Antique Art Glass - History & Information Resources from Antique  Central

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This ruffled Victorian antique art glass bottle is an example of the Latticinio process, an Italian filigree caning technique.

Antique American Burmese glass vase.

The streaks of colors in this piece of collectible American Burmese glass is indication that it is not vintage.

Collecting antique art glass is such a delight for there are so many beautiful artistic pieces to choose from. Perhaps it was the long, delicate, graceful shape of a particular piece of art glass that enticed you or was it a brilliant cranberry red or delicately intricate design. Collecting antique art glass can be fun and rewarding, but it is important for the collector to gain a thorough knowledge in order to distinguish the original pieces from the more current.

The techniques and chemistry of making antique art glass had been known in Europe since the early 19th century, and the increased ability to mass produce items in the early 1900's enabled designers such as Rene Lalique to produce millions of pieces. But, it wasn't until many British and Bohemian glass makers emigrated in the 1850's that America became interested in the process. 

The boom in American art glass did not begin until 1883 when Joseph Locke of the New England Glass Company invented and patented a new method of shading colored glass by reheating it, known as Amberina. Amberina is a transparent glass which contains gold powder giving it an amber color, but when the glass is reheated the amber color changes to ruby red.

Locke's method was copied by the Mt. Washington Glass Company in America later giving it the name Rose Amber of which is very difficult to distinguish from Locke's antique art glass pieces. This new development created an increased interest among glass designers to explore and experiment with glass more as an art form and as a sculptural material.

Many new methods and techniques were created and art glass production exploded, producing beautiful new designs, colors and surfaces, appealing to new buyers and giving the collector a variety of beautiful pieces to choose from. Antique art glass includes cameo glass, Burmese, Mercury glass, Albertine, enameled glass, and Peach Blow to name a few. Many of these same techniques have continued to be used by contemporary glass makers, so it is important for the antique collector to gain a thorough knowledge in order to distinguish the original pieces from the more current.

Cameo glass is made in layers most often of different colors with raised carvings of cameo designs. Exquisite examples of cameo glass, such as the Roman Portland Vase from as early as the 1st century, have long influenced glass making, even today. Antique Cameo glass is most representative of the innovative art pieces created at the turn of the 20th century. Antique Cameo glass often depicts nature in shape and design, with embedded, etched or wheel-cut decoration, some with metallic or iridescent surfaces. The art glass manufacturers, Loetz and Tiffany were the leaders in the iridescent surfaces.

Virtually all mold-blown cameo glass prior to 1930 was made by the Galle factory which introduced mold-blown art glass around 1924. Most antique cameo glass was formed by blowing the shape in a mold and then the designs were created by using glass overlays to cut away with acid.

In order to distinguish new cameo art glass from the original antique art glass, the collector must look at the raised designs. The original Galle mold blown glass is hollow on the inside and perfectly smooth to the touch, whereas the raised areas on the new pieces are of solid glass. On the new pieces the area behind the raised design is created by grinding through the thicker glass, instead of pushed out by blowing.

Burmese art glass is made in glossy or satin finishes and contains uranium oxide which comes from the furnace yellow and when reheated some areas turn to pink. Washington Glass Company began making Burmese in 1885. 

When evaluating Burmese antique glass, collectors should follow a few guidelines in distinguishing the new from the old. Burmese glass has a soft texture, as opposed to coarse, and is one homogenous body. Any Burmese pieces that contain streaks or swirls of color in the body is certainly not the original antique art glass. Black light can be used to identify the more obvious fakes, but is not a positive guarantee.

Other art glass techniques include Mercury glass which is made by applying a layer of mercury or silver nitrate between two layers of glass, and Peach Blow which uses heat sensitive chemicals to create shades of yellow, light blue, rose and white.






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