Exquisite cut glass ornaments make for excellent accent pieces in your living space. Cut glass vessels such as bowls are very versatile. They look pretty on their own, but you can also use them to hold fruits or fill them with delicious candies.
You can find cutglass ware in almost every household locked away in the cabinets because of their value as well as fragile nature.
If you have cutglass ware passed down from generations, there is a high chance that you must be in possession of some antique glassware with unique patterns.
So, it is high time that you take those beautiful sparkly pieces out of the shadows and identify their antique value.
If you’re interested in learning more about antique cut glass patterns, how do identify antique patterns on them and where to buy this antique ware, then stay tuned!
Table of Contents
What is Cut Glass?
“Cut glass” is glass that has been decorated entirely by hand by the use of rotating wheels.
Cuts are made in an otherwise completely smooth glass surface by artisans holding and moving the piece against various sized metal or stone wheels to produce predetermined pleasing patterns.
Cut Glass Patterns: A History
Cut Glass has been in production for thousands of years due to its ornamental quality. It dates back to 1500 BC Egypt where the pharaohs revered its brilliance and luxury. Glass was considered to be a semi-precious stone during the Egyptian period.
Various types of metal drills and stone wheels were used to carve patterns onto the Glass. This method spread to the Romans upon their Egyptian conquest. From there, the cut glass method spread around Europe and the Middle East.
The Brilliant Period and American Brilliant Cut Glass.
Cut glass peaked in popularity during what was known as the “Brilliant Period” in the late 19th century. Glasses from this era were famous gift items specially around weddings and Christmas.
The glass cutting technique used around this period had various geometric patterns which brilliantly reflected light.
Henry William Stiegel founded the American Flint Glass Manufactory, and it gave rise to the cut glass production in America in 1771. American cut glass ware gave momentum to the cut glass trade during the brilliant period.
The wares produced by the company were indistinguishable from European wares regarding design and quality. This is due to the colonial settlers who brought these designs over with them, which also marks as the “Early Period” of American Cut Glass production.
The “Middle Period” began around 1830, where original American designs were birthed. A national style was developed by glass companies that gave competition to European wares.
American cut glass artisans were revered worldwide until World War I. The examples of cut Glass produced during this era was unrivaled.
The cut glass industry started to decline in the wake of World War I due to supply shortages needed to make luxurious Glass. The tremendous post-war depression also took a more practical approach towards the production of domestic goods, which proved inefficient for luxury items like cut Glass.
The industry never really recovered. Manufactured Glass and the emerging anti-ornamental Mid-Century Modern sensibility ended the fascination with these glittering facets.
How to Identify Vintage Cut Glass Patterns?
To identify authentic cut glass, you need to look for three specific details:
- A gentle bell-like ring quality when gently tapped
- Visual clarity when placed before a light that cannot be found in molded, cheaper imitations.
- Considerably weighted as compared to uncut Glass.
American brilliant cut glass lives up to its name due to its brilliant, sharp, highly reflective, and polished surfaces. It retains its clarity despite the thickness of the Glass, making it very durable.
Modern designers have improved upon the traditional motifs, adding variations to the geometric patterns to provide exemplary shine and reflection.
If you want to go in more details, you can check this video on how to identify cut glass patterns.
Examine the Patterns and Cutting Techniques on American Cut Glass:
The simplest way to identify an authentic American brilliant cut glass is to observe its cutting technique and accuracy of the desired shape.
Cutting done on a metal wheel or a stone wheel make the Glass streamline with only one line of intersection. The patterns made through this method follow a definite path.
Their hobs are uniform, and the same in size. Glass with rays at the base join at the center with equal length. The most delicate brilliant-cut pieces usually have a silvery and shiny outlook. You can look out for these details to recognize legitimate pieces.
Look For The Glass’ Date
American cut glass patterns can also be authenticated by looking at their manufacturing date and age.
Patterns and designs on Brilliant cut glass evolved and became more complex with time. Glass produced during the Early period had more resemblance to European designs with motifs like a strawberry, diamond and more.
The early period pattern also displayed much more finesse and symmetry with shapes like diamonds, triangles, and stars.
Middle Era patterns were more complex, and designs incorporated gothic and religious characters, circles, swirls, and starburst patterns.
Brilliant era designs embraced straightforward and transitional patterns. These were simpler, with floral arrangements taking the lead accompanied by geometric patterns.
10 Most Common American Brilliant Cut Glass Patterns
Now that you know how to identify various cut glass designs, here are some of the most famous American cut patterns that are considered to be antique. These ten patterns formed the apex of the Brilliant Cut period. You can always find them in various sizes.
These unique patterns have been named after famous places, cities, personalities, plants, and natural phenomena. Artists and glass companies provided these unique names to grab people’s attention.
Aztec (1901) By Libbey glass company
The Libbey glass company is a much sought-after name in the cut glass world. The Aztec design, named after the ancient American civilization, features elaborate motifs. This Glass features four spiral loops which intersect in the middle.
The Mckee Bros Glass Company formed this pattern in 1894. The pattern’s first appearance was on a bowl presented as a prize to a player during a local event. This pattern features a hexagonal base connected to the Glass.
Aberdeen Pattern (1911)
The Aberdeen pattern, named after a city of the same name in North Scotland, is a very design by the Jewel Cut Glass Co. The glassware is expertly made with rows of crystal button hobstars.
Each crosshatching forms a web, and the concave flute cutting creates a gorgeous optical illusion.
Another layer surrounds the existing band of hobstars. It alternates with rows of clear scalloped patterns that form a pretty backdrop for the entire set-up.
Chrysanthemum By T.G. Hawkes
The Chrysanthemum pattern won the gold prize at the 1887 World’s exposition in Paris. The design was patented in November of 1890.
This design is considered T.G Hawkes masterpiece as it showcases a naturalistic design of a flower into something more abstract. The more one looks at it, the more psychedelic the design becomes.
This bowl features a central pattern surrounded by leaves and flowers, which gives the illusion of the other layers of a chrysanthemum.
Assyrian By Sinclaire
Assyrian by Sinclair is a geometric masterpiece. The design mimics a checkerboard, a game that has its roots in the Assyrian empire. Henry P. Sinclaire released it on August 3, 1909.
Rosella By Libbey
Here is another prominent piece by The Libbey Glass Company.
Designed by William C. Anderson, it is Libbey’s most expensive design. The design features a chain of clear button hobstars in loops and a four-button hobstar around a big, bold star.
The Devonshire By T.G. Hawkes
T.G Hawakes introduced the Devonshire pattern in 1900. It presents a cobweb pattern where the border exists separately from the hobstar pattern at the base.
Russian By T.G. Hawkes
The Russian proved to be one of the most popular patterns of the Brilliant cut era. T.G Hawkes presented it in 1887 and since then, it has decorated the tables of every type of household in America.
One could see this design among the wares in the White House. It was also famous across the seas in England and Scotland. The pattern seems to be inspired by an earlier Grecian pattern.
Grecian By T.G Hawkes
The Grecian has inspired many other patterns since its unveiling at the 1887 Paris Exposition. It set the groundwork for American brilliant cut glass and for the company itself.
Isabella By Libbey
Yet another very prominent Libbey cutting, this pattern features extended hexagonal batches of hobnail surrounding the pattern’s central part.
This central portion consists of a triple miter, clear-button hobstar. Isabella is unique as it is the only pattern from the Brilliant period with this type of motif. If you encounter such a motif in shops, it is bound to be an Isabella piece.
Identifying Your Cut Glass Through Labels
Carving labels or marks onto glass would ruin the design. Thus paper labels would be used during packaging. However, paper labels did not survive due to their fragile nature.
Acid or a black light test would be used to authenticate the cut glass manufacturer permanently. The black light would expose a fluorescent lime green residue on the glass piece.
Some pieces might also show pink, purple, and orange tints. However, some antique glass pieces from Libbey’s, Hunt’s royal pattern, and Meriden’s Alhambra pattern show no reaction under the black light test.
Cut Glass Décor and Display Ideas
Decorating with antique pieces can be challenging as they may require special care. Most of the time, they end up in cupboards for safety. With cut glass, you don’t have to worry about it due to its durability.
A fine piece of a cut glass bowl on a kitchen island or an ebony dinner table can be stunning. You can fill it with fruits such as green apples or freshly cut flowers to spruce up your space.
Cut-glass candle holders on a mantle during holiday seasons can add extra charm during our holiday dinner parties.
A cut-glass candy dish can be a perfect accompaniment next to your charcuterie board. You can add cheese complimentary such as olives or dark chocolate, at a party.
Most cut-glass wares were a popular choice to be placed as a punch bowl. They blend right in with your dinner table during a modern get-together.
Where To Buy Cut Glass Wares?
If you are a budding cut glass collector and need a guide on where to buy these antiques, then here are a few of our suggestions:
- Authoritative publications about Brilliant Period glass are an excellent place to learn its process and where to buy them.
- Join the American Cut Glass Association, where you can meet many other experienced professionals from whom you can learn a lot. The Association members can help you obtain information about authentic dealers in your vicinity. You can both buy and learn from them.
- Auctions and antique shops are excellent sources to observe and examine cut glass pieces. Be wary about making purchases until you achieve a reasonable level of knowledge.
- You can only learn once you make your first purchase. It’s okay if you make an error in your purchase, take it as a learning process. However, make sure you don’t buy anything too expensive.
The search for antiques should start with antique shops. It is important for newbie collectors to get a sense of cut-glass wares. Then you can expand your horizon to online sources where the inventory is never ending.
The Brilliance of Antique Cut Glass
Antique cut glass has its own special charm as they carry the mark of craftsmanship and history.
We have guided you through the history of Cut Glass, the various cut glass designs and how to identify them. This guide must surely have informed you on how to approach your new hobby of collecting antique cut glass ware.
If you have any queries or questions left, you can email us or reach out to us in the comments section below.