Lynchburg Insulators

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Colors of Lynchburg Glass Insulators

(Go directly to the Color Chart)

The basic ingredients of glass are silica provided by various kinds of sand, soda or potash to lower its melting point, and lime to provide stability and strength. Most sand has naturally occurring traces of iron, copper, and other minerals. Because of these trace minerals, in most cases the "natural" color of glass is a light aqua or blue, the color of older soda or medicine bottles, canning jars, and other utilitarian glass ware, usually called "green ware" in the glass industry. Since insulators were functional and not decorative, and needed to be made as cheaply as possible, there was no need to refine the glass beyond these natural colors.

Most of the more exotic colors of earlier insulators come from cullet, or recycled glass, which was added to the glass batch to facilitate melting and to add to the volume of glass. Cullet could be from recycled beer or ginger ale bottles, usually in shades of green or amber, or other glass products. Cullet could also be leftover glass from production of other items, such as decorative items or art glass, or simply recycled rejects from previous productions runs.

Different colors of insulators could also result from purposefully making insulators in specific colors. For example, some companies such as Whitall-Tatum made glass power insulators in dark amber to imitate porcelain insulators. Hemingray marketed signal insulators in Blue, Green, and Amber as a way to distinguish separate lines on the same pole or crossarm.

However, Lynchburg never attempted to compete by making deliberately colored insulators, and never made art glass in exotic colors. So the colors of Lynchburg insulators come solely from natural minerals in the glass and from cullet added to glass batches.

Clear glass requires either additional treatment to neutralize the colors imparted by minerals, or a high quality white sand free of most trace minerals, or both. In most cases the functional nature of insulators rendered color irrelevant. Only in the 1930s did concerns about potential shorting risks from insects and spiders inhabiting the skirts of darker colored insulators raise questions about color. But in the 1920s there was usually no need to go to the additional expense of further refining to produce clear glass. So, the most common colors of Lynchburg insulators are a wide range of aquas and blues, which was also typical for Hemingray production during this time. Most of the early production runs at Lynchburg were fairly consistent in these colors. However, in late 1924 and early 1925, significant increase in the use of cullet yielded the darker shades of green, olive, sage, and blue that occur in Lynchburg insulators.

Yet, there are Lynchburg marked insulators that occur in a smoky or off clear with a wide range of light color tints, as well as a very few in crystal clear with no tint (I have seen clear with no tint only in CD 112.1, although CD 154 exists in a slightly Off Clear). These clear tinted insulators occur in limited styles: CD 106, CD 112.1, CD 122, CD 154, and a very few darker tinted pieces of CD 162. These pieces were also consistently some of the last Lynchburgs made (determined from mold numbers, the re-tooling of molds, drip point shape, and mold wear). The glass in these clear pieces seems to be a higher quality glass, in some ways resembling early Pyrex insulators. This would suggest a different glass formula or a different source of sand than previous Lynchburg insulators. This clear tinted glass resembles that made from high quality silver sand or silica sand. This is the most desirable sand for glass making since it is almost pure silica, has a very low iron content, and contains almost no mineral contaminants.

Lynchburg regularly used sand from a deposit area near Stapleton, VA, about 12 miles north and east of Lynchburg. The sand deposit was a relatively high quality quartz sand with about 91% silica and .5% iron, along with white, silvery mica (sericite). This is enough contaminant to give glass the light blue or aqua tint of most early Lynchburg insulators. However, this same sand deposit also contained areas that were more than 95% silica with only a .07% trace of iron. This sand would yield almost clear glass, with perhaps a slight smoky gray tint. We know that the earlier Lynchburg Glass Works (see Lynchburg Company History) produced soda and other bottles in a smoky gray color, sometimes with a barely perceptable sage green or a disctinctly light yellow tint, so it must be assumed that the later Lynchburg Glass Corporation also had access to this higher quality sand. -1-

Yet, there is also some evidence that in the last months of production, Lynchburg purchased sand from additional sources. While this awaits further research for confirmation, a different sand source would also explain the change in color of later Lynchburg insulators. -2-

Some have suggested that the clear tinted Lynchburg pieces were not made at the Lynchburg plant but in Birmingham, Alabama after the Birmingham Glass Company purchased the Lynchburg presses and insulator molds (see Birmingham Questions). While this may well be true, this question cannot be determined by color alone since the sand deposit used by both Lynchburg companies contained high quality sand that would produce nearly clear glass (or clear glass with a light smoky, yellow, or green tint), as the 1919-1920 soda bottles made by Lynchburg Glass Works attest.

In early production at the Lynchburg plant, William Gayner no doubt would have used the glass formula with which he was familiar from Gayner production, as well as readily available sand. Yet surviving letters indicate that even Mr. Gayner was exploring the possibilities of new formulas for glass making. -3- The color of most early Lynchburg insulators is similar to Gayner insulators, shades of light aqua, blue aqua, and green aqua, which suggests that the plant used Gayner's glass formula and sand from the lower quality deposit. As the Lynchburg plant struggled with production quality and profitability, increasing amounts of cullet were used leading to a much wider range of darker colors in later production. Since clear tinted pieces are some of the last made marked LYNCHBURG, it seems obvious that some change was made in the later production runs of CD 106, CD 112.1, CD 122, CD 154, and some CD 162.

From what we know, it may be nothing more complicated than using higher quality sand from a different area of the available deposit or from an entirely different source. -4- Or, in the difficult financial circumstances at the Lynchburg plant in early 1925, it may well be that William Gayner experimented with the glass formula and sand mixture to try to increase productivity and show a profit. Yet in letters from W. H. Loyd to several prospective buyers of the closed plant, he mentioned "green glass" ware, and in one letter specifically refers to "green insulators," which in the trade would refer to various shades of green, including what we would call aqua. -5- That may suggest that Lynchburg produced "green ware," the glass industry term for utilitarian blue or green tinted glass.

So, it is possible that some pieces marked Lynchburg, especially the clear tinted pieces, were actually made by Birmingham Glass Company. We know thatLynchburg's insulator molds and some of the presses were sold to a company in Birmingham, Alabama, that intended to produce insulators (see Lynchburg Letter). This might account for the significant change in color of later production (see Birmingham Questions). Also clear and clear tinted CD 106 lettered BIRMINGHAM have been found on the same lines with clear tinted Lynchburg CD 106, which suggests they were made together. Still, the reality is that at this point we do not have enough information to decide this issue definitively.

Color Chart

Color swatches are approximate. Some monitors/settings may not display the color swatches correctly. Clicking on the thumbnail will open a window with a larger image. Depending on browser settings, either a new full browser window will open, or a smaller inset window will open and remain open in the background until it is closed. With the inset windows, to compare different images/colors minimize this page (and other open windows) after clicking on the thumbnails. The inset windows can then be arranged on the screen to compare colors (see below).

ice steel blue
ice blue
light blue
light cornflower
ice aqua blue
aqua blue
teal blue
sgae blue
Ice Steel Blue
Ice Blue
Light Blue
Lt. Cornflower*
Ice Aqua Blue
Aqua Blue
Teal Blue
Sage Blue
ice aqua
light aqua
dark aqua
light blue aqua
blue aqua
dark blue aqua
light green aqua
green aqua
dark green aqua
Ice Aqua
Lt. Aqua
Dk. Aqua
Lt. Blue Aqua
Blue Aqua
Dk. Blue Aqua
Lt. Green Aqua
Green Aqua
Dk. Green Aqua
light blue green
blue green
ice green
light green
dark green
apple green
light 7-up green
Lt. Bl. Green
Blue Green
Ice Green
Light Green
Dark Green
Apple Green
Lt. 7-up Green
Yellow Greens and Olives
sage yellow green
dark sage yellow green
light yellow green
medium yellow green
yellow green
dark yellow green
olive ywllow green
light olive
light sage olive
Sage Yel. Green
Dk. Sage Yel. Green
Lt. Yel Green
Med Yel. Green
Yellow Green
Dk Yel. Green
Olive Yel. Grn.
Lt. Olive
Lt. Sage Olive
sgae tint
green sage
aqua sage
sage blue
light gray sage
smoky sage
light olive sage
Sage Tint
Green Sage
Aqua Sage
Sage Blue
Lt. Gray Sage
Smoky Sage
Lt. Olive Sage
off clear
pink tint
yellow tint
green tint
green amber tint
sage tint
olive tint
smoke tint
smoky gray
Off Clear
Pink Tint
Yellow Tint
Green Tint
Green Amber Tint
Sage Tint
Olive Tint
Smoke Tint
Smoky Gray
BI-Colors Swirls
blue aqua and green
aqua and green with amber swirls
green and aqua
aqua and green with amber swirls
light sage and amber tint
Lt, Aqua/
Blue Aqua/Green
Aqua/Green Amber Swirls
Lt. Sage/
Amber Tint

*Cornflower Blue: This color is very close to Ice Blue, but with a slightly deeper hue that tends toward cornflower
(See "Fake and Altered Colors" below).

Screen shot of inset windows arranged on screen for color comparison

Comparing Colors

Colors are often hard to distinguish in isolation unless compared to a different color. This is especially true of subtle shades of blues and greens and blends of the two colors. A piece may appear to be Blue until it is placed beside an actual Blue piece, and then it appears Aqua. Or a piece may appear to be Green until compared to a truly Green piece and then it is obvious that it is actually Aqua or Green Aqua.

Also, as noted below, kinds of light also influence how we perceive color. Fluorescent lights often highlight Blues or impart a bluish tint, while incandescent lights tend to emphasize Greens and impart a slight yellow tint. Complicating all this is that different people perceive colors slightly differently. The reality is that there is no foolproof way to identify colors absolutely. If possible, it is always best to compare a piece with others of different colors to help establish a range of hues (note the range of color tints of "Clear" in the chart above).

aqua with greenblue aquablue
Blue Aqua often appears Blue in comparison to the more common Aqua.
Here is a comparison of Aqua with Green (left), Blue Aqua (center), and Blue (right).

Fake and altered colors

One might assume that something as utilitarian as glass insulators would not be counterfeited or faked. Yet anytime there is money to be made people will began producing fakes of various kinds. Some rare insulators have actually been counterfeited with the intention of defrauding people, using recently made pieces passed off as original and rare old pieces. There has also been a proliferation of reproductions, some clearly marked as such according to the National Insulator Association guidelines, while others have been sold without such markings. Fortunately no Lynchburg insulators are known to have been counterfeited or reproduced.

fake color
Example of a bogus Lynchburg color, produced by using metallic oxides and heat. This piece was offered for sale on a popular auction site

However, the much more common fakes involve color. With the rising popularity, and therefore prices, of rare and unusual colors of insulators it was inevitable that some would seek to profit from the production of spurious colors. Totally bogus colors are applied to genuine insulators using various techniques ranging from paint-on glass dyes, to sophisticated heat treatment with metallic oxides or salts, to irradiation using medical or sterilization equipment. Sometimes such fakes seek to duplicate authentic insulator colors. However, most often they are fantasy colors purely for the artistic effect of colored glass to increase the sales appeal of common insulators (see photo right). While genuine insulators come in a wide array of colors, usually such fantasy colors do not match any known colors in which the specific insulator specimen is known to exist. For Lynchburg insulators this would be any shade of amber or purple, including light lavender blue, as well as red, pink, cobalt and peacock blue, orange, yellow, and carnival.

Heat. There are various techniques for using heat to alter or apply color, but basically they all involve using some type of coloring agent or pigment, often metallic oxides or salts, and then "baking" the color into the surface of the glass. The result is glass that appears to be uniformly and originally the fake color. At this time most of these types of Lynchburg fakes are in fantasy colors (see photo at right).

Example of Irradiation on a Gayer CD 205.

Irradiation. Exposing older glass to various kinds of radiation produces a range of color changes mainly from various impurities in the glass. Such irradiated insulators are becoming increasingly common, especially on auction sites. Irradiated Lynchburg insulators often have a dusky or smoky cast that is easy to identify (see photo at right). Known fake colors of Lynchburgs are dusky Brown, Smoke (although there are a few examples of genuine Lynchburgs in Smoky Gray or Smoky Sage), murky Dark Sage, Gray Blue (although genuine pieces exist in Ice Steel Blue), Medium or Dark Cornflower Blue, dusky Sapphire Blue, and Lavender Blue. Except as noted, none of these colors occur naturally in Lynchburg insulators.

There are sometimes questions as to what is a genuine color. For example, I have personally recovered from old poles a couple of Lynchburg insulators in a very light cornflower blue, only slightly darker and more intense than Ice Blue (below, left center). Admittedly, there might be some discussion whether these are actually Light Cornflower or merely a darker shade of Ice Blue.

There also exist Lynchburg CD 154 pieces in a darker Cornflower Blue (below, right center), a more distinctly cornflower shade than the Light Cornflower Blue (below, left center). There is debate whether these darker pieces occur naturally in this color or have been altered by radiation (irradiated). The general consensus is that they have been irradiated. No pieces in this color have been documented as to origin in service. There are also pieces that appear in various still darker shades of cornflower blue (below, far right; see Altered Colors). These have certainly been altered by radiation and were not made by Lynchburg in that color. These altered pieces are sometimes sold by unscrupulous dealers as genuine.

blue genuine light blue genuine medium cornflour suspect dark cornflower fake

Blue (Genuine)

Lt. Cornflower or Dark Ice Blue (Genuine)

Med. Cornflower (Questionable)

Dark Cornflower (Fake)

Paint. Another type of fake color is made simply by the addition of translucent paint. This can be applied all over the insulator to change the color or on parts to produce a two-toned effect. Most such paint can be detected by close examination since it can be removed easily. The supposedly two-toned insulator below that sold on an auction site was produced by lightly spraying a translucent green paint on the inside of the skirt. It was sold as a genuine two-toned color.

fake colorgenuine color
The two-toned insulator on the left is a fake, produced by spraying green paint on the inside of the skirt from below.
The same insulator after being cleaned is on the right.

Photography Notes

Specific colors of glass are difficult to render accurately, especially in curved glass. The refraction of light through the glass, reflection of surrounding colors, influence of the type and color of lighting, lighting reflections, and personal perception all influence how color appears. It is especially difficult to capture very subtle hues, such as the sometimes very lightly tinted shades of color in clear glass, different colors in close proximity (see Bi-Colors), or the subtle intermixing of colors (such as Color Swirls).

Complicating this are the various types of monitors used to view web pages. Most LCD monitors, such as those on laptop computers or newer wide screen displays, tend to display much more subdued or "washed out" colors than CRT monitors. And even with LCD screens, there are significant variances in how colors are rendered between different manufacturers. Also, there are often differences between how different browsers render color. For example, Firefox tends to render softer more accurate colors than Internet Explorer.

Care has been taken to render the colors as accurately as possible for the pieces photographed on this site. But the viewer should keep in mind these factors and not depend on the accuracy of how colors are displayed on web sites, whether on this site or auction sites. Most photos are optimized for viewing on LCD screens. Colors may appear too intense on some CRT monitors.

All photos on this site (with the exception of those contributed by others) were taken indoors using fluorescent daylight white bulbs. Color correction was applied in the cyan range to compensate for any residual blue of the fluorescent lights, especially evident on blue and aqua pieces. Some of the colors may appear slightly different under incandescent light or sunlight, both of which tend to lend a "warm" or yellow tint to glass. The "warm" influence of sunlight is not as pronounced when looking at a piece with the naked eye, but the camera picks it up readily.

Below is a comparison of photos of CD 154 II L24 in Clear with olive tint, taken outdoors in direct sunlight without color correction (left), and indoors with daylight white fluorescent bulbs with color correction to remove residual cyan.

photo with sunlight photo with flourescent light
Photo with natural sunlight Color-corrected photo with daylight fluorescent lights


Chart of Mineral Colorants for Glass

+ Factors
manganese oxide/dioxide   clear, gray tint
manganese oxide/dioxide sunlight amethyst
manganese oxide, heavy sunlight purple, royal purple
selenium oxide, light   clear
selenium oxide, light sunlight amber tint (straw)
selenium oxide, heavy   red
cerium oxide   clear
cerium oxide sunlight amber tint (straw)
cobalt oxide   cobalt blue, blues
cobalt oxide, light   cornflower blue
sulfur compounds   yellow
sulfur oxide + iron oxide   gold ambers
cadmium sulfide   yellow
iron oxide   aqua
iron oxide, high amounts   aqua blackglass
copper oxides   greens, blues
iron oxide + copper oxide   range of aquas
gold chloride   red
metallic gold   ruby red
metallic copper   cranberry, ruby red
chromium oxide   emerald green
nickel oxide   violet
carbon oxides   brown ambers
tin or zinc compounds   milk or opalescent



1. "Only one locality in the Piedmont Plateau is yielding quartzite or its disintegration product, quartz sand, at present for the manufacture of glass. A white quartzite of Lower Cambrian age, located near Stapleton in Amherst country, about 12 miles north of east from the city of Lynchburg, is being utilized by the Lynchburg plant for the making of glass. A partial analysis of a sample of the quartzite is given in the table of analyses on page 797. The sample yielding the analysis, however, contains besides quartz, considerable white, silvery mica (sericite).  Other analyses of samples of the quartzite indicate more than 95 percent of silica, with only a trace of iron." Thomas L. Watson, “Glass-Sand Resources of Virginia,” in Journal of the American Ceramic Society, 1919, Vol. 2, No. 1. pp. 796-798. Because of its publication date this article is referring to the earlier Lynchburg Glass Works, which produced bottles in a smoky gray color. Also, Bulletin of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Virginia Engineering Experiment Station series, nos. 42-54, 1940-1943, p. xviii.

2. Letters, XX

3. Letters, XX

4. William Gayner had inquired about new sand sources (Letters, XX), and later correspondence by W. H. Loyd indicates that other sand and mineral companies were still in contact with Lynchburg about supplying sand (Letters, XX).

5. "The green insulator business could be combined with other green pressed lines, such as casters, valt [sic] lights, radio insulators." Letter, April 23, 1927, W. H. Loyd to Pete Moore


Altered Colors