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Variations in Aqua Opal
VARIATIONS IN AQUA OPAL
by Brian K. Pitman
Brian here. I have spent some of my time this morning helping clients, some of it watching the Kansas City Royals parade after they won the World Series the other night (which was awesome), and some of my time working on some carnival glass things. It makes for a balanced and fun day. Of course, the carnival glass stuff was sparked by various emails from all sorts of people around the world, all wanting to know the answer to a question, an identification, pricing issues or such. Today, I got an interesting one through Facebook that made me think about how to best answer.
The question, paraphrased here, was essentially this:
An Aqua Opal Northwood Rose Show ruffled bowl has achieved wildly divergent prices over the past decade or so. Not accounting for damage, what gives?
The short answer is, of course, "iridescence." But that doesn't help really explain it to someone new, does it? So I shot back a question as a response: "What kind of aqua opal Rose Show bowl is it?"
My conversationalist, of course, didn't understand what I was asking, and as I thought about it, it's not really something you can just say, it's something you have to show, right? I mean, it IS a Rose Show bowl, so why not? So if you would indulge me a bit, here is how I look at answering a question like that.
First of all, there are two distinctly different types of aqua opal (and possibly even three.) As a newbie, I had absolutely no clue about this until I saw a presentation by Gary Heckenberger and he showed the differences (this was early in my collecting days, but I thought Gary did a great job presenting.) You see, there are the aqua opal pieces that have a thin line of opal on the edge, and the ones that have a few inches of opal (and the third, if we choose to call it that, are almost all opal nearly to the base.)
Here's an example to show you the difference:
This one has a narrow strip of opal around the edge. Notice that it also has a lot of marigold-like iridescence on it that is known as "butterscotch" because of the color it achieves.
This one has a lot of opal, appearing almost go to the base itself. Like the piece above, it has a lot of butterscotch.
And here is another example with a very thin line of opal and a whole ton of butterscotch.
So, there are at least two types of aqua opal (and collecting both in an pattern/shape is something I always thought would be cool.) I don't believe there is a price/value difference in the different types of aqua opal (Tom Mordini would likely be a good person to interject here with his opinion), but I will say that I feel there is a specific type of aqua opal that brings in the higher prices, and I usually see that specific type with lots and lots of opal. It goes back to the butterscotch thing. In my experience, there are three types of iridescence on aqua opal pieces: butterscotch (you see a lot of that above), basic (more on that in a moment), and pastel iridescence. Pastel iridescence is the one that it seems draws the bids and bidding wars at an auction.
So what do I mean by pastel iridescence? This:
In this piece, you may see some yellows in the highlights, but you see no butterscotch at all. Everything is pinks and blues, some yellows and purples, but very pastel in nature. These are the types that seem to do well and, if they are damage free, seem to always be at the top of the price scale. And notice all the opal on the piece...
Alright, that all being said, we have seen crazy things happen at auction, right? So perhaps the thing to do, knowing that I put an opinion forward on the more desirable version of the different types, is to walk through various types and see what we think. I am hoping to hear your opinions on these.
This one has the thick opal and a standard iridescence. It has hints of butterscotch. It's nice and many people would be happy with it.
Full on opal, kinda butterscotchy but kinda not. Nice, if you like that kind of thing.
This one has so much butterscotch, I am thinking it is really peach opal (spoiler: it's not.) Did I ever tell you that butterscotch is my favorite flavor of pudding? Carl & Eunice Booker can also show you where the best butterscotch pie is in Indianapolis (love it!)
Another standard one, this one has a wider amount of opal though it is covered up a bit by the iridescence.
This one is very nice, I would be happy with it. The thing this one has that many of the others above don't have it great pinks and blues. Again, these are my opinions based on what I have seen at auction and also my personal preferences with the bowls. Your opinion may be completely different than mine, and I would love to hear your opinion here.
The amount of yellow on this one is different and intriguing.
Wait, what? This one is very odd with the red iridescence on it, and the line of opal is very thin.
This is the thin opal and it is flat out gorgeous. Love this one! I bet it would have a nice little bidding war going on.
Also a thin opal bowl, but dramatically different than the one above it. Don't you love the diversity of carnival glass?
Now when I mentioned that there may be a possible third category, this one would be in that third category. The opal on this piece just doesn't seem to quit, does it? Beautiful piece, and yet not really in that pastel category.
Another in that "maybe" third category, but this one doesn't have the striking iridescence as the one above it.
Another nice one with standard iridescence.
Alright, there are sixteen from which to choose. Which are your favorite two? I have another nine I haven't included tonight, but I think the ones above give you a nice sampling of the different types of aqua opal Rose Show bowls. Of course, my friend Joyce Seale would tell me "You can never have enough Rose Show bowls," so I have to put those other nine up on Facebook with these so that she can smile down on us from her Heavenly abode...
According to Dave Doty, the values of these in 2015 range from $425 to $500. Do any of the above seem to be of a higher value to you, and do any seem lower value? Do you see qualities that you think help determine the value in an auction setting? My point to my conversationalist today was that you need to see a lot of something to be able to pick out the differences that increase desirability and value. I hope I was able to convey that in the pictures tonight. And remember the big caveat: what you may dislike, someone else may love. And what you may love, someone else may think you are cuckoo for liking. It's all good in carnival glass, there are so many different things to enjoy for each of us!
By Brian K. Pitman - 2015
Reprinted (with permission) from the November 3rd www.cga mailing list.
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