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Collecting Antique and Vintage Glassware

Like silverware, antique glassware carries historical significance and unique characteristics which can charm collectors. Collecting glassware, however, requires many steps in regards to understanding the individual quality in correspondence to the period of the piece. We are going to take a look at some of the different factors of glassware collecting:

Look for Marks

For items which do not include a silver mount it is imperative to look examine the piece thoroughly to look for signatures and logos which may indicate the manufacturer of the piece; these would commonly be on the base or the rim of the item. If the glassmaker can be located, this may lead to further information about the origin and date of the piece, based on their working timeframe. For those examples which do incorporate silver mounts, the hallmarks should declare the information for the period, however it is important to look for signs that the glass is original.


When compiling any collection, the condition will determine the price of the piece; any damage, chips or worn areas will lower the items value. Also, antique glassware was crafted by hand and this will allow for unique imperfections, such as bubbles, tool marks and sometimes uneven surfaces. Modern manufacturing methods do not allow for such differences, however, in this contemporary world not all collectors will appreciate the genuine antique charm of these ‘blemishes’.


As always style is everything, and personal opinion is always a factor. Whether the piece is crafted in blown, etched or cut glass, the period in which it was created will have influenced the design. Whilst many may prefer the natural instincts of the Victorian era, there are always the more geometric Art Deco designs to consider; each bearing their own classic look which can be used to compliment any décor. The decoration of a piece can indicate the era of its creation and this can be clarified by the nature of the shape and form. The form of a piece helps to indicate the purpose of the piece, with delicate stemware to ornate vases showing the style of home they deserve to be in. One distinguishable glassware pattern/design is hobnail glass, replicating the details of hobnail boots with distinctive raised bumps and knobs. This style was made popular in the 19th and 20th centuries and can be associated with Victorian and Depression-era glassware. These evenly spaced bumps can vary in size and allow for a tactile and visually appealing texture which can be utilised for vases, bowls, pitchers and even tableware.

Examine the Colour

If you particularly like a certain colour of glass then this is a worthy consideration for a collection within your home. The choice in colour may help dictate which era of glassware you will collect, for example glass produced before the 1920s is more likely to be a richer/deeper colour due to the way it was processed. Colourless glass (also known as clear or crystal) has been widely utilised in various eras as the nature of the glass always for intricate details to be cut or etched into the surface. The locate the date of a piece of clear glass, the manufacturing process is the biggest clue.
Collecting Antique and Vintage Glassware
Collecting Vintage Glassware
Collecting Antique Glassware

The 19th century saw advancements in the technology used by glassmakers. Through this time the addition of gold chloride within the glass mixture allowed for cranberry colour glass; a technique providing a vibrant and consistent rich hue. The glass can vary from pale pink to a deep ruby red, beguiling many collectors and the romantic colour provided a suitable palette for the ornate pieces of the Victorian era. Due to the complexity of the creation of this coloured glass there is a higher expense and it became highly sought after by those who could afford it. The Art Glass moment to the late 19th century celebrated the artistic qualities of glass ware, and due to its unique colour, cranberry glass was ideally aligned with the movement. Due to the process and historical significance, cranberry/red glass is highly collectable within both 19th century and more contemporary examples.

Antique Glassware
Collectable Antique Glassware
Collectable Vintage Glassware

Cobalt blue glass is a vibrant blue created using cobalt oxide, which increased in popularity in the mid-19th century. This glassware was used for medicinal bottles and decorative pieces, and also included as liners with inkwells.

Collecting glassware
Collecting glass antiques
Collecting vintage glass

Green glassware is crafted using iron compounds and also found its popularity in the 19th century. The colour can vary from a pale to a deep green and can still be found in wine bottles and jars, in addition to decorative tableware; from desk pieces to bowls.

collecting silver antiques
collecting silver glass antiques
collecting vintage glass silverware

Amber glassware (also known by the name honey glass) is created using iron and sulphur. In a similar light to the blue and green glass it was used for medicine bottles and beverage containers, with the addition to some decorative antique pieces.

Within the late 19th and early 20th centuries, during the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements, the use of opalescent glass increased. This milky, iridescent nature of the glass would allow visual changes depending on the angle it was viewed, which added to the both the organic and simplistic design choices of the period. This style of glass is not to be mistaken with milk glass, which resembles porcelain and was produced from the 16th century for tableware and decorative pieces.

Seek Help

With any collection it is always wise to get a wider knowledge of the subject before embarking on a larger collection. There are many online forums and workshops dedicate to glassware identification and many enthusiasts who are able to provide further knowledge and even advise to starting glassware collections; always remember there are no bad questions when you are learning.

Glassware can be a very rewarding journey to take, to find out about the craftsmanship to discover the hidden characteristics of a piece. Always remember that whilst you wish there to be value in your collection, you want to be choosing pieces that delight you and providing and individualistic story to your décor.

collecting glass silverware

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