|Four cranberry cut-to-clear stemmed glasses.|
For historical reasons, the antiques side of my business mostly involves nineteenth- and twentieth-century American glass table ware: glass made to be used. Today, I'll be loading up the vehicle we affectionately call "the bookmobile" with about twenty boxes of glass to show at the Eastern National Antiques show in Carlisle, PA, one of the oldest shows around.
It will be my second time setting up at the show, and I guess, among other things, it will be a chance to see if the new political winds blow well or poorly for the antiques world.
Just as I am especially fascinated with manuscripts, as a rule, rather than printed books, my interest in glass is also often piqued by the hand-made craftsmanship of an item. Every manuscript, after all, has been produced by hand.
In the nineteenth century, and for a good part of the twentieth, handmade glass remained a staple of production and use in this country. Nowadays, most glass items that one might drink from, or otherwise use in a kitchen, are made by machine. In the items I am picturing here on the blog today, the level of hand craftsmanship is especially high.
First, the color of these glasses is what is often called "cranberry": the shade of glass made by the addition of gold. "Gold ruby," as it is also called, is an exceptionally intense color, though, and to achieve the color shown here, a very thin layer of gold ruby is blown together with a thicker layer of clear crystal glass. If this were not done, either the color would be so dark as to be almost black, or the bowls of these glasses would be too thin to use.
The stems here are also shaped by hand, and the feet are applied by hand. The hand-blown (that is, mouth-blown) bubbles that form the bowl would be scored by a diamond, cracked off, then polished flat to give the top rim. The stems have been cut by hand to give them flat panels, and then the decorative cutting of flowers and a ribbon tied in a bow also cut by hand--on the bowls, the cutting cuts through the cranberry layer to reveal the clear glass underneath. The feet were also cut with a floral design.
The cut panels and design were then polished: in this case, the polishing appears to have been done by an acid bath: the only real labor saving effort in this case. The effect is often called "rock crystal" and this acid polishing, and the shape of the glasses, tells me these were probably made in the 1930s, just about the last time anything with this level of hand-crafting was made with any regularity. I'd guess these were probably made in Europe.
The people who did all this hand-work, of course, were professionals, and it was all accomplished more quickly than we might imagine. But even so, it is worthwhile to consider how much a set of such glasses would cost these days, if one could find someone to produce them.
These glasses, I think it's important to say, were always "nice things." But the truth is, I like having nice things.
If you happen to be in the Carlisle area, over the weekend, don't hesitate to stop by and visit a bit. The show has what many find to be an overwhelming amount of glass, but there's a lot of beautiful stuff, at virtually every price range.