A Worldwide Collecting Phenomenon
This work was compiled via a years long journey to some of the most wondrous private collections of kugels to be found today. The objects that grace these pages were found in locations throughout the United States and Europe - over 20 collections in total. We have handled and examined over 3000 kugels to date.
Some collections have been in families for over 50 years. A few individual items can be traced to an ancestor's possession over 100 years ago.
The intent of this book is to be as comprehensive as possible in describing photographically the wide variety of colors, sizes and molds that were used when these first of the glass Christmas ornaments were made.
Kugels are unique relative to modern Christmas ornaments in that the color is actually in the glass. The glass is colored chemically by inclusion of small amounts of mineral contaminants. It is believed that the glass blowers mixed the glass in small batches based upon proprietary recipes. This theory is certainly supported by the wide variety of colors, hues and shades that have been found, including 4 shades of gold, orange, four shades of red, pink, 4 shades of amethyst, 4 shades of purple, 6 shades of blue and 8 shades of green.
Toward the end of the book you will also find a comprehensive photographic catalogue of the embossed designs found on the brass caps that allow these ornaments to be hung from the Christmas tree, or in the case of the larger examples, from the ceiling or window frame.
None of this could have been possible without the participation of the contributing kugel collectors. To them I would like to say, thank you for your time and access to your beautiful collections.
I hope you enjoy the photographs
6" high, cobalt blue raspberry
4" high, red leafed oval grape
The central premise behind the organization of this book is that similarities in glass color and mold characteristics and common use of cap designs allows the collector to infer relationships between individual pieces.
In many cases, family resemblances suggest that individual glass blowers or affiliated groups of glass blowers created product lines in which a single sculptured design was manipulated to make pieces that ranged in sizes that included 3" high, 4" high, 5" high, 6" high, and so on up to 9" high. This is especially true with grapes, leafed grapes, berries, ribbed spheres and ribbed eggs.
In other cases, common caps and glass color formulation suggest relationships between very different molds. This is true of the artichoke, pineapple, gourd and strawberry as one group and the orange, banana, curved grape and garlic clove as another.
It is also curious that there always seems, within a general category, to be at least a pair of competing families, as in :
1. grape oval A versus grape oval B versus grape cluster
2. leafed grape cluster versus leafed oval cluster
3. ribbed spheres and eggs versus teardrops
4. artichoke, pineapple and gourd versus orange, banana and
curved grape versus raspberry and serrated leafed grape
5. pointed egg shapes versus shield shaped eggs versus natural
4" high, amethyst cluster grape
5.5" diameter, teal green berry
Identifying Genuine Antique Kugels
The best way I have found to identify an antique kugel is to compare it to another known genuine article. That is one of the purposes of this book.
To the extent that that is not possible in all cases, the general consensus for identification is as follows :
1. Color is in the glass and the silvering is on the inside.
2. A pontil scar is found under the cap indicating that the piece was hand
blown. The scar should be about 1/2" in diameter, irregular in cross section
and show signs that the glass was snapped from the pontil.
3. An embossed brass cap covers the opening in the glass.
4. For German kugels, a magnetic nickel alloy loop connects the glass and cap
to the ring. For French and Czech made kugels, the loop is made of brass
and is not magnetic.
5. In almost all cases, the ring is cast brass - notable exceptions are found with
the daisy cap, in which the ring is a welded piece of wire, and the ornate
bunting cap, in which the ring is made from a brass ribbon that is formed
into a donut shape.
6. In molded pieces, 3 mold seams are generally visible at the top and bottom
of the piece. Notable exceptions are the raspberry and the spherical
pinecone, which each have 4 mold seams.
7. As a result of the 3 part mold, most mold blown pieces are symmetrical in
multiples of three - 3 leaves, 27 ribs or 6 stems, etc.
8. The glass in free blown items, like rounds and eggs, is not uniform in
thickness throughout, resulting in darker parts at both ends of the piece.
3.25" diameter, amber ribbed sphere