Belle Decor

Heirloom Obsession: Fenton Hobnail Glass

By M.K. QuinlanMarch 8, 2013

For the last several years, I’ve been telling everyone who has any occasion to give me a gift that I’d like a piece of hobnail glass. Shape, color, and utility are irrelevant. The only requirement is that the glass is wart-ridden, like a toad.

Image courtesy of shavingkitsupplies.

In the beginning, I didn’t know much about the bumpy glass, just that it was old-fashioned  (“grandma-chic”) and I liked it. After some research, I found out that hobnail was 1) a type of nail used for shoe making and 2) a term used to describe a human liver pickled by booze. There was no information on hobnail glass at all, except with the frequent use of the word “Fenton" in descriptions. It turns out that the original hobnail glass was made here in the South by West Virginia-based Fenton Art Glass Company.

Fenton's original opalescent hobnail perfume bottle for sale at ThriftyDiversions; a blue perfume atomizer for sale at MaryLousLove.

Fenton’s first hobnail products were opalescent glass perfume bottles, in production towards the end of the Great Depression. In 1939, the company began selling milk glass hobnail, which caught on like wildfire and became their biggest selling product. You can find lamps, pitchers, candy jars, cups, salt and pepper shakers, and even little lamps called “fairy lights” made out of milk glass.

Milk glass hobnail for sale at Barking Sands Vintage; a milk glass hobnail epergne for sale on eBay.

Despite there being dedicated groups of Fenton collectors, this stuff is everywhere– every antique shop I’ve ever walked into and allover eBay and Etsy. Most people aren’t holding onto it, probably because they think it’s dated, which it is. But I’m here to tell you it’s back. Several new companies are even reintroducing the pattern in new colors and shapes, including Anthropologie and Ross Sveback.

My advice? Start scooping up the original Fenton hobnail before the crowd starts to swell.

Hobnail from Ross Sveback and Anthropologie.