Until I began collecting vintage Pyrex, baking for me was quite a lacklustre experience (the resulting cakes were spectacular, of course!), mainly because of the drab selection of mixing bowls we had. Two medium sized plastic ones, completely useless because they had no weight to them, one medium sized clear Pyrex one, better but still not great and certainly not nice to look at and one enormous one which is white inside and beige with a raised pattern outside. I think lots of households have one of these and you constantly see them in television dramas (especially period ones), some of them are family heirlooms with lots of history, stories and memories of the delights of cakes past, which is brilliant. Sadly, ours is not such a romantic one, my mum having bought it about twenty years ago as she needed a decent mixing bowl. I don’t want to disparage these bowls because they do the job well but I don’t think anyone would ever describe them as pretty.
Then I discovered JAJ Pyrex Cinderella bowls and all others were consigned to history! Cinderella nesting mixing bowls were first introduced in 1957 and it is said that they were called Cinderella because Walt Disney had just re-released their animated hit ‘Cinderella’, which was undergoing a renewed phase of popularity (so apparently not because they were made of glass and transformed the dull world of mixing bowls into a fairyland filled with happy bakers and gorgeous cakes…). The design of these bowls was revolutionary and I would go as far as to say has not been bettered since. This incredible improvement was a simple one but makes a world of difference to someone who bakes a lot. Pyrex added a pouring spout on one side and a handle on the other, which makes holding onto the bowl while you empty your cake mix into the pan so much easier. I have heard the bowls described as having two spouts but the design was for a spout and handle, although if you want to use the handle as an alternative spout good for you! The fact that the bowls came in sets of four was handy, as you would always have a decent sized bowl for the job and therefore wouldn’t have to wash them until the end. That they were nesting was also useful when space in the kitchen was scarce. The other advantages to the Cinderella bowls could also be applied to standard vintage Pyrex mixing bowls; they were heavy enough to do the job, were very durable and looked gorgeous while doing all these other things!
I should just say at this point that the over-arching name ‘Cinderella’ was applied to other items, including casserole dishes but it only seemed to stay in use for the mixing bowls
Probably the best loved JAJ Cinderella nesting mixing bowls were the Gooseberry pattern ones (also a pattern used in the US). The sizes were 4.5 pint, 2.5 pint, 1.75 pint and one pint (or numbers 444, 443, 442 and 441 respectively). They came in five colour combinations; yellow and white, pink and white, duck egg blue and white, coral and white and turquoise and white. These days, it is probably easiest to find the yellow and white and pink and white versions. The coral and white is harder to find (a set in its entirety that is), the turquoise and white slightly harder still and I personally haven’t actually ever seen a duck egg set in the flesh (or glass!). Having said that, I have spoken to collectors who have been confused by the turquoise and duck egg, some people not realising they were distinct colours and assuming there was just blue and the difference between the two being caused by ageing and wear! Understandable really when you consider the variations in colour which can appear due to fading and that old foe of vintage Pyrex, the dreaded dishwasher! If you find clusters of small stars in the pattern of your Gooseberry Cinderella bowl this indicates that it is an early version of the bowl (which was produced for nine years in Gooseberry).
The most significant sets of JAJ Cinderella bowls apart from the Gooseberry ones, were the Carnival, pastel shades set of three bowls introduced in 1961, with a one pint yellow bowl, a 1.75 pint coral one and a 2.5 pint duck egg and the Hawthorn set of three (sizes as for Carnival), with a green leaf pattern on a white background also released in 1961. I’m not sure why these were sets of three as opposed to four, if anyone knows or has a theory, please let me know. There was also a June Rose set released in the early 1960s, which bafflingly (well to me anyway!) WAS a set of four! I’m not a huge fan of the June Rose pattern myself but it is a very popular with many collectors. I’ve seen an awful lot of June Rose but have rarely seen it on a Cinderella bowl.
Interestingly, the Cinderella bowl style was also used for the Clover Leaf Salad Set (popularly known as ‘Shamrock’). A large green bowl with a white leaf pattern and a smaller white one with a green leaf. These were joined with a bracket suspending the white over the green (this set up has led to it commonly being called a chip and dip set – which, quite honestly would make more sense!). These are very hard to find as a complete set, as is the white bowl by itself. There are more of the green bowls around but many of them seem to have suffered quite significant scratching and colour loss, perhaps more noticeable because it was such a dark colour to start with.
The Cinderella shape was also used for the 1964 Mix and Serve Set, one of my all time favourite sets! This set consists of a larger plain grey bowl and a smaller grey bowl, with an intricate white line pattern near the lip of the bowl and again should have a bracket which suspends the smaller bowl over the larger. This is a stunning set, which looks understated but beautiful, sadly this is very hard to find, particularly with the bracket.
JAJ did produce Cinderella bowls in other patterns too, although not as many as in the US where they seem to have been made in just about every pattern, very useful as then you could get all your kitchenware to match. It must be said however, that on the British side of the Atlantic at least, most vintage Pyrex collectors would think of the Gooseberry pattern first when it comes to Cinderella bowls.
If you would like a set of the harder to find colours or patterns, it’s probably a good idea, if you are patient enough, to build up your own set one bowl at a time. For instance, although complete sets of coral and white Gooseberry are very hard to track down, individual bowls of each size become available reasonably frequently but do check the size of a bowl before you buy as different people have different ideas about what is “large” or “medium-sized” and it’s not always possible to work out size in a photo. Also bear in mind condition when you buy. These bowls can date back sixty years, so some colour loss and scratches from use are inevitable and can actually add to the charm of a piece (a mixing bowl which has never been used and has just sat on a shelf for half a century would be quite sad) but chips, the dreaded “flea bites” and severe scratching should and can be avoided as there are a reasonable number of these bowls still around in great condition but again some patience might be involved. After all, the principle of ‘you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince or princess’ can also be applied to collecting vintage Pyrex!