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"This Color Purple--An Unnatural Disaster"

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.

Riverside Glass Works, Croesus, Empress, Esther, everglades, carnelian, Northwood, northwood, EAPG, early american pattern glass, opalescent glass, glass collecting, glass, glass collector, pattern glass, pressed glass