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Identifying Antique and Vintage Glass
by Bob Brooke
antique and collectible pottery which usually has a stamped or incised
mark on the bottom, antique and vintage glass oftentimes does not. This
makes identifying glass pieces a challenge, but not impossible.
Antique glass takes in a wide variety of different types of glass and
glassware made over centuries of time. It includes everything from
elegant glass and signed art glass pieces to Ball canning jars, medicine
bottles, and other utilitarian items made of glass.
manufacturers have been making countless pieces of glass in numerous
styles and designs since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Many
glass manufacturers and patterns are well known, such as Rosepoint by
Cambridge Glass Company, Adam by the Jeannette Glass Company or the
Silhouette glass stemware of the Libby Glass Company. Others are much
more obscure such as Tiffany pastel glass, Butterfly and Floral by the
Roden Brothers of Montreal or Beaded Shell Pressed Glass by the Dugan
Although many antique glass pieces are unmarked, there are a great
number of pieces that do have one or more of four glass markings and can
be identified—trademark, logo, symbol, and signature.
Most often a glass mark is on the bottom of the piece, but there are
some pieces that are marked on the side. Sometimes a mark has faded over
time and using a magnifying glass or a jeweler's lope in good lighting
may be necessary to see it.
piece of antique glass will often show structural clues to its age. The
pontil on the bottom of a piece of glass indicates that it was blown
rather than molded. A piece made in a mold will show a mark all around
it from where the two halves of the mold met.
antique glass piece may also exhibit bubbles, indicating poor blowing or
If a piece of antique glass has a glass mark or logo that isn’t
familiar, the best way to identify it is by using a glass marks
identification guide or a glass price and identification guide. However,
many of these identification guides cover just one type of glass, such
as carnival glass or depression glass.
Identifying Antique Glass with Clues
pieces of antique glass don’t have any markings. But there are other
ways to help with identification. Check for excessive wear and scratches
on the bottom. If the piece is gilded, it may show signs of wear.
Many times a glassmakers used a type of mark known as an acid badge.
Many pieces of glass from the mid 19th century onwards have registration
numbers. Earlier pieces may have a diamond mark to show that the
glassmaker registered his design.
Often when an artist signed a piece of engraved glass, he made his
signature very small and part of the design. After 1905, it became
common to sign cut glass pieces as companies tried to protect their
patterns from being copied.
Glassware with a stopper, such as a perfume bottle or a decanter, from
the 1800s and 1900s should have matching numbers on the stopper and the
bottle. Often the numbers were scratched on the stopper's peg and the
Antique glass markings help solve the mystery of the old glass piece's
past and provide clues for identification, value and authenticity.
Learning the “Feel” of Antique Glass
glass and new glass feel different. Begin by learning what new glass
feels like. When holding a drinking glass or vase feel the weight,
color, translucency etc. In learning what modern glass looks and feels
like it’s easier to make distinctions between new and old glass. The
difference is even more evident when handling brilliant cut glass. Older
cut glass is vey sharp while newer cut glass is smoother. And he surface
of pressed glass, which often imitates cut glass, is always smooth and
has a thin raised line running completely around it where the halves of
the mold used to make it came together.
Characteristics of Antique Glass
Even if a piece of antique glass has no
mark or signature, there are other ways to identify its age.
can be damaging to the value of a piece of glass. They can be felt and
have depth to them. The size of the piece of the glass and the size of
the chip will affect the value of the piece. Feel the chips—new chips
will be sharp while old chips are often smoothed at the edges over time.
are more difficult to find. Take the glass piece out into the sunlight
to look for any hairline cracks that cannot be seen with indoor
lighting. Unfortunately, cracks drastically reduce the value of a piece.
usually occurs around the rim of a piece of old glass. A flake is small
flat, thin piece of glass, but it doesn’t affect the value of the piece.
are missing pinhead size pieces of glass which don’t affect the value of
the piece. Though the piece won’t be mint, it won’t be considered
damage, depending on the age of the piece.
or Areas can be identified by running a finger along the rim or base of
a drinking glass or goblet.
often an indicator of age, hide on the bottom of a piece of antique
glass. They typically go in every direction on an older piece while
those on a newer one will all be going in the same direction. This is
particularly evident on reproduction pieces.
are considered irregularities in old glass when looking at it from
Wear to Gilt
can be seen on the rims or bases of older glasses.
It’s best to er on the side of caution when purchasing older pieces of
glass. As with pottery and porcelain, newer pieces of glass can be made
using older molds. But the composition of the glass will be different,
making it weigh less.
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