Camphor Glass Jewelry



You may have seen photos of some of your female ancestors wearing a piece of camphor glass jewelry or you might have inherited a piece, but did you know about this once very popular style of jewelry?

Camphor glass is clear glass that has been treated with hydrofluoric acid vapors to give it a soft, lovely frosted, whitish appearance. This effect resembles gum camphor, so the reason for its name. Camphor glass at first was used to make bottles, glass objects, lamp shades and more. In jewelry, the glass was often cast with a star pattern on the reverse to give it a radiant appearance. Camphor glass was made to imitate the carved rock crystal quartz which became popular from the 1850s through the 1930’s.

The popular style had either a square, rectangular or oval shaped glass, typically framed with silver filigree metal (either pot metal, white gold, platinum or sterling), and featuring a single gem at the center of a marcasite gemstone or diamond in the center. Some had the Eastern Star or coral design. The frosted whitish shade was very popular but also was the pale greens, pinks and varying shades of blue. It has always look unusual and elegant.

The earliest ones during the Victorian Era started off as mourning jewelry, a very popular item in the late 1800s. The two main companies who manufactured camphor glass were Boston & Sandwich Glass Company and Esemco. Moving into 1900, 1910s and 1920s the Camphor glass in various forms became popular on to themselves.

Most jewelry styles were that of necklaces but also bracelets, earrings, rings and pins. The value is based on whether it is gold, silver, or pot metal and then what type of gem. Many reproductions are being done in the 21st  century.

So check those vintage family portraits of your female ancestors, see if they are wearing any of this style jewelry. Check also with a relative, see if any have any such family heirlooms. 

Photos: My family Camphor Glass necklace-1910s; Vintage Camphor glass necklace with the Eastern Star and a ring.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Mourning Jewelry

Treasures of Female Ancestors

A Family’s ‘Crown Jewels’

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