Not that long ago, I picked up a set of drinking glasses and matching ice bucket from an antique store down the shore. These glasses were made by the Libbey Glass Company and it’s easy to find sets of this pattern, Silver Foliage, on eBay, Etsy, and other sites, especially if you search for “vintage Midcentury Modern glasses.” It’s no surprise, since Libbey was, and still is, one of the biggest manufacturers of drinking glasses.
Libbey’s most popular patterns were sold for decades. According to some internet sources, Silver Foliage was produced between 1957 and 1978. The Golden Foliage pattern was introduced the same year and produced through 1982 – so those vintage Midcentury Modern glasses on eBay could actually be from the Disco Era.
Golden Foliage was so popular that other manufacturers copied the design on their own glasses (our set has Libbey’s cursive “L” maker’s mark on the bottom of each glass). Meanwhile, Libbey was busy putting the two foliage patterns on different styles and types of glassware (check out the tray and carafe in the ad below). You could probably develop a detailed chronology of Silver Foliage by the yearly catalogs put out by the company; unfortunately they do not seem to be available online.
These glasses combined style and practicality. They were affordable (about $4 to $8 for a set of 6 or 8 glasses in the 1960s) and durable, but also shapely and substantial – these tumblers feel good to hold. That is a testament to the skills of Freda Diamond, a prolific designer and consultant who began working for Libbey 1n 1942. The shape of the glasses is, as the MOMA has recognized, truly Classic; the graphic designs on the glasses were not always so timeless.
You can still get new Libbey glassware sets today – not in the Foliage design, but in the same shapes. But just last month, Libbey, whose history goes back over 200 years to the New England Glass Company, declared bankruptcy as a result of economic problems due to the coronovirus pandemic.