by Elaine Henderson, EAPG INC.
Published in The Antique Trader, June 1994
"If this is read by those who are ruining this glass, I hope you will be
shamed into stopping. If you are reading this as an innocent pattern glass
lover, I hope you will join in publicly and privately condemming the practice
wherever it is encountered." --Elaine--
There is a dilemma in the world of Early American Pattern Glass that needs
addressing. It is the widespread practice, in the southwestern United States,
of exposing EAPG to a germicidal black light for a few weeks or directly to
the sun for an extended period of time and turning it artificially purple.
We’re not talking purplish here; we’re talking PURPLE. The merchandising MO
is to buy old glass, do the exposure thing, take the pieces that turn purple,
rump up the price, write a little purple flyer with a charming story about how
the sun, over the past hundred years has reacted with a chemical, magnesium
(sic), in the glass and created this glorious purple antique.
This is not a small problem. We have seen booths in California, Arizona and
New Mexico with hundreds of pieces of EAPG ruined for eternity in the name of,
well, GREED. As a practical matter, the process is irreversible. Call me
super-sensitive perhaps, because our business is EAPG pattern-matching and no
one wants a set of dishes with a purple spooner, but the sight of a shop full
of this stuff turns my stomach! My analogy for the rest of the antiques world
is that this practice is tantamount to taking an original Pennsylvania Dutch
hand-painted chest, stripping it down, repainting it red, white & blue striped
and calling it patriotic. Fine, but you have ruined an antique!
To be fair, some dealers who have a few purple pieces are genuinely surprised
when we reject their pieces and tell them they are ruined, but I have spoken
with a number of people who own shelves-full of this glass- none of whom admit
to having been the one to “do the deed”- and their rationale is always
defiantly, “It sells.” They say visitor’s from “up north” are enchanted with
the idea of the age of the glass and its being affected by our "fabulous
southwestern sun". This, in the face of out & out admissions that a
germicidal UV lamp was actually used (by someone else, of course) & the sun
had nothing to do with it!
Bill & I have done what we can: leave little notes in pieces that say “Please
stop turning EAPG purple”; try to reason with the dealers that there is a
finite amount of this old glass & suggest they just tell their customers how
to “do the deed” and give buyers the option of buying it in its natural state;
or ask them to carry a line of purple glass & tell customers it used to be
clear, etc. (that would be no more deceptive & a lot less destructive).
Maybe we EAPG dealers have done a poor job of selling the original charm of
our merchandise & that also needs to be remedied. Meanwhile, with full
understanding that all dealers are free to do whatever they want, to whatever
they own, we beg, beseech & implore legitimate antiques dealers to join with
us in denouncing this technique, rejecting any pieces that have been
ultravioletedly tampered with and doing whatever is possible to educate the
buying public that EAPG is beautiful, useful and charming just the way it was
created a century ago.
Elaine Henderson, EAPG INC.