.
What is Swung Glass?
Swung Glass is a type of glass that is the result of a special blowing technique and style of vase that was extremely popular in the ’60s. Swung glass can be found in a variety of colors, including green, pink, blue, amber, red, and purple.
Swung glass can be made of any type of glass, as “swung” mainly refers to how the glass vase was formed into the pattern it has now. While most glassmakers will have their mark stamped into and branded against the hot glass, especially glass that is made nowadays, most swung glass vases don’t have a company mark imprinted. This is because most companies didn’t start doing it until swung glass was no longer popular. Instead, they used an aluminum or paper tag to show that the item was made by a certain company.
Swung glass was mainly made in America, but some other countries have adopted the practice.
Swung glass is made today, but it is not as popular today as it was in the ’60s. Swung glass is surprisingly durable because the glass is relatively thick, especially at the base. However, be careful when you are handling swung glass, as you don’t want it to break. The neck of the vase tends to be thinner and more fragile than the base, so grab swung glass by the base rather than the neck.
How Do You Identify Swung Glass?
When identifying a Swung Glass vase, you will want to look for a few different things. Most noticeably is going to be the seam towards the bottom of the vase that slowly is eliminated as the neck of the vase is swung to elongate it and then also the mouth of the vase that usually has an irregular, non-uniform opening that may fold or pinch or dip in fun and interesting ways.
The more sure way to figure out if you have swung glass is by looking at the seam along the body of the vase. There are a few different glass blowing companies that make swung glass, and each has its own way of making its swung glass vases, so you can use those techniques to determine what swung glass you have.
Below is a great video of someone going through and identifying what a few good companies swung glass vases are. They talk about swung glass and the companies that make it in great detail. The video also shows just how many different styles there are among swung glass.
Going through the video, you can see a variety of different vases and all of them have that elongated neck, a few have the pedestal bottom, which is also a common signifier, and an irregular or stylized mouth of the vase.
How is Swung Glass Made?
Swung Glass is made from a specific technique that may seem rather complicated when we first hear about it. Perhaps it’s a metaphor or something of the type, but it is quite literal in its definition.
Swung glass is pressed into a mold and left to cool slightly. When it is still hot, but after the glass has formed the shape of the mold, it is picked up by the neck of the vase and swung by the glassblower. As it is being swung, the glass stretches and sometimes twists. Because of this, it is hard to find two swung glass pieces that look exactly alike. (Source)
They then style or leave the mouth of the vase as desired and give us that distinctive shape of Swung Glass. This technique is also where the Swung Glass might be mistakenly called ‘Swing Glass’. However, the correct name is swung glass because the glass has already been swung and elongated to that longer shape, so it needs to be referred to in past tense rather than present tense.
After the glass has been swung, the glassblower cuts off the tail and shapes the opening. This is why swung glass often has ruffles or a dramatic slope at the top of the vase. After swung glass has cooled completely, it is then polished and sent to retailers to be sold.
How Antique are Swung Glass Vases?
Swung glass can be a pretty antique, especially if you get or find originals from older glass companies such as L.E. Smith or Viking glass. They’re not the most expensive antiques on the market, where most swung glass vases from Viking glass or L.E Smith will be around forty to fifty dollars. This also depends on the size of the vase itself, as larger vases will be more expensive and much more antique as they are more difficult to make.
This YouTube video went through and shares the different things that make this owner’s swung glass vase unique and also identifiable as the swung glass itself.
Where Swung Glass was Made
Swung glass was made in America, mainly by two companies: L.E. Smith and the Viking Glass company. The Viking Glass company specifically only operated from 1944 to 1980. During this time, it made a variety of glass products, including swung glass vases. It very rarely put marks or brands on their glass products and designs, hence why it is rather difficult to find and identify Viking swung glass. The paper labels have come off or are illegible now.
L.E Smith and Viking liked to do swung glass vases that had a small pedestal at the bottom with petals or something similar at the top to create a unique shape. It worked well, especially when combined with the swinging motion used to form the glass. It gave the vases a slightly elegant appearance.
When Swung Glass was Popular and Why
The swung glass vases were particularly popular from the ’60s through the ’80s when financial hardship hit the United States. After that, it took a bit before the swung glass vases, particularly the original ones made by the companies that tanked or went out of business after the fall in swung glass popularity, started to be considered antiques. The process required to make swung glass is not extremely complicated, so we can still find people and businesses that make this style of vase not only in the United States but in other countries as well.
As for why it was popular, when swung glass was originally crafted no glass looked like it. It was considered new and different, which was appealing to many people. No piece of swung glass is exactly like another, and the variety of designs appealed to a large market. Swung glass is considered a statement piece because it doesn’t look perfect and catches the eye of everyone who walks into a home that has a swung glass vase.
Swung glass lost its popularity in the United States when financial hardship struck thousands of people, but it is still considered beautiful by many people, which is why companies still make swung glass.
What is Stretch Swung Glass?
Stretch swung glass will most likely be a combination of two different techniques of glass blowing. The company that will be most known for this and regular swung glass is Fenton. The process of making stretch glass is different than swung glass, but the two techniques can be combined together to make a beautiful work of art.
Stretch glass is made by heating it up, shaping it into a body of a vase, and then spraying with a metallic finish and heating it up again to give it an iridescent finish. Because of that method, it is particularly easy to apply it to swung glass vases as well. All you need to add to the process is that metallic paint and finish.
The resulting glass has an iridescent finish that is slightly similar to carnival glass, although swung glass is more valuable and harder to make than carnival glass.
Swung glass doesn’t have the same finish, so they are considered different types of glass, even though they are made by using similar materials and techniques. The two types of glass also come in similar colors.
What is Viking Swung Glass?
Viking swung glass is swung glass that was made by the Viking Glass company. It typically has a type of pedestal at the bottom, although they used many different types of pedestals.
The Viking Glass company was known for producing extremely vibrant glass, especially swung glass, but they went out of business in 1999, so all Viking swung glass is considered an antique. (Source)
If you want to see glass pieces that are Viking glass or find replicas of their most popular pieces, Etsy has many Viking glass examples for you to look at or purchase.
How Do I Know What Viking Swung Glass I Have?
It is extremely difficult to determine if you have a swung glass vase that was made by the Viking Glass company because in the ’60s, Viking Glass used foil or paper tags to label their vases. They didn’t mark them in any other way. The labels have either been lost, thrown away by one of the owners, or has deteriorated over time so they can’t be read. Some Viking swung glass has a company marking, but they are few and far between.
Oftentimes, Viking glass has an elongated neck and the top has an extreme slope rather than small ruffles like some of the swung glass pieces that were made by L.E. Smith.
Luckily, you can determine if you own a Viking swung glass piece and what it is called by obtaining a copy of the catalogs that they released in the 1960s. (Source)
You may also be able to determine if you have a piece of Viking swung glass by looking at the color of the glass. The Viking Glass company is known for producing glass with vibrant colors, so their swung glass will have vibrant colors. Viking swung glass is often found in yellow, green, red, blue, and pink.
The rarest piece of Viking swung glass is a white and rose pink vase. The color shifts from pink to white to pink again. The neck of the vase is typically white, and the edges of the glass look like rounded petals.
How Much is Viking Swung Glass Worth?
Depending on the color of the Viking swung glass and when it was made, Viking swung glass is worth between $100 to $500. Some pieces have sold for more, especially Viking swung glass that is pink, purple, or white.
When cleaning swung glass, use gentle dish soap. Never put it in the dishwasher, as it will likely break. Use a toothbrush to remove dirt and debris from the crevices of the glass. After it is cleaned, let it air dry. Then, store it anywhere you want. Sunlight likely won’t leech the color from the glass.
If you want to figure out if the swung glass piece that you have was made by the Viking Glass company, take it to a local antique store or pawn shop. They may be able to determine who made it and tell you how much it is worth.
Viking glass is beautiful and elegant because of the techniques used to form the glass. It comes in a variety of beautiful and vibrant colors. Antique swung glass can be found at antique shops, pawn shops, and online antique auction websites.