The Fascinating World of Swung Vases

As an avid collector and admirer of vintage glassware, I have always been captivated by the unique beauty and craftsmanship of swung vases. These stunning pieces of art have a rich history and continue to be sought after by collectors around the world. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the fascinating world of swung vases, exploring their history, popularity, identification, value, and the intricate process of making them.

What is a Swung Vase?

A swung vase is a unique and beautiful glass vase made using a specific glassblowing technique. The term “swung” refers to the pattern in which the glass vase is shaped. The glassmaker starts with a ball of molten glass on the end of a blowpipe. 

After the initial shape is formed in a mold, the vase is reheated until the glass becomes elastic. The glassmaker then swings the vase in a pendulum motion, stretching and twisting the glass to create its distinctive shape.

History of Swung Vases

The history of swung vases dates back to the late 19th century. Bryce Higbee was the first and oldest company to produce swung glassware in 1889. 

In 1905, three other American companies began manufacturing swung vases: Viking Glass Company, Fenton Art Glass, and L.E. Smith. These companies continued to make swung vases for many years, with their popularity peaking in the mid-20th century.

The Golden Age of Swung Vases

The mid-20th century marked the golden age of swung vases. During this period, companies like Fenton, Imperial, and Northwood produced some of the most sought-after and collectible swung vases. 

These pieces showcased the skill and creativity of the glassmakers, with unique patterns, vibrant colors, and stunning shapes.

Why Was Swung Glass So Popular?

Swung glass vases gained immense popularity due to several factors:

  1. Unique appearance: No two swung vases look exactly alike, thanks to the handcrafted nature of the glassblowing process. This uniqueness appealed to people who appreciated one-of-a-kind pieces.
  2. Statement pieces: Swung vases, with their eye-catching shapes and vibrant colors, served as stunning statement pieces in homes and offices.
  3. Versatility: These vases could be used for various purposes, from displaying flowers to serving as standalone decorative objects.

Swung Vase Identification

Identifying a genuine swung vase requires careful examination of several key features:

  1. Base, neck, and mouth: Look for a non-uniform pattern at the mouth of the vase, often with a folding or pinching appearance. The neck is usually elongated, and the base may have a distinctive shape or pattern.
  2. Seam: Examine the seam along the vase’s body. In swung vases, this seam is more prominent near the base and becomes fainter as it travels up towards the neck.
  3. Brands: Each company that produced swung vases had its own unique style and techniques. Familiarizing yourself with the characteristics of different brands can help in identification.
  4. Size: Swung vases come in various sizes, from miniature to large funeral vases. The size is determined by the base diameter rather than the height, as the height can vary depending on how much the vase was swung.

Tips for Identifying Swung Vases

  • Study the characteristics of different makers and eras
  • Examine the vase in good lighting
  • Use a magnifying glass to inspect details
  • Compare the vase to known examples or reference materials

The Process of Making a Swung Vase

The creation of a swung vase is a fascinating process that requires skill, precision, and artistry:

  1. Pressing: Molten glass is pressed into a mold and left to cool slightly, allowing the glass to take the initial shape of the vase.
  2. Reheating: The vase is removed from the mold and reheated in a glory hole until the glass becomes elastic and malleable.
  3. Swinging: The glassmaker holds the vase by the neck using a tool called a snap and swings it in a pendulum motion. This stretches and twists the glass, creating the unique shape of the swung vase.
  4. Shaping the mouth: After swinging, the glassmaker shapes the mouth of the vase by cutting and tooling the hot glass. This process gives the vase its distinctive ruffled or pinched appearance at the top.
  5. Cooling and polishing: The swung vase is allowed to cool slowly before being polished to a smooth, glossy finish.

The Art of Glassblowing

Glassblowing is an ancient art form that requires years of practice and dedication to master. Swung vases are a testament to the skill and creativity of glassblowers, who use their expertise to create these stunning pieces of art.

Swung Vase Patterns and Colors

Swung vases come in a wide array of patterns and colors, each with its own charm and collectibility. Some popular patterns include:

  • Northwood’s Tree Trunk
  • Fenton’s April Showers
  • Imperial’s Ripple
  • Dugan’s Target
  • Fenton’s Butterfly
  • Berry (from a tumbler mold)
  • Fenton’s Blackberry
  • U.S. Glass Palm Beach

Colors range from vibrant hues like amethyst, blue, red, and green to more subtle shades like amber, smoke, and clear glass. Rare colors, such as pink and root beer, are highly sought after by collectors.

Rare and Desirable Patterns and Colors

Some patterns and colors are rarer and more desirable than others, making them highly sought after by collectors. Examples include:

  • Fenton’s Butterfly in pink
  • Northwood’s Tree Trunk in amethyst
  • Imperial’s Ripple in root beer
  • Dugan’s Target in red

Vintage Swung Vases

Vintage swung vases, particularly those from the mid-20th century, are highly prized by collectors. These pieces showcase the craftsmanship and artistry of the glassmakers from that era. 

When shopping for vintage swung vases, consider factors such as condition, rarity, and provenance. Pieces with minimal wear, unique colors or patterns, and a documented history often command higher prices.

Caring for Vintage Swung Vases

To preserve the beauty and value of your vintage swung vases, follow these care tips:

  • Handle vases with clean, dry hands
  • Dust regularly with a soft, dry cloth
  • Avoid using harsh cleaners or abrasives
  • Display vases away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures
  • Use a protective liner if displaying flowers

Swung Vase Value

The value of a swung vase depends on several factors, including:

  1. Size: Generally, larger vases are more valuable than smaller ones. Funeral vases, which are the largest, can fetch the highest prices.
  2. Color: Rare colors, such as pink and root beer, are more valuable than common colors like amber or clear glass.
  3. Pattern: Some patterns are rarer and more desirable than others, affecting the vase’s value.
  4. Condition: Vases in excellent condition, with minimal wear or damage, are more valuable than those with significant imperfections.
  5. Maker: Pieces from renowned companies like Fenton, Imperial, and Northwood often command higher prices.

Swung vases can range in value from a few dollars for common pieces to several hundred dollars for rare, large, or exceptional examples.

Factors Affecting Swung Vase Value

  • Rarity of pattern and color
  • Condition and presence of damage or repairs
  • Size and shape of the vase
  • Maker and era of production
  • Market demand and trends

Places to Buy and Sell Swung Vases

If you’re looking to start or expand your swung vase collection, or if you have pieces you’d like to sell, there are several options available:

  1. Antique shops and malls: Many antique dealers specialize in vintage glassware and may have swung vases in their inventory.
  2. Online marketplaces: Websites like eBay, Etsy, and Ruby Lane offer a wide selection of swung vases from various sellers.
  3. Auction houses: Some auction houses specialize in vintage glassware and may feature swung vases in their sales.
  4. Collectors’ clubs and forums: Joining a collectors’ club or participating in online forums can help you connect with other enthusiasts and learn about buying and selling opportunities.

When buying or selling swung vases, always research the piece thoroughly, ask questions, and consider factors like condition, rarity, and market demand.

Tips for Buying and Selling Swung Vases

  • Research the piece and its value before making a purchase or sale
  • Examine the vase carefully for damage or repairs
  • Ask for additional photos or information if needed
  • Compare prices from multiple sources
  • Use secure payment methods and insured shipping for transactions


How can I tell if a swung vase is genuine?

Look for key features like the seam, mouth shape, and overall craftsmanship. Familiarize yourself with the characteristics of different makers and eras. If in doubt, consult an expert or reputable dealer.

Are all swung vases valuable?

Not all swung vases are highly valuable. Value depends on factors like size, color, pattern, condition, and maker. Common pieces may be affordable, while rare or exceptional examples can command high prices.

Can swung vases be used for flowers?

Yes, swung vases can be used for displaying flowers. However, be aware that water can leave deposits and cause cloudiness over time, potentially affecting the vase’s value. Consider using a protective liner or displaying dried flowers instead.

How should I care for my swung vase collection?

Handle swung vases with care, as they can be delicate. Dust them regularly with a soft, dry cloth. Avoid using harsh cleaners or exposing the vases to extreme temperatures. Display them in a safe, stable location away from direct sunlight.

Are there any contemporary glassmakers creating swung vases?

While swung vases are primarily associated with vintage glassware, some contemporary glassmakers may create pieces inspired by the swung technique. However, these modern pieces will not have the same historical significance or collectibility as vintage swung vases.


Swung vases are a testament to the skill, creativity, and artistry of glassmakers from the past. These unique pieces continue to captivate collectors and enthusiasts with their mesmerizing shapes, vibrant colors, and rich history. 

By understanding the process of making swung vases, learning how to identify and value them, and knowing where to buy and sell, you can embark on a rewarding journey into the fascinating world of swung glass collecting. 

Whether you display them as stunning centerpieces or treasure them as part of your vintage collection, swung vases are sure to bring beauty and joy to your life for years to come.

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