If a vintage Pyrex collector had to make a list of the top ten most annoying things about their hobby (ok, so I know there are probably only five but top ten sounds better!) I reckon issues to do with colour would be right up there. Leaving aside fade and colour loss, just identifying the colour of a piece can sometimes be a problem.
My own particular bugbear, which you’d think I’d have got over by now but irritates me all over again just about every time I hear the word is… drumroll please…coral. I know, coral VP is about as gorgeous as it gets BUT I was brought up to believe that coral is a shade of pink. Deep pink yes but nowhere near the red that we know as coral Pyrex. I’m evidently not the only one who thinks that way either, as I’ve often been told by a seller that their piece is “rare” coral and then had to break it to them gently, that it is, in fact, pink. They usually then start complaining that coral is pink – what can I say, I didn’t make the rules but I do sometimes wonder if someone in the Design Department was colour blind or at least absent from school the day colours were discussed in art class. The other day, after having this same whinge with my fellow collectors, I decided to put an end to the debate once and for all, so I Googled “What colour is coral?”. Guess what it said…orange! That’s enough about my little peccadilloes though, onto the serious stuff!
Coral and pink vintage Pyrex really are very different, confusion mostly arises because of differing definitions of the colour ‘coral’.
The other main colour issue I come across (and I bet most people have had this one) is the vexed question “Is it turquoise or is it duck egg?”. That’s not a question I would find particularly difficult in my non-Pyrex related life (who am I kidding, I don’t actually have a non-Pyrex related life!) but as a collector I’ve struggled with it a few times. As a rookie collector, I didn’t even know duck egg Pyrex existed and often I think I was better off that way! Partly because I’m definitely a turquoise girl but also because sometimes it can be difficult to tell your duck egg Cinderella from it’s prettier sister. I had a turquoise 444 Gooseberry Cinderella first and I love that bowl dearly, I thought it was the most beautiful bowl I’d ever seen and on reflection, I think it still is. It was after I had this gorgeous classic design piece in my possession that I heard about duck egg, so of course, like any good collector, I set about tracking one of them down too. Now this took some time, I was still in high school and my budget was very limited (which is a nice way of saying virtually zero). Eventually however I found one, on eBay of all places! It arrived, with perfect timing, on a Saturday, so I could open it immediately! My first thought was “it’s turquoise”, although that panic subsided after a few seconds when I realised it was paler than that. Only to come back to bite me a few seconds later when my sister helpfully asked “Haven’t you already got one of those?!” Obviously when I stood them next to each other you could clearly see the difference but it’s not always so easy when you don’t have both colours to hand. Also, it must be said that a faded turquoise could be mistaken for a duck egg if the loss of colour is extensive.
When you then factor in things like light and filters in terms of photography if you’re buying online or a dealer sends you a photo, it can be very difficult to tell them apart. Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a major city with many well stocked vintage stores, or have extensive contacts in the vintage trade, your best chance of finding a duck egg is online. I used to wonder whether an unscrupulous online seller could misrepresent a turquoise as one of the rarer duck eggs. Recently I found out. My closest Pyrex friend lives in the United States and she recently noticed something amiss with her full set of duck egg Gooseberries, which she had bought online. She immediately compared them to her turquoise set and doubts began to set in. She asked me for my opinion on photos of the two sets. I know what you’re thinking, dear reader, how would I know, between the settings on her phone and mine, whether I was seeing the colours accurately? Well I can’t tell you how because I’m a bit vague on the details now but my uncle works in tech and he talked me through how to do it. Sure enough, I agreed with her, there was definitely something wrong. Interestingly, there was a misidentified turquoise but also one of the colour on white bowls was a third shade of blue. My friend had bought her duck egg set quite early on in her collecting career too and like me, hadn’t realised how deceptive the colours can be without an example of each to hand, particularly so on the 443 and 441 in the Cinderella sets (they are the bowls which are mostly white and have the pattern picked out in the colour) as there isn’t a solid block of colour to look at. My friend was naturally upset to find a couple of imposters in her set but I wonder if the bowl with the unidentified shade of blue might be something special, a mistake in the production process perhaps, a limited run or perhaps a prototype which never quite made it to the final cut. There you have the excitement of collecting vintage Pyrex in a nutshell – something new is always coming to light.