Category Archives: Glass

GLass v. Crystal

Miter-Cut-Crystal-Wine-Cut-Stem-11-2096What’s the difference between crystal and glass? Have you heard your grandmother say that if you flick a glass with your finger or tap it with a pencil and it pings like a musical note, that means it’s crystal? Well, it’s not foolproof. Sometimes plain, cheap wineglasses make that nice ringing sound too. (I have some nice, cheap Libbey wine glasses that ring beautifully.) 

Glass has been around since the ancient Egyptians. Leaded glass (also called crystal) was invented around the end of the 1600. In leaded glass, the calcium is replaced with lead, which results in a more brilliant, sparkling product with fewer air bubbles or imperfections. It makes the piece heavier than plain glass. English and Irish crystal has long been popular in America, alongside American producers like Lenox.

Brides are as interested in fine crystal as they are in porcelain dishes and sterling silver tea services . . . which is to say, not much. There is more of this Stuff on the market than there are people who want to buy it, but yours may sell if it is particularly appealing. Check with www.replacements.com to see what they will pay you for your stemware and bowls, then look at the Usual Suspects (www.eBay.com, www.worthpoint.com, www.liveauctioneers.com) on the chance that something similar to yours has sold recently.

The lead oxide also makes the glass easier to work at lower temperatures, which allows artists to cut fancy decorations into the glass. This is called cut glass. A cut-glass bowl has sharp edges and is worth more than a similar pressed-glass piece made in a mold. You can probably tell the difference with your fingers. A very sharp edge means cut glass; a smoother edge is pressed. Cut-glass items include punch bowls and cups, compotes, small dishes, bowls, chandeliers, and even lamps. Pressed glass, a cheaper imitation of cut glass, has minimal value. You can usually see (and feel) the mold lines or seams on these pieces.

As with ceramics, any damage eliminates almost all an object’s value, although special antiques with minor damage may still have some sales appeal. Some cut glass items sell on eBay; others languish. A good website is www.cutglass.org.