Many people enjoy collecting vintage glassware, and the number of serious collector’s is burgeoning. The “Cut Glass Association” was launched in the late 1970’s with just a few collectors, and today the organization numbers several thousand members.
Hobbyists disagree about how old a piece of glassware must be to be considered “vintage,” but most experts feel that the time period is between 50-100 years. Cut glass has been produced for centuries, but only became popular in the 1800’s. During that period of time, people oil lamps and candles. It was discovered that cut glass reflected light. The glassware reflected the colors of the flowers and other ornaments, as it sent glittering rays of light over the table.
Libbey’s Glass and American Glass were among the most prominent manufacturers of cut glass in the mid-to-late 1800’s. Libbey’s made their first glass in the late summer of 1888. By the end of the 19th century, it was the largest cut glass company in the U.S. In 1893, Libbey’s Glass had a pavilion all their own at the Chicago World’s Fair. The company won the gold medal for its cut and engraved glassware.
American Glass made the Brilliant line from the mid-1890’s until 1908, and it continued to be a favorite until about 1925. Brilliant cut glass is thick with deep engravings; it shimmers when it reflects light. Each company had many different patterns, and each pattern had several motifs. In the early 20th century, most cut glass had strawberry diamond, hobstar, and fan motifs. A few all-time favorite glass patterns are Anchor Hocking, Early American, Fire King Swirl and Blue Mosaic.
One of the most effective ways to learn about vintage glass is through reference books. The best ones are books about specific manufacturers, and books that include the history of the time period in which the various patterns and motifs were made. Some examples are “Glassware Pattern Identification Guide,” “Stemware of the 20th century: Top 200 patterns,” and “Libbey Glass – Since 1818,” by Carl Fauster.