What is a Beaker?
Beaker is the word traditionally used for a flat based vessel, rather than a bowl with a stem base such as a goblet, chalice or cup. Beakers also usually forgo handles or a lid, and have a basic cylindrical form.
The term beaker may be derived from the Greek ‘bikos’ (earthenware jug), German ‘beker’, or Old Norse ‘bikarr’.
Beakers are very similar in shape and style to what is now commonly referred to as a tumbler, as they maintain the same cylindrical form, with the opening which is drunk from being slightly wider than the base.
History of the Beaker
Many types and styles of beaker have been discovered across Europe from as early as Copper Age (4300 BC - 3200 BC) and the Bronze Age (2500 – 600 BC), many of which still resemble a similar form to much later antique Stuart and Georgian beakers, which are scarce but still available to collectors.
Owing to the abundance of these types of vessels dating around the 14th century, it has been deduced that within Europe, the beaker was the most commonly used type of drinking vessel, no surprise when considering its simplistic and practical design.
By the 16th century glass manufacturing processes became more refined, and its versatility had a great impact on the production of drinking vessels of all shapes and sizes. This in turn reduced the demand, and hence production, of the humble beaker.
During the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras, beakers were often used by those who travelled, as they were easier to transport and a more sturdy shape than vessels such as goblets, whose weaker stems would likely be damaged from being packed away over long journeys.
Types of Beakers
Smaller beakers often originated in China and the Far East, due to the strength of the favoured alcohol in these regions. Antique beakers from Europe would often be used to consume beer and wine, these smaller beakers would be intended for grain alcohol; therefore less volume of this beverage would be required.