Stately Porcelain Candlesticks with Metallic Platinum Glaze by Charles Fraunfelter (LEO Design)


In the world of ceramics, "lustreware" refers to the family of pottery in which a delicate, iridescent metallic glaze—usually a very thin treatment—lies upon the original (traditional) glazing.  As with most pottery-making, the raw clay is formed and fired once, creating a plain "bisque" piece.  The stoneware, ceramic or porcelain is now solid though not decorated.  The piece is then glazed and a second firing "fixes" the glaze to the underlying ceramic. With lustreware, a light metallic glazing is applied over the first glaze—and the piece is fired a third time, but only lightly, enough to soften the first glaze and create the desired chemical reaction in the lustre glaze.  Lustrous glazes use metal: usually gold, silver or copper.  The third firing is at a relatively low temperature and in a kiln deprived of oxygen (called a "reduction process").  Lustre glazes are very thin and, as such, are somewhat hard to control in the process.  It is common to observe the lustrous area as a "smear"—an irregular layer of iridescence which contributes to the random and one-of-a-kind nature of each lustreware piece.

Lustre glazes were invented in Iraq (previously called Mesopotamia) in the 800s.  In time, the technique spread to Egypt, later to Islamic Spain, and then on to Catholic Spain in the late Middle Ages.  By the 1500s, during the Renaissance, the technique was practiced in Italy, notably in Gubbio and Deruta.  It eventually moved-back to the Middle East where Persian ceramicists used lustre glazes in tile and ceramic works.  It was in the 1700s that lustre glazes were produced in England; British ceramicists continued to produce lustreware through the Arts & Crafts and Art Deco periods.

The porcelain candlesticks, shown above, were made by George Fraunfelter in Zanesville, Ohio, in the 1920's.  They have a platinum-like, lustrous "mirror" glazing—which, like most lustreware, is irregularly applied over the first glaze.  Click on the photo above to learn more about them.


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