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Imperial’s Heavy Grape – Kathi & Galen Johnson

Printed with permission from ICGA (from the Sept 2012 PUMP)

We recently were at the ICGA convention in Springfield, IL, where we had been honored to have been asked to be the banquet speakers. Kudos to the crew putting on the convention – you did an awesome job!

One of the pieces of glass that garnered the most comments was our Heavy Grape punch set in purple – and it’s easy to see why it is impressive! Not only does it have the most stunning electric iridescence, it is a substantial, brilliant piece (or is that pieces?) of carnival glass. This is an example of Imperial purple at its best.

Our collecting of Heavy Grape started very early in our collecting career. We had signed up and were going to our first carnival glass convention,HOACGA. One of the things we had signed up for was the “room display”, so we were entering the same pattern category. We had a green chop plate and an aqua large bowl in Heavy Grape. Everybody has to start somewhere, right? But, luck was with us, because on the way down we antiqued and found a marigold punch bowl and base. Then we got to the hotel, discovered ‘room sales’, and found a beautiful lavender 8” plate and a small marigold sauce. Those five pieces were actually our very first room display at a convention, and the beginning of a very entertaining journey.

The first challenge for us was identifying the various companies’ grape patterns. Does anyone out there remember how much trouble it was to figure out which Grape and Cable was made by whom, (well, except for Northwood – thank goodness, they marked some of theirs!), counting grapes and bunches of grapes? Did the rows lean to the left or the right? Was that a cable or a vine?

Imperial appears to have introduced the Heavy Grape pattern very early in carnival glass production. We can find it in the Butler Brothers’ Catalog reprint for the year 1910. It was apparently quite a long running pattern also.

The heavy grape pattern simply has the Imperial Flute pattern on the outside, and has a very realistic looking bunch of grapes on a vine with grape leaves in the center of whatever shape it is placed with stippling around the pattern. There is usually a very obvious quilting diamond pattern on the edge outside of the grapes. The so called “variant”, seen on a few bowls and small plates, doesn’t appear to have the quilting. A limited number of seven to eight inch plates and seven to eight inch bowls have a smooth bottom and they do not have the “normal” amount of grapes.

Once we thought we had it figured out, since we had five different shapes in four different colors, no less, and had done it in only five months, the quest began. We wanted all the colors in the known shapes, with one more big goal … cups to go with the punch set, of course! Shouldn’t be too tough, right? Riiiiight!

Sixty three pieces later, here we are, still so short of the goal. LOL!

It’s only in the last couple of years that we’ve actually gotten all of the marigold punch cups. It looks like persistence WILL pay off!

The most fun has actually been finding some very pretty, not really expensive, carnival glass and learning something in the meantime. The only reported shapes are: sauce or berry bowls, seven to eight-inch bowls, nine to ten-inch bowls, plates in six inches, seven to eight inches, nine and a half inches, and ten to eleven inches, one handled nappies, and punch sets which include the bowl/, base, and cups.

Seven to eight-inch bowls are the most easily found in the bowl shape. We have them in marigold, green, purple, teal, pastel marigold, smoke, vaseline and a rare cobalt blue. They also are reported in amber and lime green. Our three in the lighter colors, pastel marigold, smoke, and vaseline have smooth bottoms, which is the same anomaly we see in the seven to eight inch plates. The smooth bottom bowls are an entirely different mold with less grapes and leaves on them.

The large nine to te-inch bowls are probably the next easiest to find. We have marigold, green, purple, amber, smoke, powder blue, aqua, and one marigold that lightly fluoresces. They are either straight-sided or ruffled.

Small bowls (i.e. sauces) in the five to six-inch size, aren’t too easy, especially in anything except marigold; we’ve found marigold, purple, and finally got an amber one. Since you would presume the large bowls should have had accompanying small berry bowls or sauces, it seems they should be more available. They have also been listed in blue, lavender, lime green, smoke, and teal. We’ve not seen any of these with a smooth bottom; they have always had the rayed bottom.

The one handled nappy can be found quite easily in marigold. We also have green, purple, and a beautiful sapphire which were not as easy! We have not found the lavender one yet, but that would be wonderful.

Punch sets are impressive and beautiful, and not too easy to find! We have one in marigold, and have seen more tops than actual sets, the purple one pictured on the cover, and one in green. We once thought it was possible that the top of the marigold punch set was sold with six nappies to be used as a berry set – the cups seemed to be that elusive! The base of the punch set can be interchanged with the Flute punch bowl base. The cups, however, have the grapes inside the bottom and the quilting covers the sides in the cup. They also always have a manufacturing ground bottom (done at the factory).

We bought the marigold, as stated above, on our way to HOACGA at an antique mall with no cups. We purchased the purple set from Bruce Hill who sold it for Steve Davis. Steve has asked us to give him a chance to buy it back if we want to sell. We can’t believe he sold it to begin with! Sincere thanks to Steve for allowing us to “care take” this gorgeous piece of glass. We got a few extra purple cups from John Britt. Our green set also was purchased from Bruce Hill. And the marigold cups finally found a home within the last couple of years.

We have plates in four sizes: the little six-inch plate in marigold, the only color listed, I believe, with less than a dozen reported, the seven to eight-inch in marigold, purple, green, and amber. The lighter colored ones we own, pastel marigold, smoke, lavender and vaseline, all have smooth bases, not rayed. Our lavender plate is the example we like to show people who wonder what the color looks like. It is a super light amethyst base glass color with a beautiful PASTEL iridescence – holding the plate up, you can see right through it.

According to Dave Doty on his website at, the seven to eight-inch plates are the easiest shape to find.

We’ve acquired chop plates, ten to eleven-inches, in marigold, amethyst, green (helios), amber, white, and smoke. The white and smoke have very stretchy iridescence, and the white one has what appears to be a drilled hole. We had heard that there are others with the same drilled hole. We have seen a tangerine stretch plate, and what appeared to be a light, smokey blue chop plate.

Our most recent additions have been the nine and one half-inch plate in amber. We hadn’t realized there was another size until we found this one at a small auction. We have since seen one or two more both in amber. It is a rare, rare size in this pattern. We added another seven to eight-inch plate at the ICGA auction – the Leonard’s had the 8” marigold with a smooth edge. We were pleased to add this piece to our Heavy Grape collection.

We have a few pieces, a large bowl, chop plate, and eight-inch plate, in milk glass. Where is the one with marigold spray???? We’d even take smoke over milk glass – that would be spectacular!!

If you wanted to start collecting Imperial Heavy Grape, the good news is that this pattern is actually pretty easy to identify, and there isn’t generally a huge price tag attached for some beautiful glass. If you like grape patterns, this is a good option.

However, this pattern has been reproduced:

First by Imperial itself (sometimes marked LIG) in ice blue, ice green and pink. The examples we’ve seen tend to be very radium and are light on ‘rainbows’.

Fenton acquired the mold for the small bowls and used it to make an aqua opal souvenir piece for the SCCCGC as well as red and purple bowls, marked, typically with the Fenton sticker and a Fenton trademark on the bottom. Beware of any bowls with a possible grinding in the bottom center where the trademark would have been. Many years ago we visited the Fenton factory, and had the opportunity to talk with Frank Fenton, who told us that they had gotten the Heavy Grape mold from Imperial just before Imperial closed. He stated that he had gotten a call from the General Manager, asking if they would like to select some molds as payment for some work that Fenton had done for Imperial – the Heavy Grape mold was one of them selected by Frank.

It appears that Smith bought the large bowl mold at some point – we’ve seen a gorgeous hunter green bowl, and if memory serves us, it did have their trademark on the bottom. They also did some amethyst or purple bowls.

We’ve not seen reproductions of the plates, nappies or punch sets – only the bowl shapes.

We’ll probably continue to look for the pieces that would be so exciting to find, whether they are “fantasy” pieces, like a spittoon, rosebowl, or a tri-cornered whimsy, or just possibly based on the maker, a smoke punch set, an amber punch set, or even better, how about a BLUE punch set or an emerald or blue chop plate? It could never be the only thing we would focus on….you don’t find the unusual colors or shapes often enough to keep you going.

If anyone is aware of shapes or colors that are on our ‘wish list’, we’d love to hear from you. We may not be able to afford them, but it would be nice to know that they are out there! We wish you happy hunting and many smiles from the beautiful glass we love to collect.

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift – that’s why they call it the present. Enjoy your gifts!