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by Glen and Steve Thistlewood

What comes into your mind when you think of Australian Carnival? Do you think of the rich dark iridescence that was often used? Or perhaps the stately shapes of the elegant comports and float bowls? Maybe. But most likely the images that will first come into your mind are the delightful Australian flora and fauna - the kookaburra, kingfisher and kangaroo - the waratah blooms and the dainty Christmas bells. In this feature we’ll show you some of these splendid patterns, along with some fascinating details along the way.

First - who made Australian Carnival Glass? One factory alone is considered responsible - the Crown Crystal Glass Company (previously Crystal Glass Ltd.,) who were located in Sydney, New South Wales. Their Carnival was primarily made in two colors - marigold and “dark” (which ranges from purple to a dense black amethyst) both typically with excellent, rich iridescence. Rare examples of aqua base glass with marigold iridescence are known. In a Crown Crystal catalog from 1929, their Carnival items are divided into two categories: Iridescent and De Lustre - quite possibly equating with marigold and “dark”. It is thought that iridizing probably began at Crown Crystal in 1919, (although the first designs were not registered until 1923) and continued until the early 1930s.

The shapes generally found in Australian Carnival are bowls (both large and small) and compotes or cake stands, while other shapes, for example, the swung vases, water sets, sugars and creamers, are found less frequently.

The Kookaburra is a native Australian bird and the symbol of New South Wales. It’s the largest of the world’s Kingfishers and is sometimes called the “Laughing Jackass” as it has a distinctive and extraordinary laughing note that is said to be one of the most familiar sounds of the Eastern Australian Bush.

In Carnival Glass, the Kookaburra is available in a 9” master berry bowl, as well as the 5” nappy or berry and a magnificent 11” float bowl - the pattern was registered in 1924. The actual interpretation of the pattern varies according to the different sizes of bowl, but the basic design concept remains constant - the delightful kookaburra in the center, perched on a branch and surrounded by floral motifs. Also note that the small bowls usually (not always) bear the registration number RD 4184. The flowers shown on the 9” bowl are the waratah (to the left and right of the bird), a single flannel flower below and a wattle sprig above - tied with a bow. A butterfly hovers at the top.

There are two versions of the 5” nappy - one is a smaller interpretation of the 9” bowl, complete with flanking waratahs, wattle garlands and butterflies (top and bottom). The other version differs in that the background is stippled and the flower sprays are limited to encircling wattle sprigs that are quite sparse in appearance. The float bowl is different again! Here the central bird is surrounded by five individual waratah heads.

The exterior pattern on the 9” bowl is known as Fern & Wattle (it’s also found on the exterior of several other master bowls). The 5” bowls have no reverse pattern. The float bowl is different again, and may be plain or have the exterior pattern known as Broken Chain.

Click an image below to see a larger version in a new window.

Line drawing of the 9” master Kookaburra bowl
Copyright Glen Thistlewood
Marigold 11” Kookaburra float bowl
A close-up shot of the kookaburra in
the center of the float bowl
The “dark” (purple) 9” master bowl
in a rare ice cream shape
The waratah bloom that flanks the kookaburra
Copyright Glen Thistlewood
The flannel flower motif
Copyright Glen Thistlewood
The delightful wattle garland
Copyright Glen Thistlewood
The exterior design known as Fern and Wattle
Copyright Glen Thistlewood
The Broken Chain motif
Copyright Glen Thistlewood

The Emu is a native species of Australia that can be found on the grassy plains and in the dry, open woodlands - sometimes in pairs and sometimes in flocks. The bird was portrayed on Carnival by Crown Crystal in bowls (large and small) and splendid comports. As well as marigold and “dark”, rare aqua pieces are also known, the base color showing a pale greenish blue under a marigold iridescence.

The basic pattern concept on the bowls is the same for both masters and nappies. The emu is in the center, surrounded by wattle springs, flannel flowers and butterflies. On the 9” bowls there are two butterflies (both above and below the emu) while on the 5” nappy there is but one, above the bird. On the reverse of the 9” bowl is the Fern and Wattle back pattern. The Emu design was registered on November 4, 1924.

The Emu comport does not feature the floral motifs, but instead portrays the bird in a bushland setting, surrounded by trees and grassland.

To add a personal touch, we’ll tell you about our first Emu pieces. We came across them at an antique fair in London around ten years ago, and in the usual hustle and bustle of the fair we almost walked right past them. A pair of 5” marigold nappies (berry bowls) were nestling on a “house clearance” stall among the bric a brac. We didn’t spot them at first, but a quick “double-take” revealed what we’d almost missed, and we quickly clinched the deal.

Click an image below to see a larger version in a new window.

A “dark” Carnival master Emu

The kangaroo is undoubtedly one of the most easily recognized and familiar of all the Australian creatures. The pattern features a kangaroo amidst oddly stylized trees and there are actually two versions of the design (registered on January 15, 1924) to be found on the large master berry bowls. One version (“Small Roo”) has a smaller kangaroo and a loose branch above the RD number - the other version has a larger kangaroo and no branch. All pieces found in this distinctive design have the moulded RD 4696 on the face of the pattern underneath the kangaroo. The master berry bowls have the Fern and Wattle exterior pattern while the small bowls have no exterior design. As with the Emu pieces, marigold, “dark” and rare aqua pieces are known.

Click an image below to see a larger version in a new window.

A “dark” Carnival master Kangaroo - note
this is the version that has the bigger
kangaroo and is without the branch
A close-up of the kangaroo

The design features a little bird perched upon a branch. It was registered in 1923 and the design number (RD 4184) is moulded onto both the 9” master and the 5” nappies. There are two versions of both master and berry: one has sprays of wattle leaves encircling the bird; the other has wattle leaves with the addition of blossoms. None have exterior patterns.

Recently there have been various sightings of several versions of fake small 5” nappies in the Kingfisher design. Only this size of Kingfisher bowl is currently known to have been faked - and they are pretty easy to spot. Follow this link to read more detail on how to spot the fakes.

Click an image below to see a larger version in a new window.

Line drawing of the master Kingfisher bowl.
This is the simpler version with encircling
wattle leaves and no blossoms
Copyright Glen Thistlewood
Line drawing of the master Kingfisher bowl.
This is the more detailed version with
encircling wattle leaves PLUS blossoms
Copyright Glen Thistlewood
A “dark” Carnival Kingfisher master in
the simpler version
The interior of the “dark” Kingfisher
nappy (simpler version)
The exterior of the “dark” Kingfisher nappy.
Note the ground base - this was made
using a one-piece mould

Such a restful and serene design - the swan sits on the gently rippling water right in the very center of this beautiful pattern. It’s a very pleasing design, beautifully composed. Floral sprays of Christmas Bells frame the central motif. At the bottom of the design the registered design number RD 4697 is moulded into the pattern. The individual berry bowls in this pattern have slight variations in their design, also, some have the registered design numbers and some do not. The exterior pattern Fern and Wattle may also be found on the outside of some of the larger bowls.

Click an image below to see a larger version in a new window.

A close-up detail of the pattern to
show the lovely design and the
encircling Christmas bells

And finally, let’s finish off with a few more glimpses of Crown Crystal’s magnificent Carnival Glass.

The Piping Shrike is surrounded by wattle blossoms on the master bowl in “dark” Carnival The Magpie is surrounded by a garland of flannel flowers on both master bowl and nappy (the 5” nappy is shown here)
The interior (top) of the Butterfly Bush comport A marigold Kiwi nappy, featuring two kiwis surrounded by fronds of tree fern (the New Zealand national floral emblem)

Two splendid Banded Diamond tumbler whimsies flank a regular tumbler.
Australian member Ray Rogers tells us that the whimsies are from a
different mould to the regular tumbler, as the base is different.
The weights also differ, the whimsies being heavier as well as
(obviously) taller. The regular tumbler is 4½" high, the whimsies
are 6" high. Photo Copyright Ray Rogers

Here's a puzzle piece - that may or may not be Australian. The photo was sent to the wwwcga Mailing List by Ray Rogers (from Oz) back in October, 2004. It's an amethyst compote that has subsequently been named "Birds and Pomegranates", although we believe at one time it was also called "Parrots and Pomegranates". At the time, Ray explained to the members that he felt the fruit on the branches looked like pomegranates. He added "I have been told that the bird is identical to an "Asian paradise fly catcher" depicted on a piece of china." It's an intriguing item, but was it made by Crown Crystal? We cannot confirm where it was actually found. Ray felt that it had typical Dugan characteristics. What do you think?

If you’d like to listen to Waltzing Matilda while you read the article, click!

Copyright 2006, G&S Thistlewood.  All Rights Reserved.
All photos and drawings, unless otherwise stated, are
Copyright Glen and Stephen Thistlewood and may not
be copied or used in any form without permission.