Charles R. Hajdamach, author of British Glass 1800-1914 (Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Antique Collectors' Club Ltd., 1991), writes that "Silveria is one of the most beautiful and sought after of all Stevens and Williams products. Artistically it is reminiscent of the abstract effects achieved by Claude Monet in his water-lily paintings."
Silveria was developed at Stevens and Williams about 1900 by John Northwood II and required the casing of silver foil between two layers of colorless glass. Casing the foil with glass protected the silver from exposure to oxygen and thereby prevented the unfortunate and otherwise inevitable phenomenon of tarnish.
This foil-casing process is surprisingly old. It dates back to the second century A.D., when Roman glassmakers cased gold-foil portrait medallions in the bases of drinking glasses. The cased medallions sometimes were roughly broken from the bases and used to ornament tombs in the Catacombs. Presumably the tombs were occupied by the previous owners of the glasses! NBMOG is fortunate to have in its Rockwell Library an original copy of Filippo Buonarruoti's 1716 publication Osservazioni Sopra Alcuni Frammeti De Vasi Antichi Di Vetro (Observations on Various Ancient Glass Jar Fragments), which illustrates dozens of ancient gold-glass medallions (see examples below, ex libris Paul Hollister).
Silveria holds a distinguished place in a glassmaking tradition spanning more than 1,500 years. It is revered as one of the most desirable rarities of British art glass, and NBMOG would be fortunate to have even a modest example in its collection. In fact the Museum's vase is considered exceptional both for its large size and its attractive, asymmetrical form. It came to us as the generous gift of one of our founding trustees, the late Roland Sallada.
Several 19th-century manufacturers in addition to Stevens and Williams revisited the foil-casing process. Silveria remained distinctive, however, as it required the glassmaker to apply the silver foil to a fully-expanded clear glass bubble that already approximated the size of the intended article. After applying the second layer of colorless glass over the foil no further expansion of the glass was required. For this reason the foil did not split into small fragments as seen in the ware of other manufacturers.
After casing the foil the glassmaker applied crushed glass colors to the surface of the bubble, typically in soft shades of pink, blue, yellow and green. Seen against the shimmering silver-foil background, the visual effect closely resembles iridescence. Next the glassmaker ornamented the bubble with freely-applied green threading and finally shaped the article to its finished form.
Production of Silveria was discontinued after just a few years. In the United States glassmaker Frederick Carder, who had worked at Stevens and Williams before immigrating to the United States in 1903 to found the Steuben Glass Works, introduced a line called "Silverina" in the 1920s. Although the name is similar to Silveria, the glass was made with mica flecks rather than silver foil and was therefore quite different in appearance.
Experimenting independently in Cleveland, Ohio in 1953, pioneer studio glass artist Edris Eckhardt developed her own process to case and color both gold and silver foil. Contemporaries celebrated her achievement as a dramatic rediscovery of the "long-lost" ancient process, conveniently overlooking the brief production of Silveria a half-century earlier. Nevertheless, Eckhart's experimental process did represent an exciting new direction for the old concept. With it she would create expressive and often intensely mystical works in glass that greatly surpassed the ancients in size and technical proficiency.