All About Glass & Decanters From the brilliant sparkle of traditional cut glass to the rich glow of colored etched pieces, the Victorians could choose from a spectacular new range of shapes and colors.

 

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Art Deco Reading List

Warman's Depression Glass: A Value & Identification Guide 2000 by Ellen Schroy

Mauzy's Depression Glass by Barbara Mauzy

A Pocket Guide to Pink Depression Era Glass by Patricia Clements

Depression Glass & More: 1920S-1960s Identification and Values, 12th Ed
by Gene Florence

Collector's Encyclopedia of Depression Glass, 15th Ed
by Gene Florence

Kitchen Glassware of the Depression Years: Identification & Values, 6th Ed
by Gene Florence

Elegant Glassware of the Depression Era: Identification and Value Guide, 9th Ed
by Gene Florence

Anchor Hocking's Fire-King and More: Identification and Value Guide Including Early American Prescot and Wexford by Gene Florence

Commemorative Bottle Checklist & Cross-Reference Guide - featuring Coca-Cola Bottles
by Richard Mix

Kovels' Bottles Price List, 11th Ed
by Ralph Kovel, Terry Kovel

 

 
All About Glass & Decanters
 
 From the brilliant sparkle of traditional cut glass to the rich glow of colored etched pieces, the Victorians could choose from a spectacular new range of shapes and colors.

 In the 19th century, mechanisation and new techniques of press moulding opened the way for hundreds of brand new designs and colors.  Tints ranged from deep blues to delicate pinks and the clear glass was cut, etched, engraved and enamelled with glittering results.  The middle classes wanted to buy them and glassworks competed hotly to keep up with demand for novelty.

  As international trade grew, a great variety of foreign glassware appeared on the market.  A single place setting on the English Victorian dining table could sit alongside pieces from Germany, Ireland and the USA.

 The English glass industry was centred in the Midlands, but there were so many glassworks set up around this time, all of whom poached each other's top craftsmen and copied each others designs, that it is often very hard to tell exactly where a particular piece came from.

DECORATIVE GLASS TECHNIQUES

 Etched glass, which is decorated by removing layers of glass with acid, reached a peak in the mid-Victorian era.  An outstanding new technique was the carving away of a thick layer of colored glass to reveal white glass underneath.  Cameo-cut glass, as this was called, took a lot of time and skill, so the wares were very expensive.  However, cheaper versions were produced whereby the decoration was acid-etched rather than carved by hand.

 Press mouldings was a major advance in glassmaking.  It was originally used as an imitation cut glass but manufacturers quickly realised that it was the perfect way to make novelty shapes and began to produce tableware in the form of sphinxes, baskets, people and animals.  Some of these have a raised maker's mark, the most important British makers being Sowerby, Davidison (both of Gateshead) and Greener of Sunderland.

 Slag glass, an opaque glass designed to imitate marble, was made by adding slag from iron foundries.  The most common color was purple.  Browns, greens and blues were made but these were rarer and more expensive.

CLEAR AND BRILLIANT GLASS DECANTERS

 Although there were so many kinds of colored glass available, such as vitrified enamel (colored glass applied in a paste to the piece and then fired) and cranberry (pinkish ruby), clear glass remained the most common, especially for dining-room ware.

 Traditional hand cut glass remained the most popular style and the removal of the tax on weight led to the very heavy table glass of the 1850s and 1860s.  Pressed glassware was fire polished to give it brilliance and to remove the seam left by the mould, but genuine cut wine glasses and decanters continued to reign unchallenged in the dining room.

COLLECTING GLASS DECANTERS

 Decanters and decanter jugs were first used at the table in the early 18th century when it became fashionable to decant wine from the cask, leaving the sediment behind.  Their basic shape has changed little since.

 For claret, the Victorians preferred to use a claret jug which had a wider neck, often silver mouthed with a hinged lid rather than a stopper, to keep dust and insects from falling into the wine.

 Decanters were usually more heavily decorated than drinking glasses.  Cased work was where one or more layers of colored glass are fused onto a layer of clear glass and the outer layer layer cut away in a pattern to reveal the clear glass underneath.  Cased work became common after 1850 as did its cheaper version, flashed glass, where the piece is dipped in a thin layer of dye.

 Cameo-cut glass became easier to produce when wheel engraving (cutting the design in the glass by using small revolving metal wheels and an abrasive paste) was introduced.  Stourbridge in England was a famous center for this work - decanters with almost complete surface ornamentation of very high quality were produced there.

 Though colored decanters were the most interesting innovation in the period, cut or pressed clear glass remained the most popular.  Cut glass decanters for spirits were made in matching sets of three or four to fit into a tantalus - a lockable wooden stand designed to prevent servants from helping themselves to the master's whiskey.

DRINKING GLASSES

 A typical Victorian- era place setting for dinner included glasses for sherry, champagne and claret as well as water glass for sparkling mineral waters.  Water carafes with matching tumblers for plain water were also available.  After the cheese, the table was re-set for dessert with fresh wine glasses.  Liqueur sets with silver holders to enhance their etched glass were also used.

 Etched decoration is typical of the period as the development in acid etching made it possible to decorate sets comparatively cheaply.  Wine glasses were usually bordered with grape and vine leaves while ale glasses were patterned with hops and barley.

 Glasses were also decorated with machine wheel engraving by holding them under a rotating wheel which could be changed to give lines of differing width.  This gave cleaner lines than etching with acid where the lines were often fuzzy, but required more skill.

GLASS DECANTER COLLECTOR'S NOTES

 Victorian table glass is such a large subject that it is best to specialise from the outset - perhaps in a particular style of decoration such as etched or cut, or on a theme such as sherry glasses or decanters.

  At first you may have some trouble in distinguishing a genuine Victorian piece from a later piece in Victorian style.  A good way to build up experience without making expensive mistakes is to visit museums and specialist dealers and inspect their displays.

  Victorian blown glass rarely had any identifiable marks.  Pressed glass, however was marked with a patent office 'lozenge' or registration mark between 1842 and 1883 and individual factories had their own particular mark - a peacock's head for Sowerby and a demi-lion on a turret for Davidson.

  Dates can be roughly estimated by the presence or absence of what is called the pontil mark.  This is a small lump of glass on the base to which an iron rod or pontil was attached.  The blower held the piece by the pontil while he was decorating it and then simply broke it off afterwards.  After 1850 this was generally ground out leaving a small hollow.

  It is best to avoid damaged pieces as even small cracks weaken the glass considerably.  It is possible to have shallow chips polished out.  Heavily cut glass is easily chipped so always check a piece by running a finger over the rim and over the cut areas.

  Never buy a decanter if it's clouded inside as this is condensation damage and cannot be removed.  Protect any decanters you may have from this by drying them thoroughly after washing using kitchen paper.

 


Art Deco Reading List

Warman's Depression Glass: A Value & Identification Guide 2000 by Ellen Schroy

Mauzy's Depression Glass by Barbara Mauzy

A Pocket Guide to Pink Depression Era Glass by Patricia Clements

Depression Glass & More: 1920S-1960s Identification and Values, 12th Ed
by Gene Florence

Collector's Encyclopedia of Depression Glass, 15th Ed
by Gene Florence

Kitchen Glassware of the Depression Years: Identification & Values, 6th Ed
by Gene Florence

Elegant Glassware of the Depression Era: Identification and Value Guide, 9th Ed
by Gene Florence

Anchor Hocking's Fire-King and More: Identification and Value Guide Including Early American Prescot and Wexford by Gene Florence

Commemorative Bottle Checklist & Cross-Reference Guide - featuring Coca-Cola Bottles
by Richard Mix

Kovels' Bottles Price List, 11th Ed
by Ralph Kovel, Terry Kovel

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