Eva Zeisel 'Prestige' Barware, Federal Glass Company February 18 2016, 4 Comments

Who knew behind the innocence of a fiery Old Fashioned glass there is a slightly sketchy past? Well, maybe not sketchy but questionable for sure!

This curvaceous little glass seems pretty friendly at first glance, ready to welcome a Don Draper pour. But don't be fooled by its vibrant cheer, for there's perhaps some underhanded history lurking here.

Eva Zeisel Prestige Barware Federal Glass Co_Audrey Would Vintage Home

This glass originates from the 'Prestige' barware line, a sleek, simple line designed in 1954 by industrial designer, Eva Zeisel for Federal Glass Company. The line consisted of four different glass styles: juice (small tumbler), iced tea (highball), cocktail (small stemless) and the Old Fashioned (whiskey) glass.

Without going too far into the details of these specific glasses, suffice to know that they were intended, per Eva's stipulation, to be produced only in the colour 'Crystal' - a brilliant clear glass with sheer rims - in other words, colourless.

As you can see...

Federal Glass Prestige Barware Amber Swirl Audrey Would Vintage Home

...there was a stray from that stipulation!

In or around 1959 Federal Glass introduced four colours to the 'Prestige' line: Ice Blue, Pink, Smoke, and Amber. They also added a 'swirl' variation to the glass - diagonal lines with a wavy optic effect that wrapped the body of the glass. It's hard to capture in a photograph, but this bird's eye shot will give you the idea.

Federal Glass Prestige Eva Zeisel Bar Glasses, Old Fashioned Glass, Audrey Would Vintage Home

Both the expansion to the Prestige line for coloured glass and the added swirl detail was, from all appearances, a decision made single-handedly by Federal Glass. As so often happens in the world of design, the designer gets lost in the process.

But not all was lost. One of the distinct design features that remained in place was the exquisite solid, bulbous base. This dramatic bottom commonly referred to as the 'doorknob' style, was a signature of the Prestige line.

Eva Zeisel Prestige Barware Doorknob Base Audrey Would Vintage Home

It does look like a doorknob, doesn't it?

It's this attention to detail that separates the designer from the assembly line! However, Prestige was intended to be an economical line of barware and as a result was mass produced for worldwide distribution.

The glasses could be purchased in sets of 12 or as prepackaged 'tumbler sets' which included four of each glass style. This barware line and distribution approach proved to be an astonishing success. Prestige became one of the best-selling lines in the United States! 

Audrey Would Vintage Home Eva Zeisel Prestige Old Fashioned Glasses

With gorgeous reflections and sparkle like this, it's no wonder why!

Federal Glass Company, Eva Zeisel Prestige Old Fashioned Glass, Audrey Would Vintage Home

But this was not all the change in store for the classic barware line. No, with its blanket popularity, the Prestige line also became available for special-orders of custom monogramming, logos and ornamentation!

One can only ponder, how far did this popular line stray from the designer's vision?

It's a question we will never have the full answer to, for sure, but what we do know is Eva Zeisel designed a bar glass style that knocked it out of the park! To this day glasses from the Prestige barware line are always a treat to find! 

Federal Glass, Eva Zeisel Prestige Old Fashioned Glass, Audrey Would Vintage HomeLooking for something else? Visit Audrey Would! Vintage Home online.

Audrey Would Vintage Home

Photographs © Audrey Would! Vintage Home


Historical information: Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, and Beauty, p.151



Jane @SustainMyCraftHabit on February 23 2016 at 04:00AM

It’s a shame that we don’t appreciate the design and workmanship in all of our household items as much as before. This is such a beautiful piece and knowing the story behind it makes it so special. Thank you for sharing.

Cynthia Weber design on February 19 2016 at 12:55PM

I am always fascinated by your well crafted and interesting glimpses into the history of the pieces you feature!
I learn something every time I visit!

Shauna on February 19 2016 at 07:09AM

The story behind this glass sounds like so many others where it starts out as one idea an eventually becomes something quite different than intended. Sounds like one of my DIY projects!
I often see pieces like these in thrift shops and think about you. I guess I should be sending you some pics! I neve know which ones are authentic.

Heather Meads on February 19 2016 at 05:13AM

You come up with the most interesting bits of history Sheila!! That Prestige line is no exception, it’s got a little mystery and intrigue. Those amber glasses are beautiful and perfect for any occasion!

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