Everyone Loves Pyrex

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Perhaps it’s not appropriate to say that everyone loves Pyrex. However, it is safe to say that (most) everyone knows what it is. In fact, when you hear the word Pyrex, a visual image instantly comes to mind.

My image is of the primary colored mixing bowl set with the yellow, green, red and blue bowls that my mother had. For others, it might be the measuring cup (with the red markings) that looks more like a small glass pitcher. Whatever visual image comes to mind, it is likely to be family related.

Pyrex branded glassware has been around a lot longer than you might imagine. In the early 1900s, the Corning Glass Works developed industrial glass that was resistant to sudden extreme heat and temperature changes. Corning then used this glass to produce clear Pyrex glass cookware in 1915.

In 1947, Pyrex introduced the first colored kitchenware. It was the primary colored mixing bowl set that I remember. That was the beginning of the colored kitchenware that is so popular today.

Corning Glass had an excellent marketing program that included changing the colors of their Pyrex products to match the times. In 1956 they produced pink, turquoise and yellow colored products. Those remain some of the most popular colors today. Orange, green and gold were introduced in the 1960s.

Pyrex marketing also included the production of a promotional line. The majority of the promotional pieces were produced from the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s but the line continued through 1983. Each piece was only available for a limited time. It was released in the spring for the “wedding gift-giving season” and in the fall for the “holiday gift-giving season.” The fall release often featured holiday themes such as snowflakes or pinecones.

These promotional items seem to be primarily serving type pieces or casseroles, especially the type with a divider in it. They featured unique colors and designs that were never used again. This has made the promotional pieces popular with collectors.

We maintain an extensive inventory of Pyrex glass kitchenware at Shady Lawn Antiques. Therefore we interact with shoppers that have a wide variety of reasons for purchasing Pyrex.

There are those who are looking to replace a broken piece or to fill out a set. Others purchase Pyrex for purely family-related nostalgic reasons. Recently we have seen an uptick in those who feel that using glass is a healthier option than using plastic. Then there are those who have extensive collections.

The condition of the piece is the primary consideration for these collectors. They are looking for complete designs, with minimal scratches or wear, and especially want bright shiny colors. They also like to have “complete sets.” That is, they want to have the lids for the pieces that originally had lids, such as casseroles and refrigerator dishes.

At least initially, collectors seem to be searching for patterns that they remember from their youth. Since Pyrex changed their colors and patterns over time, each generation is looking for different pieces. Then they branch out into collecting the different Pyrex themes.

We have seen collectors who focus on specific design patterns, colors or on a range of similar colors. Sets of mixing bowls are also popular, most likely because they nest together. Recently there was an individual who was looking for only the half-pint covered casseroles in different patterns. She was developing a consistently sized display that didn’t take up a lot of shelf space.

There is, in fact, much to love about Pyrex. You can cook in it and it also looks good when it is used as a serving piece. The glass is durable and the color is, too, unless you wash it in a dishwasher. Additionally, my grandmother used a Pyrex measuring cup and a large Pyrex bowl to mix up batches of cookies. Who doesn’t love cookies along with a dash of nostalgia? 

Dave Emigh and his wife Jill are the owners of Shady Lawn Antiques in Walla Walla, WA, perfectly located in the 1870s wood frame creamery buildings that Dave’s great-grandfather purchased in 1897. A professionally trained woodworker, Dave, along with his son Nick, specialize in the restoration of oak furniture. Shady Lawn, in its 25th year, has become a regional destination for oak furniture and is also known for a well-curated display of country, rustic and rare and unique “small” antiques. Glimpses of the ever-changing Shady Lawn inventory can be seen on Facebook and at www.shadylawnantiques.com

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