Collecting Articles and Features

Kew Blas Art Glass from the Union Glass Co

The Union Glass Co. was established in 1851 in Somerville, Massachusetts by Amory and Francis Houghton, two members of the prominent Houghton business family. The company was successful making a range of glass products doorknobs, lamps, bottles, windows, lenses, tableware and were especially noted for railroad lanterns. The company adapted to changing fashions and economic conditions and as the society grew richer the company moved into art glass. The company was modernized by Julian de Cordova, the factory was re-equipped and he employed William S Blake as the factory manager.

KEW-BLAS Gold iridescent glass vase with pulled feather decoration in green
KEW-BLAS Gold iridescent glass vase with pulled feather decoration in green. Sold for $720 at Rago Arts, February 2006.

With the great success of art glass companies such as Tiffany and Quezal in the late 19th century, the Union Glass Co introduced their own range of iridescent glass which was called Kew Blas. Iridescent glass is a type of glass that typically contains a small amount of metal oxide. When light strikes the surface of the glass, it is reflected in a way that creates a spectrum of colors.

An early 20th Century Kew Blas Art Glass posy vase with a conical foot rising to a slender neck
An early 20th Century Kew Blas Art Glass posy vase with a conical foot rising to a slender neck, externally decorated with a red, white and blue pulled thread over the opal cased ground, height 16cm. Sold for £80 at Fieldings Auctioneers, March 2014.

Kew Blas is an anagram of W S Blake, the factory manager at the time. The glass is characterized by symmetrical shapes, many with a pulled feathered decoration. The company created a a number of different vases of various styles. The range was very successful in the early 1900s but  as tastes changed towards iridescent and cut glass, and along with other issues, the factory was closed down in 1927.

A Kew-Blas Pulled Feather Glass Vase in green yellow and gold
A Kew-Blas Pulled Feather Glass Vase in green, yellow and gold c 1910. Signed on base. h: 5 x w: 2.50 in. Sold for $400 at Grays Auctioneers, June 2012.

Most Kew Blas pieces are signed Kew Blas on the base.

There is a fairly strong secondary market with a small steady stream of pieces coming to market. Fine examples can be sold for over $1,000. We include a number of Kew Blas Art Glass pieces which have sold at auction along with their realized prices.

KEW BLAS Gold on gold iridescent glass vase with pulled feather decoration
KEW BLAS Gold on gold iridescent glass vase with pulled feather decoration. Sold for $1,579.95 on ebay, November 2019.

Related
The Union Glass Company: A window into Somerville history