Antique cut glass patterns portray the peak of craftsmanship preserved and passed down from generation to generation. These patterns are inscribed on glass vessels and serve as great decorative pieces for any space.
In 2019, a 1700 years old Roman glass bowl named The Constable Maxwell cage cup (an oil lamp) sold for £2,646,650.00 at a Bonhams auction to a bidder over the phone, making it the most expensive glassware ever sold.
There’s so much to discover about antique cut glass and its exciting journey through time. So, treat yourself to this eye-opening read.
The History of Antique Cut Glass
The history of cut glass is traceable to 1500 B.C. Egypt. Artisans from this time decorated their vessels, big and small, with cuts speculated to be metal drills.
The Art remains from Egypt, Rome, Assyria, and Babylon, are strong evidence these artisans had mastered the craft of decorating through glass cutting techniques.
During production, the Romans used numerous techniques to cut glass. However, the most prominent of these techniques were the ones that involved drilling in large quantities and polishing afterward to produce elegant and luxury glass pieces.
By the late 1600s, this newly found technique had gradually spread into parts of Constantinople, Venice, and Prague.
The British didn’t discover this Art of creating cut glass. At least not until 1676 when George Ravenscroft incorporated lead into the glass to enhance shine and illumination. After this, they began cutting styles and shapes synonymous with their environment only.
Modern glass cutting began in the later centuries in Germany. Heavy and clear glass with immeasurable strength, which wouldn’t break even when carved prompted the Germans to adopt this method.
By 1771 the technique had spread into American society. So it was only fitting that Henry William Stiegel of Cologne descent opened the American Flint Glass factory in Pennsylvania and produced the first cut glass.
Antique cut glass pieces usually have an engraved mark, either acid etched or a tiny paper label on their bodies. This indicates the house that made it.
How is Cut Glass Made?
Here are the four simple steps showing you how cut glass manufacturers make cut glass;
Step 1: Marking the sides to be cut
Before beginning the process, the artisan needs to mark the surface (to be cut) with paint. For English pieces, the artisans use red.
Marking makes it easy for the artisan to work on the cut glass, a technique responsible for neat, seamless work.
Step 2: Coating the wheels
In the 19th century, pedals or treadles provided power to the spinning wheels. Shortly after, shops adopted steam engines that worked using heat.
For cutting flat-shaped facets, the artisans used a turntable-like device known as a lap which the artisan used to cut gems.
The rotating wheels need to be coated with abrasives or wet sand to ensure that it makes a permanent impact; in the form of patterns on the naked glass. The wheel’s teeth may be concave, flat, convex, or shaped like a diamond.
Step 3: Placing the glass on the moving wheel
The difference between the antique cut glass manufacturing process and others is that it is strictly hand-made using wheels moving circularly.
These cuts are made on the smooth surface of the glass. The rougher (also known as a glass cutter) presses the glass against the spinning wheels of various sizes and moves it at intervals.
Step 4: Polishing the glass
After the cutting operation, the artisan then proceeds to polish the cut glass- there are two ways to polish cut glass traditionally; by hand or a quicker alternative by acid wash.
The hand polishing technique uses a wooden wheel with powder and water to give a shiny and smooth finish.
Acid washing didn’t come until the end of the 19th century. It required the artisan to immerse the cut glass into an acid mix.
This technique was faster and cheaper, but it produced dewy-looking glass and rounded off the sharp edges of the cut glass.
Antique Cut Glass Patterns Identification
Here we will be releasing valuable information on ways to identify different types of antique cut glass patterns.
What is a pattern?
In basic terms, a pattern is a repeated decorative design on a surface; it can be lines, circles, dots, or any abstract form.
Three basic cuts variation exists for cut glass patterns; The flat cut, the hollow cut, and the miter cut. The miter cut, which is predominant in earlier models of cut glass, is formulated at a 60° angle.
Why should I study a pattern?
As an avid collector, here are reasons why studying patterns of cut glass is essential to your trade.
To confirm its origin
In the cut glass market, there are diverse players. Getting familiar with these numerous patterns will help you identify the source. Whether European, American, or English, each region adopted its unique style, and you must get with the program.
For authenticity reasons
One thing that sets vintage cut glass apart from its peers is its brilliance. Over the years, there have been several occurrences, including mass reproduction of antique patterns that produced dewy and dull pieces.
Studying old cut glass patterns will help you stop wasting your time and not be a victim of inferior pieces.
10 Most Popular Antique Cut Glass Patterns
Here is a list of the ten most popular patterns that were a hit back in the day. These patterns rocked the American, European, and English scenes.
The artisans and companies producing these pieces named them after shapes, animals, floral characters, people, places, and other exciting events.
The Diamond Pattern
The Valencian Pattern
The Arabian II Pattern
The Estelle Pattern
The Trellis Pattern
The Calve Pattern
The Brazilian Pattern
The Canterbury Pattern
The Venetian Pattern
The Columbus Pattern
1. The Diamond Pattern
This pattern stands tall as one of the first patterns adopted in the early cut glass era, especially in English and Irish glass cutting houses around 1860. In that era, chandeliers, Bowls, Basins, and wine cups mostly had the Diamond pattern.
2. The Valencian Pattern
Walter Egginton patented this pattern during his time at the Hawkes Company in 1892. They’re usually signed (acid-etched) with the Egginton signature for pieces with the valerian pattern.
3. The Arabian II Pattern
Introduced around 1896-1910 by Egginton, this elegant pattern features a group of 6 hobstars clustered around 6-pointed hobstar arrangements in the middle.
4. The Estelle Pattern
The pattern was invented in 1905 and is one of Blackmer’s company’s most brilliant designs. It first caught viewers’ eye in their 1906 catalog and the January version China, Glass & Pottery Review in 1905.
5. The Trellis Pattern
The O.F Egginton Company produced this Triple-miter cane pattern. It was patented in 1908 and appeared in J. Hoare & Co’s catalog in 1911 due to the parent company’s decision to cut down on the extra cost of advertisement.
6. The Calve Pattern
Egginton called the pattern “calve” due to his admiration for the French opera singer Emma Calve. The widely cut cane pattern was introduced between 1900 and 1910. The design has small, detailed hobstars caught between triple-miter cutting.
7. The Brazilian Pattern
T.G. Hawkes patented it on May 28, 1889. The Brazilian pattern is elegant, brilliant, and pricey, with U cuts found on most Hawkes patterns. It’s a collector’s favorite because of its rarity and high quality.
8. The Canterbury Pattern
The pattern emerged in 1944 and was patented by the Duncan and Miller glass company in 1944 during the second world war, a period when fine European crystal was not readily available.
As a result, this glass earned the title “Finest glass in America” in that period.
9. The Venetian Pattern
This one is from the stables of the Straus Glass Company. It’s one of the company’s earliest patterns and appeared for the first time in their 1893 catalog.
10. The Columbus Pattern
The Columbus pattern is rich in detail and it debuted in August 1893 at the L. Straus exhibition. The design is a marriage of ovals filled with stars and hobnails (double cut).
What is the Difference Between Pressed Glass and Cut Glass?
Are you stuck and can’t differentiate between cut and pressed glass? This section is for you. No more dark clouds when you pick up a piece of glass. This section will turn you into an expert when spotting the difference between pressed and cut glass.
Defining Pressed Glass
To clearly understand the difference, we must first define pressed glass. Pressed glass is formed by pressing melted glass into a mold- this can be either by hand or through the help of a machine.
Both hand and machine pressed glass passes through a final stage known as fire polishing. Cut glass manufacturers place the pressed glass on a direct flame to give a glossy appearance. A technique referred to as glazing.
Animals, Fruits, and Flowers inspired the pressed glass concept. The designs ranged from simple to complex cut glass copies. Pieces such as goblets, cups, bowls, and tableware were also made from pressed glass and served functional purposes.
First, unlike cut glass, made for a more luxurious use, pressed glass was made for a more rugged purpose and served as a cheaper alternative to the expensive cut glass. It requires a more rigorous formation process and has a not-so-smooth finish.
You must also know that cut glass is more valuable than pressed glass. The reason is because cut glass was born out of intricate craftsmanship and had a more rigorous production. Pressed glass is just… pressed glass!
Another way to spot the difference between these two glass types is by running your hands over the individual pieces. This allows you to discover more details. Cut glass has sharper details, well-defined patterns and a clearer outlook.
On the other hand, Pressed glass has a smooth texture and will feel old to touch.
Cut glass is heavier than pressed glass. This is traceable to the rich lead content in cut glass. This heaviness makes it more expensive and prized than pressed glass which is relatively light. You’ll notice that cut glass has a more brilliant appearance than pressed due to this lead.
Also, Pressed glass has thinly raised lines due to the effect of molding. You can only feel these lines for some pressed pieces when you feel the insides or from seams at their sides. Cut glassware does not have any of these lines; they’re fine and even.
You can also hold your glass light up to reflect light and observe the surface for fine stripes left behind by the cutting tools. These streaks are more evident on the older glass as they were hand-polished glass.
For newer cut glass, these streaks are almost non-existent as they’ve been chemically smoothened, thereby removing signs of cutting. Careful not to mix them up as they have a striking resemblance to pressed glass due to this.
You’ll also most likely notice more variations in cut glass. These variations will be most noticeable in the shape of the patterns and the spaces between them. But, again, this isn’t the case; the artists used ready-made molds with designs- this resulted in uniform and accurate prints.
Additionally, your cut glass piece must ring when you tap it with your finger or hands. This is the ultimate fool-proof way to determine the difference between cut glass and pressed glass or any glass. It isn’t cut glass if your glass doesn’t ring back to you.
The light test is the final step to spotting the difference between cut and pressed glass. If your glass piece reflects a rainbow-like light to you, then it’s cut glass. The absence of prism lights means you have a pressed glass.
Check out this video for a detailed illustration of the difference between cut and pressed glass.
How to Determine the Value of Antique Cut Glass
So, you’re stuck on determining the true worth of your cut glass. Lucky for you, this section addresses just that; you’ll become a pro at valuing your old cut glass in no time.
Heavy is always better
If your cut glassware is heavy to lift and weighs down the shelf section it sits on; you’re on the right track. Heaviness is a top determiner when you’re selling or buying cut glass. If it’s light and you can lift it with a finger, that’s more loss for you.
Look for marks
These trademarks or logos are always at the base of the glass piece. Take a long, careful look and spot the company’s name, artist’s signature, or any extra detail that will help supply necessary information about the state of your glass.
People, collectors, and buyers pay more attention and more money to well-marked pieces because it connotes authenticity.
Clarity is important
Your cut glass piece must be sharp and clear as day. The higher the brilliance of the cut glass. This will also mean a higher quality of lead material. A higher collector or a buyer will splurge on your piece.
The size adds to the value
The size is a significant factor when placing a price or any value on cut glass. For example, a large cut glass punch bowl will instantly sell for a higher price and value than wine glasses, salt and pepper shakers, or tiny figurines.
Condition is everything
It would be best never to underestimate the importance of condition when evaluating antique cut glass. Blemishes, missing parts, or chipped ears won’t pull the required interest or audience. Likewise, keep your glassware away from the reach of wandering hands or dirty surfaces to maintain shine.
Consult an Appraiser
This makes your job a thousand times easier, especially if you’re a greenhorn in the glass collecting environment. An appraiser would help you identify the maker of your glass, examine the setup, and put a possible price tag on it.
Check Online Catalogues, Existing Value Guides, Antique Stores
Market forces (Demand and supply) affect antique cut glass pieces’ price and general value. It would help if you keep yourself abreast of the latest information and market news. Check value guides and pay visits to antique stores to get a hint of recent prices.
Here’s a video to help you understand better.
Where to Buy Antique Cut Glass
Here’s a comprehensive guide on places you can purchase antique cut glass pieces.
Estate and Yard Sales
Estate and yard sales are popular for selling antique items. This is because many people are willing to dispose of their old, inherited items or sell them for a discounted price. So it’s not far-fetched to think that this is the first place you should consider when trying to bag a few pieces of antique cut glass.
Every year, people sell off various shapes and sizes of antique cut glass at auctions like this video https://m.facebook.com/WoodyAuction/videos/220998023085587/?locale=hu_HU&_rdr depending on their quality, rarity, and other outstanding features, make sure to attend one if you want to grab a piece for yourself.
The internet is a wide space where you can buy anything. There are endless options and molds of antique cut glass pieces for you to purchase and pick from specific antique websites that deal in selling old valuables alone. We have websites like 1stdibs and LiveAuctioneers.
Sites like Etsy, eBay, Amazon, and Walmart have a special section for antique pieces- cut glass included. Here, you see a detailed list of pieces and their set prices with detailed descriptions to help you make a brilliant choice.
Consult collectors and appraisers also to buy cut glass pieces. Apart from the fact that they have some of the rarest and most coveted pieces, you also get the highest form of quality you can’t find anywhere else; you get the best of both worlds with this option.
How to Care for Antique Cut Glass
Old cut glass may get dewy and blemished when kept for a long period. These blemishes don’t reduce the quality, but you must clean them and take proper care of them to retain their aesthetic and intrinsic value.
Here’re guidelines you must follow when caring for antique cut glass pieces.
Heat is the Enemy
Cut glass is very allergic to heat. Therefore, you must keep it away from direct sunlight, hot water, open fire, hot weather, or any conductor of heat/ hot environment every time. Failure to do this means your glass will break or have cracks on its body.
No Damp Hands, No Stray Wool
When handling cut glass, don’t lift them with damp hands, except you intend to give them a thorough wash. Damp hands will leave behind dirty prints, which is bad for the appearance of your cut glass.
After washing, you can air dry (provided it’s a safe and steady surface void of rays from sunlight or excessive heat), or you can clean with a cotton fabric that won’t leave behind lint residue or uneven lines.
Keep it Grounded
Don’t place cut glass pieces on the unstable surface as they may lose balance and break into a thousand pieces. Instead, place your cut glass piece carefully inside a box cushioned with cotton/soft fabric- like an egg in a nest.
What to Do with Dirt?
If your glassware is stained, use a vinegar and water mixture to clean off the dirt or mild abrasives like crushed eggshells or rice particles.
Avoid harsh detergents and abrasives like a plague when washing your cut glass. They’ll scratch the body of your glass and reduce the brilliance.
Stack your cut glassware on the right side up only to keep the rims intact and void of damage. Also, keep your glassware away from dust, grease, and loose particles that may hide between the pattern lines and cause built-up debris.
Bury the thought of throwing that piece of clear glass in the pantry away; they may hold great monetary value. We’ve left a few reminders for you if you decide to take a step further by collecting new ones or selling off inherited pieces.
- If it doesn’t ring back when tapped, let it go. Every antique cut glass must bring music to your ears and money to your purse.
- All your senses must be on deck to decipher between cut and pressed glass.
- A simple black light test may be the answer you’ve been looking for.