Spring is here and the wedding season is not far off. As we turn our thoughts to weddings for those loved and close to us, we explore potential gift ideas as well.
In the world of crystal, glass, and china giftware, “wedding bowl” is a term has been tossed about for decades. What defines a wedding bowl, and where does this name and form come from?
Regarding the glass form of wedding bowl, the history of a specific “wedding” piece begins in the early 1880s, when Adams Glass of Pittsburgh, PA introduced a pattern they called “Crystal Wedding.” While marketing as we know it was quite subtle at that time, one can expect that the name of the pattern was at least a partial effort to target newlyweds as a wedding gift. The “Crystal Wedding” pattern was popular and was produced for almost a century. Long after Adams has ceased to exist, Jeanette Glass, and later still, Westmoreland Glass, produced an identical footed compote and called it a “wedding box.” This wedding box, in several sizes, remains popular today because of the clever way the lid can be removed and put under the base to make a taller, more visually stunning presentation.
A similar Victorian-era object is commonly called a “bride’s basket.” These traditionally incorporate a glass basket in a silverplate stand with handle. The glass is often beautifully colored art glass, and is set within a silverplate holder that may be simple or quite elaborate. These were popular and widely reproduced in America and elsewhere beginning in the 1960s and 1970s. It is noteworthy to point out that silverplate manufacturer’s catalogs of the 1880s and 90s, when illustrating art glass baskets and metal frame, never called them brides baskets, but always titled them fruit baskets or cake baskets. This suggests that the name “brides baskets” may be a popular reference to the form applied at a later date.
The longest-produced pressed glass pattern in America, Fostoria’s “America” pattern (produced from 1915 to 1986), is available in a vast multitude of forms and shapes, one of which is called a ‘wedding bowl.’ This piece has several design elements in common with the wedding box produced by Jeanette/Westmoreland. It is a square, stemmed, and lidded compote or candy dish-like object. Fostoria produced the wedding bowl from 1948 until 1974. It was a very popular wedding gift at the time.
In ceramic and porcelain china, and particularly in hand-built or thrown pieces, a wedding bowl may often have the names of the happy couple and the date of marriage painted or engraved on it. Some glass wedding bowls are similarly decorated. While this has been a practice for some time, it gained in popularity late in the twentieth century. The nature of a special engraved or decorated piece has the connotation that it is indeed something special. Being handmade and customized, it is “just for you” and possibly very expensive ‐ an ideal gift!
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