Maker Unknown Paneled Dragon Black Amethyst Vase
This Paneled Dragon vase appeared on eBay in November of 2015. I can't take credit for finding it myself but I must say it's phenomenal how three good friends each sent me emails within twenty minutes apart from each other to let me know about it right away. It still has me speechless how they all remembered how much I wanted one of these since I saw the one on David Doty's website where he listed it as Paneled Dragon "The first of these 8-inch blue vases I've heard of. The maker is unknown. With minor edge nicks, it sold in 2006 for $1,025." and included a photo of it, shown 4th to last with the gray background, courtesy of Remmen Auctions.
Here is my amateur attempt to unravel the mystery of the maker of this amazing vase. This is strictly my opinion, and a humble and respectful one at that. If I did not have the privilege of purchasing this vase to observe it properly I could not make these statements coming. Please, please, please! Click on each photo twice to enlarge them for all the enchanting details! It's a must for this vase.
I was the successful bidder for this one on eBay. Even though I did put in the highest bid which sat there all week, I was sure there would be more bids to flood in towards the end of the auction. Lucky for me, I used Bidnapper to bid it in during the last leg of the auction. It's a good thing too because the price tripled during the last two seconds. I actually thought I lost it for a moment because the screen jumped and moaned before the message finally came up that said I had won. It was such a relief!
Judging from the auction description, the seller, who was from Breda, Netherlands, did not know who made it. He thought the base color was blue or purple. Hmmm. After I paid him I asked if he had any information as to where he bought it and here is what he had to say (literally);
"Tank you for buying, I'll bought it in Parijs on the antique Market, I'll pack it save, is the adres [Manchester] Engeland or Usa? Regards Ad."
I got the chills thinking what a coincidence it was how this vase commemorated the somber world news of the Paris bombings that echoed its way around the world to us during that week.
The last photo shown is one of many the seller showed us on eBay. It looked really dark. This is what it looked like when I pulled it out of the packaging too when it arrived. I knew it needed a good cleaning so that night I let it soak for a couple of hours in warm soapy water and then buffed it dry with a soft cloth to coax out an amazing brilliant shine. It came out so beautiful I couldn't believe it was the same vase. It twinkled like a diamond and shined like a mirror that would actually blind me if it was tilted a certain way under a lamp.
There is a dragon on each panel alternating with the head facing north and south. One would assume all the dragons are the same but in different directions but no, they are not. Each dragon is unique. There are subtle differences in its position in the feet and tail, whiskers, the length of the tails, and two are even holding a ball in their feet. These dragons have three toes and no wings which I read to be Japanese or Vietnamese and are usually benevolent, associated with water, and may grant wishes. See the photo of the Okyo Dragon print.
There are also mysterious circles, like moons, imprinted in a couple of the panels, noticeable in the first photo towards the bottom of the vase. These circles remind me of the companies that would do this purposely to mark where the handle of a pitcher should be hand-applied although I don't think this is the case.
I noticed the inside of the vase was pitch black and really shiny. In holding it up to a light I couldn't tell what color the base glass was because I couldn't see any light coming through it at all. I was expecting it to be blue, like I had read on Dave Doty's site. I peeked inside with a flashlight to see if there was a maker's mark but saw none. I did notice that the panels on the inside weren't smooth as expected. They were lumpy and slightly indented where the dragons were located on the outer side. It seemed odd to me because I remember this effect on pottery but not on glass that I can remember. The dragons on the outside stand out in high relief, above the surface of the vase, but are integrated very smoothly with the surface of the panel they rise up from.
The iridescence looked exactly like that of my Square Diamond vase by Brockwitz. The teal and magenta iridescence was exactly the same so I put them next to each other for further comparison. The Square Diamond vase is slightly taller than the 8" Paneled Dragon vase but their unique iridescence, that looks like "clouds" of color, matched PERFECTLY. They even matched when I changed them to be in different positions as you can see in the three photos together.
If that was not exciting enough, I turned them up-side-down to compare the bottoms side by side. I discovered not only were they both iridized on their bottoms but they each had a bright turquoise spot of iridescence smack dab in the center of each star design. It was as if it was a signature trademark of the person who iridized it! I could only dream.
When morning came I took it outside to use the strong sun to detect what color the base glass might be. I completely covered one eye with the vase and closed my other eye as I looked up into the sun. At first I could see nothing at all. Then, when my eye dilated from being in the dark, I saw a very faint pinpoint spot of grape purple in one of the corners. Ah ha! It was black amethyst, no doubt about it.
I messaged Dolores Sage on Facebook who said she owned one of these vases and that she knew it came from California. I told her I spoke to Bob Patterson of California, whom I knew once owned one. Bob said hers was the one he once sold at auction. He said, "You've heard of buyers remorse? Well I have sellers remorse." He wished he had never sold it and regretted it ever since. As a matter of fact, he regretted it so much that he was actually one of the under-bidders for mine in an effort to own one again. How's that for a small world? I apologized to Bob because I felt bad but he said not to. He congratulated me and said he was happy I won it because he knows it will have a good home shared on Showcase and won't just disappear into an unknown collection.
What was interesting to learn in my conversation with Bob Patterson was that the one he sold to Dolores came from a lady who said it had belonged to her mother who brought it to California from Peru, South America. So the plot thickens! Was it European or South American? That was the question!
Who would know better than Glen & Stephen Thistlewood? Since I was leaning towards the maker as being the same as the Square Diamond vase, I found a wonderful article on their website written in great detail about Brockwitz. They explained how Brockwitz of Germany exported their glass all over the world, especially to Argentina, S.A. I say "Thank you" to Glen & Stephen for their hard work in researching this company for us. Their article also mentions Brockwitz was making Carnival Glass in Germany at the same time when all the major American companies started making it here. I'd say they earned a spot next to all those names we know today.
I was excited to start thumbing through my Brockwitz catalog pages for more "clues". I was fortunate enough to have acquired them from my friend, Bob Smith, of Boston, MA. They come in so handy. At this point I am convinced that the star design on the base was the key that would unlock the mystery of the maker.
You can imagine how excited I was to have found the design of the star in the Brockwitz catalog shown as the center design on a bread basket, with the difference being the star pattern was incised on this item and had 24 points and 24 center flower petals on the Chrysanthemum whereas the Paneled Dragon vase has only 16 points and 16 petals and the star was impressed with high and low points. The actual design of the stars were the same. FYI, the bread basket reads "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread" in German. If it were not for this catalog and this plate, I could not have found this particular star design otherwise because these old catalog do not show the bottom of their products. The plate happened to show it readily.
After going through more of the Brockwitz catalog, I discovered another vase that had the same six sides and the slight hour glass shape as the Paneled Dragon has. With the exception of the scalloped top, the shape of both vases are the same. Also, the top of the Paneled Dragon vase is flat. I am thinking it was probably ground and polished because it's shiny, flat and has slightly beveled outer edges. Could this scalloped vase have been the original blank shape for the Dragon vase? It's quite possible!
No wonder I was inclined to believe Brockwitz made this Paneled Dragon vase. In comparison to the Square Diamond Brockwitz vase and the information I found in the Brockwitz catalog I found this.
- The iridescence is identical on both items.
- The bottoms are both iridized
- The bottoms both have a star pattern (although not the same).
- The bottoms both have a turquoise dot of irridescence in the very center of each star.
- Brockwitz made this same star pattern as a center motif for a bread basket (but with more points).
- A six-sided vase is seen in the catalogue, with a different pattern and with a scalloped rim.
What was interesting to learn from Dolores Sage is that the base color of hers was also black amethyst. So, there is only one big factor which precludes my theory that Brockwitz is the maker and that is Brockwitz made marigold and blue glass only. Otherwise, my theory would be plausable.
My friend Mike Carwile tells me Bill Edwards, co-author of the Carnival Glass Encyclopedia, acquired such a vase. Bill sold it to Mike's son, Evan, at a young age. Evan then sold it to a friend of the Carwile family, Gary Vandevander (who is also a collector on Showcase). Mike remembers that vase to be black amethyst.
Thanks to Debra Remmen of Remmen Auctions, I had the opportunity to track down the owner of the one pictured on Doty's website. She tells me it belonged to a man by the name of Dean Hanson of California, who is now deceased. She and her late husband, Kris Remmen, sold Dean's collection at auction back in 2006. Looking at her records, she said it was purchased by my friend, Gary Lickver of California. In speaking to Gary he says he still has it and reports that it is actually black amethyst and not blue, as previously thought during the Remmen Auction. So, this is the fourth vase we now know of and it is also black amethyst like all the rest. (Note: Since the writing of this article, Gary Lickver sold his vase on an online Seeck auction on November 12, 2017 and it was purchased by Jennifer Windham of Grand Cane, Louisiana. Congratulations Jennifer!)
Since the writing of this article, my friend David Richards, from Cumbria, UK has helped me understand this vase better with a detailed letter of why it is not probable that Brockwitz made it. Yes, as much as I wished it to be, I'm afraid it was not. For one thing, besides the color black amethyst not having been made by Brockwitz, we have come to the conclusion that since this vase has no mould lines, it was blown in the mould and then snapped off at the top and ground down. Also, the patterns of Brockwitz are mostly incised geometrics and not raised figurals like the Dragon vase. So, it's back to the drawing board for me as to who the maker may be.
I call eBay my dream-catcher. It makes a lot of dreams come true with the help of my good friends. In no particular order, I'd like to thank Gary Heavin, Mike Carwile and Pete Bingham who all made sure I knew about it. How's that for great friends?! Don't I know it!
Look for this article to be mentioned on Carnival Glass Showcase on Facebook too. You do not have to be a member to go looking around on Facebook. You can read and look at everything you want but you cannot leave comments is all. Click on the link and go take a peek!
Thank you all for joining me in the journey of the Paneled Dragon vase. It's not a bad start. The saga continues...
If anyone has anything to add to this research please email me at
The Christina Katsikas Collection
Dave Richards: "Christina this looks fantastic now you have cleaned it up thoroughly. You must be over the moon with it."
Pete Bingham: WOW! It looks like your vase polished even nicer than anticipated. A big double congrats on your treasure and research....you sound excited. It's great when a piece of glass can do that for you."
Glen Thistlewood: "Fascinating and compelling, with much to ponder. Beautiful photos too."
Sandy Sage: "Thanks for sharing photos of your new vase and everything you have discovered."
Mike Martin: "What a beauty!
Dolores Sage: "Christina, I, too, have a dragon vase and the base has the same pattern. I found mine on e-bay out of CA.
David Richards: "A fascinating item Christina. I have to say this design imagery is so very unlike anything else that came out of the US or Europe. It looks very much like Dragons you see in Chinese and Thai temple art. Is there a possibility that it actualy has a far Eastern origin?"
The Christina Katsikas Collection